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Keep Your Cool: Presenting to Senior Management

Categories: Leadership Presence, Business Presentations

Does giving a presentation to senior management turn you into a wreck? Are you sleepless in Seattle — or Chicago — or New York — for a week (or a month) before that presentation?

Being chosen to give a presentation to the top brass is a phenomenal opportunity. Impress them, and you might make an indelible, positive impression on your company’s senior leaders. Persuade them, and you or your department might get the go-ahead and the funding for your project.

Annoy, bore, confuse, or disappoint these VP and "C-level" people? I’m sure your mind has already covered the terrifying possibilities.

I’ve got a few executive presentation “secrets” to share with you...

Deep and detailed preparation is the best thing that you can do, for your overwrought nerves, for your chances of really rocking it, and for your overall career trajectory.

You already knew that, you say?

But, did you realize that along with having your notes in order, the right slides in your deck, and your presentation letter-perfect, you also needed to practice, preferably in front of another human or your trusty mirror?

Make sure your body language is comfortable and confident and your speaking voice is audible, clear, and free of useless "fillers" like “like,” “er,” and the ever popular, “um.”

By the way, there are significant differences between presenting to your peers, presenting at an industry conference, and presenting to the top management in your company.

You are unlikely to be interrupted at a conference, but your top executives are busy people who know what they do and don’t want to hear. For them, interrupting is not rude; it’s merely the way they move the presentation forward in a way they need it to go.

So, here are 3 suggestions to ace your next senior-level presentation:

  • You need to keep your personal COOL and know your material COLD, so their interruptions and questions don’t throw you.
  • You need to be able to give the main points, if things are moving away from your carefully orchestrated and rehearsed presentation. Are you clear on what these main points that you need others to receive are?
  • It’s possible that senior management already knows a good deal of what you’ve included in your presentation. So, don’t be surprised if they get impatient, asking you to skip ahead. If you are presenting a slideshow, try this little trick: Along with your regular slide presentation, prepare what I like to call “an executive version” -- this contains only the most important slides, or slides that make your case and present the most important points. Why create two slide decks? If management is in a rush, if they seem impatient and start asking questions indicating that they want you to cut to the chase — instead of getting rattled or defensive — simply switch to your executive version. This will impress everyone, including yourself.

There’s a lot to be considered here if you really want to make the most of this speaking opportunity.

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