Perfecting a Presentation to the C Suite
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
If you’ve been invited to give a presentation to the C suite, it’s important to focus on delivering a message that is bright and brief. Long-winded speeches and going off topic are not going to cut it in a high-level executive presentation. Today’s leaders are looking for you to be succinct. According to Kerrie Peraino, chief people officer at Verily Life Sciences, “Executive Presence is not necessarily about being formal or abundant in your communication, but rather straightforward and brief. The more you keep speaking, or explaining yourself, the more you cloud or dilute your core message.”
These three guidelines can help prepare you for presenting to corporate leadership with confidence:
- Get to the point – Remember why you were offered the opportunity to be in front of your executives. Hopefully it’s because they recognize your expertise in a given business area so there is no need to go on about your value or backstory. Share your key points up front in a straightforward manner, and then provide concise details to support your statements. If you are asked questions, be prepared to offer backup information based on your knowledge and experience.
- Focus on facts – Don’t give into the temptation to “soften” your approach. It’s ok to be direct and professionally forceful with your words. This can be especially difficult for women and individuals from certain cultures who have be taught otherwise. You want to make sure you sound authoritative and factual. For example, say “expanding our program into all stores will result in an 8 to 12% sales lift for our better-for-you private brands,” versus, “I feel that expanding our program is a good thing for the company.” The first statement is not about feelings but facts based on your previous work. Be aware of your approach so you can leave feelings and softer statements out of the C suite.
- Practice in advance – Being on the spot in front of executives can be very uncomfortable for many people. It does get easier with exposure and experience, but preparation and practice are vital to easing your discomfort. Rehearse the phases, facts and any stats you want to share to confirm you are being persuasive, and spend time planning your remarks around one to two sentences that will clearly state your point. The keys to being concise are knowledge and certainty so develop your thoughts into strongly constructed messages that express just that. Time spent practicing will help you craft focused statements for successful communication in the boardroom and beyond.