Avoid These 10 Mistakes When Presenting Financial Information

spreadsheet on laptop

Presenting financial information, or any complex data for that matter, doesn’t have to be daunting for either you as a presenter or your audience. The route to success revolves around a high level of mindfulness focused exclusively on what your audience needs to know and why they need to know it.

Unless you are as interested and passionate about being blinded by a sea of numbers and data as the person presenting them, it’s likely that you will soon be stifling a yawn. As the old saying goes ‘Birds of a feather flock together’. If your audience are as excited about line charts, pie charts and bar charts as you are then feel free to give them everything you have.

If they aren’t quite of the same ilk as you, then sharing data in this way is futile. It’s likely to leave them feeling as though you have just turned the lights off and are speaking in a language they won’t thank you for.

Sometimes the best way to learn how to do something is by focusing on what not to do.

Please don’t

  1. Craft your presentation without a strategy

The more complex the information, the more robust your strategy needs to be. If you aren’t completely clear about what you want your audience to do with the information you are sharing and how you want them to feel about it, they will forget most of it by the time they return to their desk.

  1. Present the information as a long list of numbers or bullet points

Only share what is relevant to your audience and contributes significantly to the point that you are trying to make. Make sure that you have the rest of the data available to share as appropriate but don’t give it to them unless you need to.

  1. Present a wealth of data and then immediately speak over it as your audience are trying to read.

The moment anything appears on the screen, you are instructing your audience to read it. If you speak whilst they are trying to decipher your data in their own mind you are causing undue stress on their brains.

  1. Focus exclusively on the data.

If you don’t breathe life into the data through the use of short, relevant and compelling stories and analogies, your audience’s mind will quickly wander. Tell them the story behind the data.

  1. Leave out the insights

The last thing your audience wants or needs from you is an ‘information dump’. They are already overwhelmed with information. If you leave out the insights, including what you think about the information, you are doing them the disservice of having to work hard to figure it out for themselves.

Give them a clear, concise, professional but also personal perspective on how you see things and find out what they see too.

  1. Focus on the past or the problem

The last thing your audience needs is another problem. That doesn’t mean that you don’t present it, but if that’s all you focus on then your audience will too. Use the data to share the problem in a way that they will understand and feel its impact, but then offer or ask for the solution.

What does this data mean in real terms to them and how can they use it to make decisions more effectively?

  1. Be vague and generic

I attended a company presentation recently where I heard an executive present to a room of 50 people about how the business was running behind its annual forecast. He asked them all to ‘button down the risks’, focus and look for opportunities. Needless to say most of the audience left the room with little clarity as to what he really wanted them to do.

From their perspective, their entire time at work already revolved around doing these 3 things so what else was he expecting from them?

Be clear, be specific, make it personal and make sure they get it.

  1. Show them spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are for sorting, filtering and calculating data. They are not designed to be shown in their entirety as part of a conversation. On the basis that every great presentation is a conversation don’t just put them up on a slide to impress your audience; they won’t be impressed.

Give them the ‘gold’. Your job is to filter the data for your audience to the point where you only present the ‘gold’. The ‘gold’ represents your message; it’s what your audience needs to know to help them to make a decision or make a tangible difference to their professional or personal lives.

Present your message visually using images rather than spreadsheets.

  1. Wait for questions

When you present data to an audience the one thing you can be certain of is that they will have questions. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for those questions to be asked. Anticipate them by preparing extensively before you even craft your presentation. In other words, put yourself in their position and ask yourself what you would like/need to know or may not readily understand.

     10. Try to look good

Far too many business presentations are crafted with the intention of making it clear to their audience how much the presenter knows, how intelligent they are and how hard they work. It is of course human nature for all of us to want to look good and be judged positively but that isn’t the route to winning over your audience.

When it comes to presenting, less is always more. As you craft your presentation keep in mind that everything you say and show should be completely relevant and personal to your audience. If it doesn’t add value or help them in some way then you’ve made it about you. If you make it exclusively about them you will inevitably find yourself looking good anyway.

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