Presenting to senior management can feel like a challenge for many presenters in organisations today; even the most experienced.
It’s one thing having to speak up in a team meeting to update your colleagues on a project you have been working on but having to convince or co-opt the executive is something else. We all value our reputation and credibility immensely, which means that the stakes feel very high the moment you begin to speak.
There are a number of forces at play and understanding them provides the platform to success, especially when presenting to senior management. Here are 3 of the common ones.
Imposter syndrome – It’s a term that’s becoming all too familiar among many professionals who are climbing their career ladders. Psychology Today describes the affliction as, ‘A psychological term referring to a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.’
When it comes to presenting to senior management, whilst you may be extremely good at your job, its that feeling that you are about to be found out for being an imposter.
Symptoms – Speaking too fast, rambling or waffling, excessive ‘umming’, ‘erring’. Poor posture, lack of vocal energy and passion; poor eye contact.
Dunning-Kruger Effect – This is the opposite of the Imposter syndrome. It’s the delusion that you are, ‘Smarter and more capable than you really are’
It’s not as common as the Imposter Syndrome but can be just as damaging from a different perspective. If you’ve ever listened to a presenter go on and on about a topic where it is quite evident to everyone in the room that they don’t know what they are talking about, you would have witnessed the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
Symptoms – Self- importance, lack of empathy for audience, irrelevant content, repetition, arrogance.
Mindlessness – Is another trait of the ego. When your primary aim is to impress your audience by showing them how clever you are, how much you know and how hard you work you are suffering from mindlessness.
Symptoms – Lack or preparation, little or no practice, disregard for audience’s needs or feelings, irrelevance, sets an objective of impressing rather than connecting.
It’s worth recognising these cognitive biases because inattention to them when presenting to the executive will tarnish your credibility and reputation.
Presenting to senior management – 10 priorities
-Tell them immediately what you can help them to accomplish, fix or avoid. Don’t save the punchline for the end.
– If you can say it in 5 minutes don’t take 20.
– If the solution or opportunity is going to take 5 months to complete, have an answer to how you can achieve it much quicker.
– Present your idea with laser like clarity; don’t deluge them with data or blind them with science.
– Tell them what is so important, why it’s so important and why they should care; show them the size of the prize or size of the pain.
– Tell them exactly what you need from them; don’t leave them guessing.
– Set out to connect with them and show them how you can make a difference; don’t set out to impress them.
– Be your best self; show them your belief, energy and passion. Leave the corporate spokesperson at your desk.
– Tell and show them how you feel?
– Breathe life into your idea by painting pictures in their mind, tell them stories, use anecdotes, metaphors and descriptive language
– If you’re using slides use powerful and compelling images.
– Build in contrast, lighten up and be expressive.
– How does your idea align itself to and support the organisations values and strategic objectives?
– What’s the impact, benefit and return on investment?
– What’s the big picture; what does the future look like?
– What could go wrong and how do we avoid it?
– Be honest and explicit, don’t sugar coat the challenges.
– Have an answer to the question ‘what if?
– The only difference between you and your senior management is your salary and their title. Even if they have a car parking space and you don’t, the fact is you have far more in common that you may appreciate.
– They’ve been in your shoes and its more than likely they know exactly how you feel.
– They want you to do well and to help them do well.
– Instead of seeing the presentation as a performance see it as an opportunity to share your voice, express yourself and make a difference.
– You may be feeling symptoms you associate with anxiety but in reality, we feel the same when we are excited. See this as your body and mind being excited rather than fearful.
– You wouldn’t even be allowed to speak if your audience didn’t believe you knew what you were talking about. Remind yourself how far you have come and believe in yourself.
– Dare to be different.The world is full of people playing it safe; telling management teams what they already know or could easily find out for themselves.
– Tell them something they don’t know, ask them thought provoking questions, be bold and challenge their thinking.
– Be prepared for questions. Give yourself time to breathe and think about the answers and if you don’t know the answer don’t be afraid to say so.
– Tell them what you want, need or expect from them.
– If you want them to sign off a budget then ask for it.
– If you want their support or approval then ask for it.
Presenting isn’t easy, it takes time, energy, creativity and considerable mindfulness to craft and deliver a high impact presentation. Presenting to senior management is often perceived as a much greater challenge; that’s probably because it is.
The reason is they often know what they want, they have little time to receive it and are very discerning. If you follow these 10 tips you will give them what they want and greatly increase your chances of success.
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