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Words are free, but how you use them can cost you!

Indeed, the mind is a wonderful thing! It starts working the day you were born, and never stops until you get up to speak in front of your CEO.   What started out as a vision of a mic-drop moment at the end of your presentation, ended up as a 30-minute blur — standing in a pool of perspiration. Who hasn’t been there?

None of us are born great public speakers but learning how to present to senior executives within your company will have the biggest impact on your career.

Normally, much of one’s time is spent on preparing the Power Point, but in effect, the Power Point is the least memorable of the entire presentation — and that’s a good thing!

presentationSo, you’ve marked your calendar for the big moment. Your CEO has invited you to give a presentation to him regarding an important initiative you’d like to launch. You’re heading to first base. The CEO wants to hear from you! Now what?

Advance Planning

1. Arrange the Meeting

Contact your CEO’s assistant to arrange the best date/ time for the meeting and determine the attendees. If the meeting topic requires additional experts, it’s a good idea to make sure they are in attendance, as well. Along with the meeting invitation, send a brief description of the meeting to keep the purpose clear in the CEO’s mind until presentation day.

2. Organize the Meeting Objectives

Before the meeting contents are developed, create an outline of the key objectives. These key objectives should be at the beginning and the end of your presentation, so they should be meaningful and memorable.

3. Develop the Body

The body of the presentation should include analysis, findings, conclusions, the plan and the call to action. The presentation should open and close with the key objective and the call to action. What exactly do you want to CEO to do? How can s/he help?

4. Plan Live Demonstrations

Within the presentation, insert icons where actions need to take place. This will keep the presentation flowing smoothly and trigger your memory to transition to live demonstrations, video, breaks or other intermissions, when necessary.

5. Anticipate Questions

You know… those questions that come out of left field! Be prepared to answer them. Will the CEO want to know about competition…..or may s/he ask about an entirely different project?   By being prepared with “off-the-wall” questions, you’ll be able to show that you’re cool under pressure and can “think on your feet’.

6. Preparing the Presentation

Your Power Point is not the presentation. YOU are! But if you’re using a Power Point or slide show in your meeting, the following tips are extremely important:

The presentation should include no more than four colors overall.

Keep animation simple. Remember, the Power Point is not the star of the show.

Use real photography in favor of clip-art.

Avoid fancy fonts- use Sans-Serif fonts like Arial or Century Gothic, instead.

Use readable font sizes-no less than 24 points.

Include high-tech components (videos, animation, etc) only if you are proficient in using them.

Create an agenda after the cover slide. Tell the audience what you’re going to do and what you will be asking them to do.

Include time for Q&A on the agenda so attendees know when they will be able to ask questions.

Include supporting charts. In God we trust, but all others must bring data.

Keep It Simple. The average human attention span is 5-10 minutes, and even the attention span of an engaged audience will be tapped at 18-20 minutes. A 45-minute meeting will allow for introductions at the beginning, a 20-minute presentation, conversation in the middle and questions at the end. Time and structure is always important to a CEO.  

Number the pages for easy reference and spell-check the presentation!

7. Preparing YOURSELF!

The big day is here and now it’s time to prepare yourself for the big moment with your CEO. Remember, you’ve already made it to first base by being asked to present your ideas to such an important person in the company- stay calm and focused! Follow these tips to get yourself in top condition:

Test your AV equipment well in advance of the meeting to avoid malfunctions

Prepare a 1-page meeting brief for each attendee. Do not pass out the entire presentation or your audience will be looking down or flipping ahead through pages instead of focusing on you.

Arrive early and greet the attendees by name as they enter the room. Keep breathing!

Take your stance, facing he audience with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stand up straight, pretending that you’re standing against a wall with your head and shoulders against the wall. This will remind you to keep your shoulders back and your head up.

Welcome and thank the attendees; Introduce yourself

Paint a picture or use metaphors to describe the core of the meeting.

“BLUF”: State the “bottom line up front” and then continue your presentation with the breakdown and supporting data. This method is especially helpful when presenting to Senior Executives who may have to leave the meeting early. By using the “BLUF” method, you will be sure that the CEO hears your major points, even if s/he must leave the meeting earlier than scheduled.

Use humor to break up the monotony. You will come off more persuasively and laughter stimulates the “feel-good chemical” dopamine which opens the mind for learning.

Move about the room in slow, fluid motions while maintaining good eye-contact with the audience.

Silence is golden. Don’t be afraid to take random pauses to allow the audience to absorb your most important points.   Plus, this is a good time to recompose and catch a few deep breaths!

Keep note cards invisible to the audience. Maintain eye contact with the audience… NOT with the presentation screen and notecards. Over-reliance on the screen and notecards will make you appear unprepared and unsure of the content.    

Make a mistake? So what! Mistakes are uncomfortable only if YOU make them that way! No need to mention the error…no need to apologize. Simply recover and move on.    

Start on time, end on time and maintain your energy and mojo in-between!  

Being asked to give a presentation in front of the CEO and Executive Team is a distinct honor. More important than seeing the plan, the CEO is watching you. S/he is asking, “Is this person unflappable?” “Can this person exhibit a composed demeanor under stress?” Can I trust this person to carry out the plan and make it work?”  

Approach the day of presentation knowing that you and the CEO want the same thing. You both want to bring new programs to the consumer, and you both want the company to succeed. As Albert Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t know the topic well enough”. Clarity and simplicity is key. The media components serve as the backdrop, but you are the headliner!

Raise the curtain. It’s show-time!