Every professional has experience presenting to senior leadership.
Most times, you are sharing the results of a recent project. You’ve worked your tail off to make it a great presentation.
What you are hoping for is to communicate your project well and, in turn, impress the room with your work.
The meeting starts. You are a few minutes into your presentation and notice that some senior leaders have gone back to their laptops.
Your morale sinks a bit.
They paid attention for a while, but now they only pop-up to ask a question or follow an interesting discussion.
They are not being rude.
They are in the room to get enough information to make a decision or build an opinion. And then they need to move on to the next important thing on their plate.
So to impress your senior executives, they will need information that enables them to make decisions quickly and efficiently.
How do you do that?
Create an Executive Summary at the start of your presentations.
I learned this strategy from Nancy Duarte, a communication expert, CEO of Durate Inc., and author of five best-selling books.
“Develop a clear, short overview of your key points, and place it in a set of executive summary slides at the front of the deck; have the rest of your slides serve as an appendix. Follow a 10% rule of thumb: If your appendix is 50 slides, devote about 5 slides to your summary at the beginning. After you present the summary, let the group drive the conversation. Often, executives will want to go deeper on the points that will aid in their decision-making. You can quickly pull up any slide in the appendix that speaks to those points of interest to them.”From, How To Present To Senior Executives.
Once you have the executive summary prepared, I use Nancy’s philosophy to set expectations as well,
“At the beginning, let the execs know how you plan to structure your time slot. For example, you could say that you plan to spend the first 5 of your 30 minutes presenting your summary and the remaining time on discussion. Most executives can be patient for 5 minutes and let you present your main points well if they know they’ll be able to ask questions fairly soon.”
From anecdotal experience, an executive summary is a sure-shot way to impress your company’s senior leadership.
Try this strategy at your next big presentation.
PS. Think of an executive summary as the antithesis of a thriller. In a thriller movie, the biggest twist is in the end, and it helps wrap the entire story. In an executive summary, you give away the twist at the beginning and then use the rest of the slides to present the story. Just like I did with the post headline 🙂