So, you’ve been asked to present to the bigwigs at the top of the firm. You’ve got some data, you’ve got an ask, you need to impress. Here are some hints to help you hit the mark.
1. How does it relate to what you’re trying to do?
This is the first and most important question you need to answer. It goes without saying that you can only answer it effectively if you actually know what you’re trying to achieve.
You go to senior management because they make decisions, but you’ll only get the decisions you want from them if they have a clear understanding of what you’re asking for and how it fits with what your organization is trying to achieve. So, cut out the tangential data, the colourful anecdotes and side stories. And start with why what you’re saying is related to what they’re doing.
2. Don’t play fast and loose with percentages
Percentages are great for clarity and comparison. However, they are also abused by those desperate to impress.
Never, ever use the percentage change between two percentages. It is the last resort of those with unimpressive results and the first choice of chancers and charlatans. For example, if you’re market share has gone from 20% market share to 24%, don’t call it a 20% increase. You’re padding out your 4%.
Moreover, if you’re going to talk about percentage increases, you need to anchor them to hard numbers. How large a market are we talking about? What’s the actual value? That 4% from the earlier example might be worth thousands or millions, we don’t know without context.
3. Understand your sources
There’s a lot of shoddy data out there, there’s also a lot of good data that’s shoddily treated. Understand your data sources: how they’re gathered, what assumptions underpin them, and how those assumptions affect the final output. Know things like sample sizes and sampling methodologies. Only then can you reasonably draw conclusions and confidently assert opinions.
4. What does it look like in the real world?
Stats are great but they are too abstract for most people. Share relevant real-world examples to make your data relatable. Make sure your examples highlight challenges your organization faces and the value in overcoming them. The plural of anecdote might not be data, but anecdotes help make data relatable.
5. Peer pressure
You don’t want to be following your competitors but it’s important to highlight where you are in the market and what others are doing on similar fronts. If you can identify others moving in the direction you propose, it can help reassure people about your plans. Similarly, if you think you’ve spotted a gap others haven’t, highlight it by comparison.
6. Caveat venditor
Beware of what you’re pitching and don’t oversell. If you go in with bold claims, you will be held to them. So, go in with your caveats. Tell them what you don’t know and what factors might limit success. It doesn’t undermine your pitch, it shows you know what you’re doing.
Be prepared for tough questions but don’t try and blag your way through if you don’t know the answers. It’s better to say you don’t know, than to make something up and be pulled up on it later.
7. Details, details, details
Titles, labels, sources, etc. You must put them all in. Your presentation will go in for pre-reads, or people will ask for a copy. It will be disseminated (unless it’s terrible) and you want to make sure that people know how you came to your conclusions.
There’s another reason for including all the details too: you want questions to be about your proposals not about sample sizes, or where you got the data from.
8. Take a definitive position
Finally, the boardroom isn’t the place for options. It’s your job to filter through the options and choose one. Execs only need to give approval. If you go in with options, you’re abdicating your responsibility.
Photo by Adeolu Eletu on Unsplash