Does the thought of presenting to senior leadership keep you up at night? Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. Stay tuned! Next on the Moxie Talk Blog, we’re talking about everything you need to know to give a killer executive presentation.
How To Present To Senior Management: Tips From a TEDx Speaker Coach
Hey everyone I’m Fia Fasbinder and welcome to Moxie Talk where we help you find your voice, share your message, and lead with confidence.
Well, here at Moxie behind the scenes we took some time to look at my most popular videos and by far and away, the most-watched video and the most requested video is how to present to senior leadership. So by popular request, we’ve got more content for you on how to present to the executive team.
We’re going to start with soup to nuts everything you need to know from the minute you find out that you have an executive presentation, to the minute you log out of that zoom meeting or walk out of that boardroom. We’re going to take a deep dive into all of this.
Here we go: How to present to senior management—part 2.
Think About Who You’re Presenting To
Let’s take a deeper dive into everything you need to know and we’re going to start with audience analysis. This is a really important step that you need to take before you start preparing for your executive presentation.
Who is attending?
Who is attending this briefing? How do you know about these people? Do you know their style? Are they aggressive? Are they going to interrupt you? Do they give you time to speak? What is their role in the company? How are they related to your role in the company?
Having a really good understanding of the executives that will be in that room and their style and how they have behaved in past executive meetings will make sure that you prepare an executive briefing that will resonate with this particular audience.
Your Presentation Must Fit Your Audience!
I love to say that a one-size-fits-all presentation is like a one-size-fits-all suit—It fits nobody well. Let’s make sure that you give an executive presentation that fits with this particular group of executives.
What are some other questions that you should be asking yourself for audience analysis? Here’s a couple that I always work with my clients and have them ask themselves before they start preparing their topic—
- What does the executive team expect you to present on? What were you asked to present on?
- Have they heard a presentation about their topic before?
- What do they already know about the topic?—So you don’t repeat yourself and you can make sure you’re presenting a different angle, and lastly my personal favorite—
- What keeps them up at night?
These questions will really help you narrow your focus on the talking points in your presentation.
Tailor Your Content For Maximum Impact
Once you’ve done some great audience analysis and you have a firm understanding of this executive team and what they want you to speak about, now it’s time to ask yourself some questions about the actual content.
There are four questions that you need to make sure that you ask yourself before you start preparing your content and those questions are:
- What do you want the executive team to feel?
- What do you want them to know?
- What do you want them to do?
- What do you want them to remember or take away?
These questions should absolutely guide your preparation of the content.
On this note, if you’re interested in a deep dive on how to prepare content, check out my Youtube video on how to craft a persuasive presentation.
I’m giving you a really high level now because we have a lot to cover on executive presentations but that video will definitely give you a deep dive into all things crafting your content.
How To Craft Your Content
Okay! here it goes, a high-level overview of how to craft your content. Your content should be in three main parts so this seems really simple:
But we’re going to break it down from there, so that you know exactly what should go in each of those parts. As an FYI for the 4 audience analysis questions that you answered,
1. Introduction = Feel
The feel usually gets established in the introduction because this is where you set the tone of your presentation.
2. Body = Know
The know gets established in the body of the presentation because this is the meat. This is where you get all the information in.
3. Conclusion (and Bridge)= Do, Remember, Takeaway
The do, remember, and takeaway are in the conclusion and the bridge. So those questions you ask yourself definitely have an order that they go in your presentation.
What should you put in your introduction? Introductions are made of 4 parts.
Part 1—Introduction: Greeting
The first is your greeting that’s when you introduce yourself and your topic, even your position to the group of executives.
Part 2—Introduction: Hook
The second part—this is the most often overlooked part—maybe not done because people don’t know how to do it or they feel really nervous to do it and that is the hook. You must-must-must have a hook.
Think about it this way, these executives see presentation after presentation after presentation. If you can do something or say something that’s different from all the other presentations that were given that will make them lean in and listen more, this is a great way to make yourself stand out from all the other presenters.
Think about a question you could ask or a quote you could say or something that you could do that’s unexpected. Make sure you have a hook. In fact, the studies show that simply by hooking your audience, they will pay attention for 50% longer. Hooks are a crucial step to any great presentation.
Once you’ve introduced yourself, you’ve done something quickly to hook your audience, now you need to give them what we call—
Part 3—Introduction: Call to Adventure
The call to adventure which really is just a fancy word for agenda—Let your audience know what you will be covering in the presentation.
There’s a famous quote that in a presentation—You tell the audience what you’re going to talk about, you talk about it, and then you tell them what you talked about. It’s not that simple, but definitely make sure that you tell them what you’re going to talk about.
Moving on to the body of your presentation, or what-I-want-my-audience-to-know part of your presentation—I like to think about organizing your body into 3 main categories.
You could even think about these as step stones, you’re literally taking these executives’ hands and walking them on a journey from what they thought about your presentation before you started to where they’re gonna end.
The 3 different categories, or step stones if you will, are really crucial to make sure you’re not just giving them information, you’re not just showing up and throwing up, you’re not just blindly throwing information at this group, that you’ve really thought about the logic and the flow and the steps to organizing your body.
Here are some ideas for how to organize the body of your presentation. You can use the following methods:
- What / Why / How
- What / So What / Now What
- Problem / Solution / Benefit
- Problem / Past Solutions / New Solutions
In fact, there are a ton more of these methods if you check out my video on crafting a presentation, but those are a few of the most popular that I use working with clients and making sure that you organize the body into those 3 categories. This is a methodology to make sure that you create a persuasive presentation, which all presentations, by the way, should be persuasive, especially to the executive team they’re looking to you to teach them, to tell them, to suggest to them.
Last but not least, your conclusion. There are steps to your conclusion as well. First of all you want to—
bring it back to the beginning
in your main point. That’s really important to go back.
Recap presentation briefly
Recap briefly what you talked about. You don’t have to take a deep dive. Just recap briefly. Then provide your—
call to action
or synthesis or bridge. Now a call to action is when you actually want your audience to do something or think about something when the presentation is over.
Another way is just a synthesis. If there’s no action to take then you want to synthesize all this information for them. Don’t just give them the information—tell them what they should think about the information.
Then you want to bridge it back. Bridging it back to your team, to the other presentations, to what you’re asked to talk about. This is the crucial step making sure you synthesize and bridge and suggest.
This is why you are giving a presentation. If they just wanted numbers or they just wanted information they could have gotten off a report, they’re asking you to synthesize it for them so make sure you take some time to think about how to synthesize this information.
Stay High-Level And Concise
Another crucial-crucial-crucial step is to stay high-level. Do not get stuck in the weeds.
Stay on time and remember that these executives are so busy. They have so many presentations to hear, they have so many other things to do. You need to give it high-level to them—just what they need to know and make sure you synthesize it for them.
Let me give you an example. If you are presenting data or numbers to the executive team, tell them what the data shows.
What is the story behind the data? Don’t just give them the numbers. Synthesize and provide the next steps or recommendations. Tell us if the numbers show that we’re doing better or worse or that we should take these next steps or we should do nothing at all.
Make sure that you don’t just give the numbers, you tell them what they should think about the numbers or the data or the information and keep it high level.
Leave them wanting more!
and end on time. If they have anything else they want to know, they will absolutely ask it in the QA.
The Difference Between The Slides You Present VS The Slides You Send
Next let’s talk a little bit about your slides. First of all, there is a difference between the slides that you could send before or after your presentation and the slides that you actually use for your presentation.
The slides you send before or after can have a ton more data. It’s really a report. They’re meant to read it. But the slides that you use when you present should have a whole lot less on the slide. Remember—
Bullets kill presentations
Don’t just riddle your slides with bullets and then read them to the executive team. Again you want to synthesize it for them.
A presentation to an executive team is really a golden opportunity to get in front of them. The human brain cannot read and listen at the same time and you absolutely want them listening to you. For this reason, make sure that the slides you send ahead of time or before time have all the information and then really pare down the slides that you use when you present.
If you’re thinking — Well! How am I going to know what to say if I don’t have it all on my slide?
The key is to rehearse but what you want to do is make sure you have just a few talking points, a very simple graph and then you expand on those points. You say a ton more than on your slide. At TED, we have a hard and fast rule—
Only 6 words per slide
I know these are not TED Talks, they’re executive briefings but think less is more. You want them listening to you, not reading.
Especially, if your executive briefing is remote, you might consider toggling between just presenting without any slides and sharing your screen with the slides. This is because if you share your screen the entire time, you are the tiny square on the screen—you are not the star of the show.
How To Rehearse Like A Pro
If this sounds really difficult to you—Well it actually is pretty difficult—But if you rehearse, you can nail this every time and—
rehearsal is key to confidence
Here are some general rules for rehearsal. I would suggest rehearsing 3 to 5 times through your presentation for confidence.
This is enough time that you’ll know your presentation, you’ll feel really familiar with the slides, you won’t have the deer-in-the-headlights moment that some of us have, but you won’t have time to memorize it verbatim and most people can fit in three to five rehearsals into their busy lives.
If you don’t think you can fit those in and it’s that important that you nail this executive briefing, calendar off the time to rehearse. Make sure when you rehearse, you’re doing it as close to the real thing as possible. If it’s remote, make sure you use the technology so that you feel really confident on presentation day.
Now because you’re not going to script it out, you’re just going to have talking points on your slides, what you want to do is—
memorize the journey
memorize the order and the flow, the basic talking points about your introduction, your body, and your conclusion. However, do not memorize verbatim unless you are one of those speakers that get so nervous at the beginning of your presentation that you know that you are going to go into fight-or-flight and blank out on what to say, or say things that you didn’t rehearse.
Too nervous? Memorize your Intro and Conclusion!
Then I recommend that you only memorize verbatim the first 5 minutes or your introduction to your presentation because studies show this is when you’ll be most nervous—Your heart’s racing the most, your prefrontal cortex is shutting down, and you might say all sorts of things that you didn’t plan to say.
So feel free if you’re one of those speakers to memorize verbatim the beginning of your talk and also the end so that you can land the plane, as we say in the speaker business, the way you planned it.
If you really want to punch it at the end and you want a really impactful call to action or synthesis or bridge, you can memorize that part as well, but the rest of it—just memorize the journey.
Another huge-huge-huge crucial step in rehearsal is to—
I know feedback is hard but feedback is absolutely the difference between good and great and you must get feedback from 2 sources.
The first source is a trusted advisor—somebody that is either a great presenter or on your team a colleague that knows the executive team. Rehearse with them and get their feedback about what worked and maybe what you should change.
The other important person to get feedback from is you. I know this is so painful. People feel like their eyeballs are going to melt out if they watch themselves on video but it’s so important.
Do not rehearse in the mirror
Do not rehearse in the mirror. Whoever came up with this idea, it’s such a bad idea. Instead, record yourself on your phone or start a video like a zoom call and then watch it back.
Even if it’s difficult, it is so much more accurate idea of how you’re presenting. Otherwise, you just know how you feel when you present you have no idea if that’s accurate. So recording yourself and watching it back is the most accurate rear-view mirror we have as presenters.
Preparing For Q&A
Now I want to move on to Q&A and how you rehearse Q&A. You can actually rehearse Q&A and I know for a lot of my clients the Q&A section of their executive presentations is the most nerve-wracking.
Here’s what you do once you’ve done your audience analysis, I bet that you could come up with some of the most likely questions, even the difficult ones, even if you know that there’s an executive that asks certain kinds of questions—write those down. write down the questions you hope you don’t get asked and then role-play and rehearse your answers.
Now you might not have the exact answers to the exact questions that they came up with, but I guarantee rehearsing these questions and their answers will get you closer to having confident, poised, professional answers.
If Q&A is a huge part of your presentation and you’re feeling like you need a lot more help on Q&A, feel free to check out the video I did on media training and media appearances.
Although it’s really about media appearances, an interview is an interview. There’s a lot of great information in here about how to deflect negative questions or how to get back on track to the main point. I would highly suggest you watch that video, take a deep dive into it if it’s important to you.
Even if you’re not making a media appearance, this video will help you with high-stakes interviews, and let’s face it—presenting to the senior leadership team can be extremely high stakes.
Set Yourself Up To Succeed With Pre-Presentation Warm-Ups
Immediately before your presentation, it’s important that you do what we call at Moxie a
or a pre-game ritual. Sometimes I like to say to my clients—
check yourself before you wreck yourself
because so much success that presenters have is really based on an assessment of how they’re feeling and thinking and a pre-presentation warm-up.
Most of us get crippled by fear when we find out that we have to give an executive presentation. They have what I call—
Fear’s greatest hits:
- Imposter syndrome
- Fear of failure
- Fear of not fitting in
There are so many that happen to us when we feel that fear of giving a presentation and especially a high-stakes presentation. How you talk to yourself and what’s going on in your head is super important leading up to that presentation.
Those voices playing in your head, fear’s voice that’s playing in your head is what we call a
and your negativity bias is an ancient response and it’s a survival mechanism and it basically means that
negative experiences and thoughts are ten times more powerful than positive ones
because back in our caveman days, if there was a rustle in the bush, it was a really good idea to think something super negative and it catastrophized that this might be a saber-tooth tiger. It would not be a good idea to say – Uhh! it might be a tiger, I’ll just breathe through it.
So negativity bias is real and it is one of those things that’s hardwired into our DNA but it is possible to overcome it. Therefore, when you hear that negative voice in your head leading up to this presentation, switch it! Give yourself something positive to say!
A script—a coaching script maybe—something you would like a coach to say to you in those moments or a mantra you can repeat to yourself that will make you feel more confident and switch your thoughts from negative to positive. and you must-must-must say this out loud.
Saying thoughts out loud are 4-6x more powerful than thinking them!
There was a recent study done out of Georgetown University that saying thoughts out loud is 4 to 6 times more powerful than just saying it in your head.
This means if you find out you have this executive briefing and you say something like Oh! I’m gonna bomb or I can’t believe I’m dreading this, or something like that or Gosh! I hope it doesn’t go like last time, you are 40 to 60 times more likely to have that bad outcome if you say it aloud.
Rewire your brain, people! next time you’re feeling like you’re going to go down a negative rabbit hole, say that coaching script or that positive mantra to yourself. First step of any pre-presentation warm-up actually, you should start doing this the minute you find out you have the presentation.
Another good idea along the same lines of rewiring our brains and creating new neural pathways is—
visualize your success
Studies on visualization have shown that they are the most powerful tool for performance anxiety. Even more powerful than beta blockers and all these other kinds of things we take.
This is why athletes and performers use visualization so much because our brain doesn’t know the difference between visualizing something and actually doing it. So in your pre-presentation warm-up, if you close your eyes quickly and visualize yourself nailing that presentation—
- Be as specific as you can – What are you wearing? What do you see?
- Look in the audience, who do you see in the audience? What are their facial expressions? Hear your voice.
Make it so that you nail this presentation. I’m telling you right now—your brain doesn’t know the difference. It thinks you actually nailed the presentation so it creates a new neural pathway.
This means next time you start to think about the presentation, instead of having a negative thought like I’m going to bomb this, your brain can travel that positive neural pathway and say, Oh! I did this successfully before, I can do it again.
Last but not least, in your pre-presentation warm-up and possibly the most powerful tool in your speaker toolbox is breathing. I’m not going to take a deep dive into breathing here because I’ve done so many videos and blogs on breathing and you can absolutely check one out.
If you don’t watch my other videos and you don’t know how to breathe correctly yet, I highly recommend that you check out a video on diaphragmatic breathing.
Diaphragmatic breathing is one of those techniques that will absolutely help you overcome speaking anxiety. When you breathe correctly, you will learn to calm and focus yourself from the moment you found out you have that presentation to the moment before you go on, and then through the presentation as well.
Your pre-presentation warm-up should absolutely include this. So it is 10 minutes before your presentation, you found a quiet place to stand, there are 4 components that you need in this pre-presentation warm-up —
- Voice and Speech work
I know I’ve mentioned a lot of other videos I’ve done but there’s a lot of ground to cover with executive presentations. If you are interested in learning a little bit more about the pre-presentation warm-up I do with my Ted speakers backstage check out my video on that learn how to breathe learn how to do a really great pre-presentation warm-up and set yourself up for success.
You would expect athletes and performers to prepare right prepare before a high-stakes event but for some reason, as presenters, we throw ourselves into these executive presentations with no thought, no warm-up and then we wonder why it didn’t go as expected.
Take the time to really prepare and really warm-up for this presentation — so you are at your very best.
Remember: You Control The Presentation
This takes us up to the actual presentation – remain confident. Remember you control the presentation. If you’re derailed by an executive that’s aggressive or interrupts you, I would suggest that you plan an answer to politely get back on track. Especially, if you know that this is a common theme among some of the executives.
A polite answer like — I want to honor our time here today, I’m happy to answer that question but if you would give me the time to get through my presentation, I will absolutely come back to that at the end. In fact, I have a few slides planned on that exact thing.
Something like that that will make them understand that you’ve really put some thought and consideration into this presentation and hopefully that will let them know that you are in control and that they’re not going to interrupt.
You might have those executives that still interrupt no matter what but don’t let one of those mess-ups derail your whole presentation. If you get interrupted and you get flustered make sure that you let it go stay in the present moment and keep going.
When we get anxious and we go down that rabbit hole spiral of anxiety, we live in the past, we get stuck in the past and what happens then is that you derail the rest of your presentation, you crash and burn for the rest of your presentation instead of just that moment.
Get out of your head if you mess up or you get flustered and focus all of your energy outward toward those exacts. Are they understanding me? Are they resonating with my message? Are they getting it?
It’s not about if they like you. It’s not about you going Oh God! I can’t believe I messed up. Let it go and send your energy outward.
If it helps, send your energy outward to the positive executive on that team whoever you can feel that is most jiving with you vibing with you giving you positive energy- try to focus your energy on them.
If Q&A is the most nerve-wracking part of your presentation that makes you the most nervous,
make sure that you remained grounded and breathe.
Remain grounded and breathe. Literally, touch your feet to the floor and wiggle your toes. Any kind of physical sensation like breathing and wiggling our toes on the floor.
I know it might sound crazy to put your feet on the floor like this however, there have been studies after studies that have shown actually that touching our feet to the floor and feeling the ground beneath us, actually gives us confidence. There’s nothing like physical sensations to snap you back to the present moment.
How To Have Confident Body Language
Let’s talk a little bit about your body language to make sure your body is conveying confidence. I’ve done several videos on all things confident non-verbal communication so if you want a deep dive you can watch these.
Make sure to be open and have good posture
In general, make sure that you are open and your posture is good. Literally that your chest is open you’re not closing in because that definitely makes you look nervous and that you have good posture and you’re sitting or standing tall.
You can do this by imagining a string that’s attached to the middle of your head and the other end is on the ceiling and it’s slightly straightening out the S-curve in your spine by just pulling you and lengthening you. These will definitely convey confidence as opposed to closed-off small nervous body language.
I had a client who, all he changed in his presentations was the way he walked into the room and the number of times he was interrupted by those executives went down in spades because his first impression with his body language was confident I know what I’m doing, I deserve to be here — so open and lengthen.
Make sure to smile
Speaking of confident I deserve to be here make sure you’re smiling. We have these neurons called mirror neurons – which means that we mirror emotions that we see in people. If you are excessively nervous and your face drops or you’re one of those people whose face drops when you think, you need to make sure that you’re smiling.
If you’re not sure again, you’ll see it in that video when you watch yourself back but you don’t just smile crazy through the whole presentation but it’s important to show them that you are happy to be there, excited to be there, purposeful and passionate about your topic.
Quick Tips To Bring Your A-Game
Now that we’ve talked about body language during the presentation, let’s talk about a couple tips that are easy things you can do to really set yourself up for success. The first is to
plan your wardrobe the night before.
There’s nothing to undermine or erode your confidence that’s worse than a frenzy digging spree through your closet in hopes of finding something to wear. Set yourself up for success by choosing that outfit the night before.
Pick something you feel incredibly confident in but is professional also, something that makes you look like the boss – that’s really the way to go.
If it’s a remote interview, speaking of setting yourself for success with easy tips
check your technology
Make sure you are looking directly into the camera. When you look into the camera it makes you look like you are looking at the people across that screen.
If you’re using dual monitors, make sure your notes aren’t on the other screen – that they are on the screen below your camera. I even have some clients that will crown their computer screens with sticky notes to make sure that they are looking into the camera. Little tweaks to your technology like this make a huge difference in how people perceive you.
check your lighting
Another thing you can do is make sure your lighting is good — You don’t want to be in darkness.
check your audio
Make sure your audio is good. if you’re using an external mic you should be fine but if you’re using your computer mic it was meant to bring in ambient sound which is not good when you’re presenting. Even the earbuds that came with your phone are better than your computer microphone.
All Of This Preparation Will Help Improve Your Mindset
As a recap of everything, we spoke about how to present to the executive team, soup to nuts.
We started with audience analysis making sure you do the audience analysis of who’s going to be at that executive meeting.
Then we moved on to how to craft your content.
How to Rehearse
Then we moved on to how to rehearse even the Q&A and some tips on how to do Q&A.
Then moving on to pre-presentation warm-ups which are key to confidence.
Making sure that your body conveys confidence when you’re presenting.
Wardrobe and Technology
and then some easy tips for success like wardrobe and your technology.
Last but not least, I really want you to think about presenting to the senior leadership in a different way.
Change your mindset
around these presentations. This should not be a gladiatorial sport, this should not be something you dread. Rather think of it as an opportunity for you to show your subject matter expertise, your thought leadership, show the executive team what you’ve got and what you know.
Remember that you were chosen to do this presentation by the executive team because they want to hear from you – you are the subject matter expert. Getting in front of this leadership team is a golden opportunity to show them what you know and what you got and it could open so many doors.
With that, I wish you all success in presenting to that leadership team. If this blog was valuable make sure you like it share it with a friend and subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel to see so much more content like this.