While FP&A practitioners are adept at producing quality data, they are often challenged with finding the most effective way to clearly convey key findings and insights to decision makers, executives, and boards. Follow these ideas to help you present your analysis and get your key points across.
Keep it Short and Sweet
Executives tend to be short on time, so provide only the information they need to understand and decide. C-level executives and board members require their information in a manner that allows them to quickly understand what decisions and actions are being requested.
The research may be brilliant, but they do not need to know every detail.
You will risk their attention if you cannot focus on what is important to them, not you. One executive of a $2B IT shop had the rule of threes, as in make only three points per page. Any more or less and you will lose the audience.
Step into Their Shoes
The key in any presentation is knowing your audience. Understand the problem you are presenting from the executive’s perspective – what is the main issue and how will executives process the information you provide.
Executives generally are very intelligent and intuitive, and have broad business knowledge. Speak with relevant data as much as possible, since facts and figures can often be elusive when executives are inundated by multiple sometimes conflicting lobbying efforts. Offer theories only when you are asked.
Choose Your Words Wisely
How is success defined, and what does the audience need to do to help you succeed?
Ambiguous words will kill you with any audience, therefore, be specific in defining the problem/issue, then recommended action and define ‘the ask’ of the audience. In some cases it is as simple as “give me your approval,” in other cases it might be clearing obstacles, etc.
Finally, there may also be a WIIFM (what’s in it for me) aspect to the audience’s decision making processes, so it is important to understand where the conflicts, pet interests and passions lie, and how to appeal to them without patronizing, pandering or creating a conflict of interest.
Attend my FinNext session ‘Presenting Complex Data Analysis to Executives and Boards’ to learn more about creating simplified and concise reports, selecting the relevant information your audience needs, and formatting your presentation to eliminate confusion, save time and be a better, more effective business partner.
Peter Geiler, FP&A
Child, Family and Community Services