Be sincere, be brief, be seated.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt
The clock is ticking, their day is packed, and you have the floor. What do you say and how do you say it in order to hold their interest, earn their vote, and influence their actions? In my interviews with over 200 senior leaders in Fortune 100 companies, I asked, "What qualities do you value most in speakers who present to you?" The three most common replies: Be clear, concise, and credible.
First, be clear. Create a structured message with lucid logic that is easy to follow and understand. Use an effective framework such as the proven time-tested "Tell 'Em Principle." That is, tell them what you're going to tell them (Opening); tell them (Body); then tell them what you told them (Close). This shows your decision maker that you are prepared and well-organized. Also, use quantifiable words. Instead of saying, "We anticipate a significant increase," be specific and say, "We're confident this proposed plan will yield a 25% growth in revenue over a one year period."
Second, be concise. Get to the bottom line quickly. In your Opening, be sure to include an Executive Preview where you present the crux of your message right away, before diving into the details. Though counter-intuitive to traditional speech-making, start with the ending. In the first five minutes or less, state your purpose, announce the key points, and declare your main idea which may be your recommendation, call-to-action, or conclusion. Don't make them wait for the punch-line; this tests their patience and wastes their time. Deliver the gist of the message right away. Then, in the Body of the presentation, provide supporting material ideally using no more than three key points. Consider applying the 10-20-30 Rule: use no more than 10 slides; speak no longer than 20 minutes; and use a 30 point font for legibility. In the Close, briefly recap the key points, restate the call-to-action, and suggest next steps. Thank them for their time and support.
Third, be credible. Make it easy for decision makers to believe you. Respondents in the survey consistently mentioned three areas where speakers can score big points in credibility: 1) Know your audience: Show them you've done your homework and tailor the presentation to address their specific business challenges 2) Look and sound the part: Use effective body language to exude confidence. Convey an executive image through professional dress and appearance. Speak with a well-paced authoritative voice to express command of content and conviction. 3) Handle the Q&A with confidence: Decision makers are wired to ask questions, find gaps and fix problems. Therefore, as the presenter, expect questions and objections. In fact, act as though you welcome them by remaining calm, composed and self-assured. Keep your answers short (60 seconds or less) and answer only the question that was asked. If you don't know the answer say so; tell them you'll find out and get back to them right away.
If your goal is to persuade decision makers in your next presentation, strive to optimize the Three Cs of clarity, conciseness, and credibility. You will inspire trust in the minds of your key stakeholders and deliver a confident, convincing presentation that gets results.