April  2017

As an audience member, what qualities do you most like and dislike in a speaker who presents to you? I recently asked 237 executives in Fortune 100 companies this same question.  As it turns out, these decision makers are quick to overlook some innocent mishaps such as technical malfunctions or the speaker drawing a blank during the presentation. There are, however, other mistakes that jeopardize a speaker's credibility in the minds of senior leaders and limit his or her ability to persuade executives. To manage these mishaps and optimize your influence, please consider the executives' responses below.
Thank you for your readership, and best wishes for continued speaking excellence! 

Kind regards,

Executives' Top 5 Presenter-Related Complaints 

and the 3-Part Remedy

By Darlene Price, Well Said, Inc. 

Business people in board room meeting
"I've learned that mistakes can often be
as good a teacher as success."
--Jack Welch

As a business leader, by the time you arrive to middle or upper management, you've likely learned the basics of effective presenting.  What you may not know is how to avoid the most common presentation mistakes, which executives complain about the most. To influence the chief officers and senior leaders to whom you now present, consider their top five presenter-related complaints, plus a three-part remedy:

1. Gives too much information. 
Also known as "TMI" or a "data dump," this mishap is ranked as executives' number one pet peeve because it wastes their time and impedes productivity. These results-oriented time-sensitive decision makers do not want the 'down-in-the-weeds' details. Instead, get to the point quickly, use ten slides or less, and present only the must-know facts in a structured format.

2. Fails to address the executives' key business drivers. 
Avoid simply reading from slides or reciting data from a spreadsheet. What does the data mean to the executives and the organization? How does it impact business outcomes? Be sure to tie the data to their business challenges and drivers, such as financial performance, operational efficiency, or customer satisfaction.

3. Hasn't done their homework. 
Be sure to anticipate the executives' questions and objections ahead of time. You can't know the answer to everything; however, you will need to prepare and practice brief valid responses to their probable questions and objections. Also, have available the necessary data to support your points in case you need to reference it during the presentation.

4. Gets flustered or reacts defensively.
Avoid taking the executives' pushback or feedback personally. It's their job to identify the holes in a proposal or budget before approving it. Despite their tone, attitude, or language, remain calm, courteous, and professional.

5. Lacks executive presence. 
Despite the popularity of the business casual dress code, when it comes time to meet with executives, look your very best. Dress one notch above the best-dressed person in the audience as a show of respect. In addition, avoid appearing or sounding timid, hesitant, or listless.  Especially with executives, a presenter who comes across as self-assured, energetic and passionate is much more impactful and convincing.

To avoid these five mishaps, apply the following three-part remedy called the 3Cs of Executive Communication: 

Be clear.
Create a structured message with lucid logic that is easy to follow and understand. For example, use a brief Problem/Solution/Recommendation outline. Or apply the proven time-tested "Tell 'Em Principle" format. 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 the executive audience 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 15% growth in revenue over a one year period."

Be concise.
Get to the bottom line quickly. In the very beginning, present an executive summary within the first two minutes. For example, state your purpose, announce the key points, and declare your main idea and/or request. Don't make executives wait for the big idea or punch line; this tests their patience and wastes their time. Deliver the gist of the message in the Opening. 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. Finally, in the Close, briefly recap the key points, restate the call-to-action, and suggest next steps. Thank them for their time and support.   

Be credible.
Make it easy for decision makers to believe you. First, know your audience.  Show executives you've done your homework by tailoring the presentation to address their specific business drivers and challenges. Second, 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.  Third, 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. Anticipate and prepare for all the probable questions.  For other questions that catch you off guard, do not apologize or act flustered. Simply say you don't know, a nd you'll be glad to find out the answer and get back to them right away.

By avoiding the top complaints of executives and optimizing the three-part remedy, you're well on your way to inspiring trust in the minds of your senior leaders and delivering persuasive presentations that get results.

To learn more about delivering persuasive executive-level presentations, please read my book Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results (available in Hardcover, Kindle, and Audio). 


Feel free to contact me directly to schedule an in-house corporate training event for your team. I would be honored to support your speaking success.

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