Article Category: Speaker Habits, Speechwriting

How to Prepare for Presenting to Senior Executives


For many employees, the opportunity to present to senior executives is simultaneously a career dream and nightmare. Standing in front of them means that you are doing something right in your position, and you also don’t want to waste the opportunity to make a significant difference. You need to strike a balance between keeping your cool and being humble enough to listen to their input and expertise.

If this were the only challenge, then more people would be successful in their presentations to key decision makers. But, the fact of the matter is that senior executives are one of the toughest audiences, no matter how much speaking experience you have.

This article will outline three significant challenges that accompany presenting to senior executives and will provide actionable steps on how you — as a top professional or executive — can further hone your skills and ensure that you are adequately prepared for the challenges that are to come.

Challenge 1: Their time is precious.

Everyone on the planet has limited time, but this is especially true for senior executives who balance their time over a range of responsibilities and endless to-do lists. Their daily schedules tend to be overbooked, and their brains are often scattered over a variety of matters, which means they aren’t very giving when it comes to where they spend their time.

If you have their attention, even for a small session, you need to make sure that you are worth it.

  • This may seem like a lot of pressure, and it can be if you don’t prepare adequately. In order to ensure that you aren’t wasting their time, make sure that you begin your presentation on a strong note so that you capture their attention from the start.
  • From the moment you start speaking, you want to be clear about the direction that your presentation is going to take and give them an overview of what you will be discussing and the purpose of this meeting.
  • While preparing your presentation, ensure that you can get through everything in your allotted amount of time, while also leaving ample minutes for questions or discussions. During your presentation, keep your eyes on the clock. You don’t want your time to run out while you have yet to reach the crucial points.

Challenge 2: They immediately want to know the answer to “So what?”

Make sure you can state in one sentence what your audience will get out of your presentation.

Senior executives are tasked with making the high-stakes decisions in a company. Their actions and choices determine the course that the firm is going to take.

For you to keep their attention and to have them listen to your proposal, you need to get to the point right away.

  • From the beginning, they want to know why they should care about what you are saying. They don’t have time for a funny introduction, or a long story about how you got to these conclusions. Instead, they want to know why this is essential for the business and how it is going to help them grow. For this reason, you want to make sure that you are presenting on the topic that they agreed to spend time listening to.
  • Include summary slides at the beginning that give an overview of all essential facts, figures, findings, or whatever else is pertinent to the conversation at hand. Have extra slides in your presentation with more in-depth details and insights that you can pull up should a senior executive ask for more information.
  • The best way to structure your presentation is by setting the stage, illuminating the predicament, proposing a resolution, and explaining the result of your suggestion. In this way, you can keep it simple and straight to the point and ensure that you are sticking to your objective. Make sure you can state in one sentence what your audience will get out of your presentation.

Challenge 3: They are a nerve-wracking audience.

You need to believe that you deserve to be in that room speaking to them.

Presenting to senior executives can be one of the scariest tasks that an employee will ever confront. After all, they are the bosses, and they tend to have more knowledge, more experience, and more power than you do. That instantly makes it far scarier than if you were asked to present to peers.

However, you have to keep in mind that there is a reason you are presenting to them. Whether it is your particular knowledge in an area (as a result of the fantastic work you have been doing), or the fact that you have come up with a promising solution, you need to believe that you deserve to be in that room speaking to them.

  • To calm your nerves, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. There is nothing that makes nerves worse than the knowledge that you aren’t sufficiently ready and equipped for what is to come.
  • This means taking the time to get to know your audience. Discern how much each of them already knows about the said topic as you want to ensure that you are all on the same page when you present your solutions.
  • Additionally, find out their preferences concerning presentations and word choices. Speaking with your manager, or someone else who has experience presenting to your senior executives, will help tremendously in this regard.
  • After practising your presentation multiple times, ask a colleague to listen to it and critique it to secure an outside opinion. While you may think you are covering all bases, someone from the outside may be able to locate loopholes or unnecessary slides.

The more you prepare, the more confident you will feel when the time comes. Confidence will go a long way in being able to convince the senior executives that you know what you are talking about and that you are an expert in this field that should be listened to and taken seriously. If you often find yourself nervous about presenting, consider investing in public speaking classes or coaching to take your career to the next level.

Your Turn…

Do you have experience presenting to senior executives? What are your tips and tricks? Educate us on your skills in the comments below!

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