13 Most Convincing Actions that Get Senior Management to Sit Up and Listen to You

Here is your goal! You want to come across as totally knowledgeable about the content, confident and credible. You are presenting to upper management, investors, the Board or key customers. Here’s what your audience is looking, and not looking, for.

  1. Don’t waste their time. Be sure you talk to two people in the audience ahead of time. Make sure that the information you are discussing is exactly the information they believe your audience will need and want.
  2. Don‘t bore them by reading the agenda. An executive once told me, “I don’t need to listen to someone going through an agenda. He just wasted a minute of the ten minutes he has.” Instead, spend time telling them things they do not know. Look at your content and cut what your audience already knows. Finally, don’t tell them everything you know or everything you have done. Once again, they don’t want or need to hear or respond to it. What they do want to know is just enough in order to decide on the decision you are recommending.
  3. Provide an executive summary. Start by sharing the key messages of your presentation right up front. They don’t want to listen for ten minutes until you get to the punch line. Here are two examples of executive summaries.
    Download a “Change Executive Format” here: http://bit.ly/ymbllWDownload an Influence Executive Format here: http://bit.ly/xq9ZsS
  4. Don’t show many slides—if any. If you do show slides, create images that capture your messages. If you read the slides, you’re done for.
  5. Make time for your listeners to ask questions. Don’t talk so fast and plan to share so much data that your listeners cannot ask questions. Give them time during the talk as well as at the end.
  6. If you are explaining a product or an idea, show or demo it if you can. Seeing it is better than only hearing about it. That’s why companies give out samples.
  7. Keep the jargon out of the talk – unless they use it themselves. It’s your job to translate the jargon into everyday language, so that everyone in your audience understands.
  8. Pause between your sentences. Speak calmly, yet energetically. Don’t bore your audience with your voice. Don’t create a 15-minute talk and try to fit it into a 10-minute slot. Talking fast is not the solution.
  9. Look at each person. It’s supposed to be a conversation. End each sentence looking at someone, not at the paper or the slide. If it’s part of the culture and appropriate in the setting, before you begin your talk and you are meeting people, shake hands firmly and look at the person when you shake hands.
  10. Answer questions truthfully and concisely If you don’t know, don’t try to fake it! One strategy is to say, “That number is not on the tip of my tongue; let me get the figure to you later on today.
  11. If someone disagrees, get curious. Ask a question. Request more information. “Will you say some more about how you see this situation?” Or, “I did not consider this perspective. Let’s talk about it.” Be careful not to put someone down when he or she disagrees with you. Do a practice run. Find a colleague to be really argumentative and practice how to handle the situation.
  12. Be shorter than the time allotted, rather than longer. Save time for comments and questions. For a 20-minute slot, only talk 10-15 minutes.
  13. Be yourself. Film yourself and look at your behaviors. Then get rid of the bad habits such as holding your hands in front of you or saying “um.” Keep the good habits, such as pausing between sentences and speaking only about the details your audience needs to know.

These are not difficult behaviors to learn. You just have to practice them before you get up in front of an audience of executives. There are two pieces to a presentation: content and delivery. Prepare the content early enough that you have time to practice delivery; then rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. To add the frosting on the cake of your presentation rehearsal, find someone to ask you all the tough questions. The more you rehearse to sound confident and credible with your presentation, the more you will get your audience to sit up and listen. I challenge you to rehearse 3-4 times for the next important presentation.