In presentations, understanding your audience is essential, and never more so than with executive presentations. In an executive presentation, you might be sharing the same information you’d present to other groups, but because of their position and unique POV, you will need to take a slightly different approach to your content.
And for many presenters, executive presentations can amplify the pressure they already feel during any presentation, which adds an additional layer of difficulty. But with a few pieces of information and a little extra preparation, you can turn the challenge of an executive presentation into a major opportunity.
So before you head into the boardroom, check out our most effective executive presentation tips.
Executive Presentation Tip #1: Keep it short
A tightly-written and well-edited presentation is a great best practice in general, but it's essential for executive presentations. In these settings, you are speaking to a group that often only wants to hear the top line, not the in-the-weeds details, so make sure you are honing your content to clear takeaways and strong key messages.
For additional details, you can add extra slides to an appendix section. This gives you the flexibility to dive deeper into topics that the audience wants to hear more about, without getting bogged down in every detail as you go through the main part of your presentation.
Executive Presentation Tip #2: Tell a story
A successful executive presentation requires more than just a series of facts. That’s where storytelling comes in.
With presentation storytelling, you link together all of your messaging and wrap it in a cohesive and memorable story.
At its most basic, storytelling shows how things change over time. You don’t have to use something that sounds like a bedtime story, or that adds extra length/content. You just need to show how all of the content you are presenting adds up to real changes.
Once you have your content outlined, start to look at how it all comes together. Write out the points that make up your introduction, body, and conclusion, then think about the main point that links them all and drives your story forward.
Storytelling isn’t just a tool for better slides, it’s also proven to be an effective tool for helping audiences retain information, which is particularly important when you’re presenting to an executive audience.
Executive Presentation Tip #3: Don’t read off your slides
Editing your content down to the essentials is a two-part job. The first is honing your content down to key messages. But once you’ve got your story tight, you need to make sure your slides reflect this same approach.
So the second tip is to write your slides so that they only hint at the key ideas rather than spelling them out in full. This could mean short sentences, animated builds, or even using visual cues to support your content.
This isn’t just for aesthetics, though, it serves an essential purpose for executive presentations. When you put too much content on your slides, you can be certain that your audience will be reading ahead rather than focusing on what you are saying. So not only are you losing the attention of your audience, you’re also creating opportunities to break your flow when your executive audience inevitably interrupts you to ask about points you haven’t even addressed yet.
Executive Presentation Tip #4: Plan for questions
Most presentations have you doing most of the work. You guide the conversation, shape the narrative, and control the flow and pacing.
Executive presentations change all of that. With executive presentations, you should plan to share your top line ideas, then leave space for questions/discussion. That’s because executive audiences tend to be in a hurry to get to the points they want to hear about, and then dive deeper into those topics.
So start by setting the stage: let the audience know that you will give them a high-level executive summary, and then take some time to focus on questions.
Sometimes, this is as far as your presentation will take you. Once the conversation starts, the slides often stop. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need them. You should still create deep-dive slides that cover each key point, but these can be pushed to the end of the presentation, and used as a tool that you can refer to if needed, and ignore if not.
This strategy helps you stay prepared when the conversation (inevitably) goes away from your outline and dives into whatever the executives focus on.
Executive Presentation Tip #5: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Practicing and rehearsing is perhaps the most important step you can take to ensure your presentation goes smoothly. In the case of executive presentations, it’s even more important.
Projecting confidence and competence are also important aspects of selling your story to executive audiences. Rehearsing your presentation will help you gain mastery over the content and how you share it, as well as smoothing out the stumbling points.
Finally, taking the time to run through your presentation multiple times will help you identify any content you left out, smooth out the flow of your story, and identify any other areas you can improve on.
How to get the most from our executive presentation tips
Whether it’s your first time in the boardroom or you are an experienced pro, executive presentations can be challenging. But with our tried-and-true tips, you’ll have everything you need to create and deliver an effective presentation.
It’s important to remember that the fundamentals of presentations are still at the heart of an executive presentation: understanding your audience, telling a story, and using clear visuals will help you succeed no matter what the occasion.
Looking for more information about executive presentations and beyond? Check out our resources for expert advice and tested strategies.