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Copy of 7 rules for capturing senior executives’ attention in a 15-minute presentation

Working in corporations necessitates presenting your work, ideas, or anything to your senior executives at some point even if you do not want to. This is somehow, inevitable if you want to show yourself in corporate life. However, it is always something stressful, worrisome, and give cramps. Because only one presentation to C-suite can change the course of your career. They do not have time to listen to every detail of your work or project especially when they did not demand that presentation. You need to be well prepared, be ready to challenges, and get their attention. Do not leave a room to lose their attention. However, there are ways to be successful in a short slot and get what you wanted. Don’t forget “every battle is won before it is fought” as Sun Tzu said. So have a presentation strategy with some preparation rules:

Rule #1 know your audience

Always start with understanding your audience. This is the golden rule for everything. Whatever you do, first try to understand your audience. Start asking these questions;

- Who will be present in the meeting, what are their motivations and expectations,

- What are their concerns,

- Do they already know the subject you will present, or will it be a repetition, update for them?

- Do they have critic meetings the day you will present?

Answering those questions is crucial since your presentation will be based on your answers. If your senior executive has a motivation for cost reduction on that fiscal year, proposing a huge project where you will demand a budget may not be sound good for him. You probably will return with empty hands. However, if you position your project on a different level and show its relation with some cost reductions you may have a chance.

Rule #2 have a specific purpose and a message

I mentioned above senior executives do not have much time, and they might get easily distracted if you do not have a specific message. You must have an agenda, purpose for that presentation. It might be getting a confirmation for the project budget or showing the risks of the project and demand action or only showing the results and getting appreciation. Whatever it is, know your purpose and do not have something extra in the presentation. You need to focus senior executives on a specific message and feed that message during your slot. If you have an informative message, start with framing a brief executive summary and continue with a high-level overview of the main points. At some point, there needs to be a conclusion for that message and give the answer for the “so what” question to your audience.

Rule #3 have a storyline

It is much easier to understand something if it is told to us in a story. You do not create a “hero’s journey” kind of story, rather it is a storytelling structure, ensuring you transfer your message to your audience in an easy and effective way. For example, you want a budget for a project, then you need to position your project as a resolution of a problem. You will start with explaining the current situation, giving a quick summary of where the company is, then explain the challenge ahead of you, give little tension and “baam” give the resolution which is your project/solution meeting the challenge. This storytelling method will help you structure your 15-minute pitch easily. Check this article also written by Orana Velarde . Use other structures as well, you will decide which one best suits your subject.

Never forget, there is significant science behind storytelling on how it affects the human brain, so please use this power.

Rule#4 do not have unnecessary content

You have one purpose, one message and have some evidence to strengthen your message. Do not overload your audience with data but be sure that you have enough evidence for them to buy your presentation. Use facts, statistics, testimonials, examples, and calculations to support your message where necessary. Keep it simple, choose the strongest evidence, and use them. But keep others in your pocket in case there might be questions.

Rule#5 have a neat, simple but creative presentation design

The presentation design has significant importance. If you are the leading singer on the scene, then the slides are the dancers behind you. They must support you and help you get applause. They need to be simple and there must be only one subject or message in every slide. You need to apply the design rules in every slide. Make sure that nobody is trying to read what is on the slide rather than listening to you. Use some keywords and a self-explanatory visual supporting your story.

Rule#6 have the answer for “what’s in it for me”

As I mentioned in the 1st rule briefly, the senior executives want to know the benefits of your demand. You need to study hard before your presentation to make relevant calculations on how your project/solution will make a difference in the business.

Rule #7 be prepared for the possible questions

And lastly, if the senior executives are asking questions, it is something good for you, and you need to use it to your advantage. This is why knowing your audience is important, by this way you can predict their possible questions if you know their concerns, expectations, and motivations. List all possible questions and have short, to-the-point answers for all of them. Of course, you can not always predict them all, they may shoot a question you did not think of before, and it may not sound positive to you. Do not fight in a battle that you can not win, try to get your point to a positive one and show your evidence. And another strategy for questions is leaving some room in some slides and making them be curious about that. In this way, you can pre-manage the questions during your presentation.

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