You are a seasoned Solutions Architect tasked with presenting a complex set of recommendations to the client’s Executive leadership. You have thoroughly assessed the infrastructure needs, gathered support data and built a compelling deck. And now, the real work begins.
IT professionals who came of age when corporate IT operated behind the visibility curtain may feel ill-prepared for today’s high profile, hybrid business/technology roles. Beyond the often unfamiliar experience of public speaking, successfully presenting to senior executives requires a crisp delivery and distilled, essential flow of information perfected in MBA programs but often overlooked in MIS curricula.
To help our IT professional community master this increasingly relevant skill, we’ve gathered the wisdom of industry experts and our own experienced Consultants:
1. Fortune Favors the Prepared
Henry Ford said, “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.” Indeed, extensive practice and knowledge of the material will enable you to rise above the flowcharts to exude confidence and polish.
Rehearse your presentation with a trusted colleague or industry peer who can give you honest feedback. If possible, seek the advice of someone who understands the nuances of getting C-level buy-in for their ideas, and who can identify the opportunities to condense long-winded arguments into key data points.
2. Establish Consensus
Author and Harvard Business Review columnist Nancy Duarte believes that the most effective presentations mirror the classic storytelling structure of beginning-middle-end. Even a metrics-driven top executive will be better served by contextualizing your ideas. Duarte writes:
Start by describing life as the audience knows it. People should be nodding their heads in recognition because you’re articulating what they already understand. This creates a bond between you and them, and opens them up to hear your ideas for change.
After you set that baseline of what is, introduce your vision of what could be. The gap between the two will throw the audience a bit off balance, and that’s a good thing — it jars them out of complacency.
3. Be Prepared to Cut to the Chase
When your audience includes C-level management, arm yourself with the “one-minute summary” version of your presentation. Top executives can be called away at a moment’s notice and your agility in these situations will stand you in good stead. As IA HR founder Mark Stelzner wrote in his LinkedIn Influencer series:
Nothing is more valuable to a CEO than their time. Ensure that you have a very detailed plan and purpose.. Have all the relevant pros and cons at your fingertips and the high level numbers and impact in tow Fianlly, think through all the questions you’re likely to be asked and all possible courses of action so you don’t have to reschedula after you’ve “looked into that.”
4. Finish Strong
Your final words should be carefully chosen to resonate with an executive audience. Craft a strong, positive statement that aligns the value of your ideas to their strategic priorities. (Example: “With a projected ROI of 44%, this analytics tool will be a critical step toward our goal of real-time, responsive consumer marketing.”) Commit these words to memory so that you can make eye contact with key decision makers, then open the floor for discussion so that you can address any concerns directly.
Today’s IT career path intersects with senior management and grows in direct relation to your strategic influence. Cultivating this critical skill will become the secret weapon of your professional toolkit.