You’ll be tempted to share the background story and details that lead to this moment with your executive team, board, or bank. You’ll have a lot that you want to say – and this may be your best time to share it. But if you want them to hear, you must get to their needs and questions quickly.
I’m reminded of a plant engineer who had solved a repair problem of a separate company plant in another country. He wrote four pages of background, history, deduction and verification explaining the problem they were having. Imagine, the plant manager received the memo, began to read, and then, to talk to himself.
“Yeah, yeah. I know all that. I realize what the problem is … right, I know that it creates this secondary issue. I hope there is something new in here…” Then suddenly a call to the floor and the remaining 2.5 pages of the report are set down -- never to be picked up again. Six months later – at the additional cost of thousands of dollars and hundreds of man-hours, the problem was solved locally. Sadly, the answers lie in the report – on page four. True story.
You won’t last three minutes with your banker, board, or executive team when their first response is, "Are you serious?” If you want to succeed, make your point, and get the action you want – practice what I call the 4S approach: stand up, speak up, shut up, and sit down. You face an incredibly impatient crowd who make high-stake decisions as often (and quickly) as we order at the drive-through window. Here's how you can SCORE their attention and support:
S - Summary first:
I was once scheduled for a one-hour for presentation to the CIO of a Warren Buffett owned $19B company. Upon arrival, his personal assistant apologized and told me I would have only 30 minutes. Once I was in his presence, he told me he would only have 15-20 minutes. Fortunately, I prepared for 5-10 minutes. This preparation allowed me to get directly to the information he cared about. I made a high-level assessment, my recommendation, and a call to action in 15 minutes. By leading with recommendations to what he was most concerned with, I got his attention. Articulate your summary points immediately and then support them with data and any collateral that's relevant.
C - Create the right expectation:
Impatient people ask questions, further limiting your time, yet you must make sure all your points are heard. Consider a quick agenda like this, “I want to make the best use of your time and give you the right dose of the right information so you may make an informed decision. First, I’ll summarize my recommendation (or request), then I’ll share highlights of supporting data and collateral, and I expect you then will be prepared to ask meaningful questions.”
O - Only show what they need:
Visual aid means “aid,” not the entire presentation. Consider very limited use of words on your print out or slide deck with the appendix giving the details. Consider creating an easy way to remember (like S-C-O-R-E) so when later asked, any participant can remember your main points.
R - Respond to what they asked for:
In a worst-case scenario, when you are invited to speak but do not know specifically what they want, create a living agenda. It might go like this, “I’ve come prepared to share more information than we have time for. So, to make sure I answer the questions in your mind today, I’ll ask you to help. Take a moment and write down the top 1-3 things that you want to accomplish in our time together.” Wait, and then compile the list on flip chart or white board. This allows you time to think and organize your points in response while giving you opportunity to immediately address any unrealistic expectation. It might go like this, “Thanks, John. I’ve put a small check by this agenda item because the data for February will not be published until mid next week. Since I’ll be unable to provide this today, would it be OK for me to send an e-mail copy for everyone once published?”
E - Exercise: .
Workout and exercise before the event. When, as in the “O” for SCORE, you are only showing what they need, you must be prepared to hit the main points. In fact, be prepared for “hand-to-hand” executive combat, i.e. be prepared to make the presentation without slides or print out. Utilize any executive level mentors to help you, practice in snippets or short segments, and ask a trusted colleague or advisor for feedback. When possible, find a way to listen to yourself. Call your own number and leave a voicemail to see if you articulate your points quickly and clearly.
Presenting to executives, the board, or your banker can be a lot of work. Additionally, they see, and hear, from many like you – so don’t let your points get lost in the crowd. Stand out. Practicing the above is taking appropriate action, preparing you for execution, and will more likely lead you to SCORE.