You can quickly and powerfully learn how to express your opinions to important stakeholders – even when under pressure.
Effective communication holds back most senior finance executives
If you are like most of our clients the skills that have made you successful in finance are often holding you back from being successful as an effective communicator. You feel nervous when you have to present to a group of senior managers. You have been told – or you have a feeling that – you often talk too much without getting to the point. You have been told that your future career prospects depend on improving your communication skills. You are good at preparing detailed slides but are not sure how to summarise the key message behind the numbers.
It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t need to be stuck here forever
Many CFOs have transformed into excellent communicators
Imagine how impressed the faces of your colleagues look when they see you presenting with new found confidence and purpose. Hearing words of thanks and praise as your boss commends you for doing a great job in an important meeting. Imagine that you are able to craft and deliver an engaging presentation to senior management without spending weeks of preparation time. The satisfaction you feel when you are able to influence important decisions that affect the future of the company. The freedom in being able to concisely and powerfully communicate your thoughts to your boss. How confident you feel as you handle questions with direct, clear and relevant replies.
You are not alone.
You can learn how to switch from technical expert to effective executive
If any of the above sounds familiar, don’t worry, you are not alone. In fact, you are in good company. Most senior finance people have similar issues. Being technical experts means that you are focused on process, procedure, the integrity of data, and especially pay attention to very small details. All of which is essential – and desirable – in finance executives. However, when you reach a certain level in the organisation, these technical skills become less important as the core task of an executive is to make decisions and communicate them throughout the organisation. All highly effective executives are superb communicators and presenters and they set the benchmark for others to follow. Today, when decisions are made on who to hire as a CFO, CEO or other key role -the ability to engage with internal and external stakeholders is one of the top two or three competencies.
With the right support you can become a confident presenter
However, as a finance expert, you can’t be expected to automatically know what it takes to be an engaging and confident presenter – you are not an executive speech coach – and with the demands on finance executives already very much more than they were a few years ago, your time is squeezed so that executive communication skills has probably been relegated to only a couple days of training if at all. The good news is that help is here.
Top 5 pieces of advice from The One Minute Presenter
To take a step away from being a technical expert and learning the craft of an effective executive communicator, here are five things you need to do:
1. Learn to adjust to the audience
Many technical experts over focus on the data and numbers in their presentations. While the data is important or essential, you also need to consider the technical expertise of the audience and their expectations for the presentation. Learn how to adjust your content to match each audience.
2. Tell the story behind the numbers
If you are giving the same presentation without change time and time again, chances are you are being too content focused. Learn how to tell the story behind the numbers – especially for less technically adept audiences. Once you have the story which includes the key message and supporting messages, you will have greater flexibility with your content. Tailoring or adapting to different audiences will become easier and will not take a tremendous amount of time.
3. Tagline your key messages
Learn techniques from the advertising, movie and consumer industries by distilling your core messages into easily digestible phrases or taglines. These short phrases should be easy for you to remember and should flow off the tongue easily, so spend some time editing them until you are happy that they are easy to deliver. Taglines are both easy for the presenter and the audience to remember. By inserting taglines throughout the presentation, you will help clarify the core messages for the audience. You can also use collateral – like slidedecks and handout or posters to reinforce these messages. Once the audience remembers your tagline, they will remember your message.
4. Connect with your audience
Audiences today have shorter and shorter attention spans. In business, Blackberrys are ubiquitous and their stream of emails demands attention. If an audience gives you ten minutes of their undivided attention you are lucky. Instead, think of ways to engage with the audience so that they are glued to your performance. Simple techniques range from telling stories that illustrate the points you are making. Everyone loves listening to a good story, even in the business world. Consider using a range of relevant visuals from pictures and videos that help the audience to internalise the message. Other connecting techniques include asking rhetorical questions and using facilitation techniques to encourage audience participation.
5. Look them in the eye and project
While there are numerous presentation delivery techniques you can employ, two stand out. Firstly, eye contact is essential to engage with an audience. The more an individual in the audience feels you make direct eye contact with them, the longer they are likely to concentrate on you and your presentation. Complete a sentence or thought while looking at an individual before moving on so that your eye contact is smooth and natural. Secondly, your voice is your biggest tool to project decisiveness and confidence to your audience. Your voice should be loud enough for all the audience to hear you clearly and like a good story-teller you should vary your pitch, rate and intonation which makes your content more interesting to listen to and – through emphasis -helps your audience to understand where the key points are.
Many CFOs have benefited from The One Minute Presenter coaching
I work with many CFOs from multinationals around Greater China. Just recently, after helping one CFO to understand their communication style and specifically how to answer questions in a one-on-one meeting with his boss, he told me that he had cut the meeting time with his boss in half. And both of them were enjoying the meetings a lot more than the previous ones which dragged on frustratingly for both parties. Importantly, the CFO was also able to carry these skills into preparing and joining in conference calls, making presentations internally and externally and also with his own team. The upshot is that he has a better relationship with his boss, which enhances promotion prospects, and he has improved his overall communication effectiveness with other important stakeholders.
So what now?
If you are ready to take a step up in your career, and want to learn how to be a more powerful communicator, then visit www.oneminutepresenter.com and download a free chapter on how The One Minute Presenter system works to help you develop more executive presence.
About Warwick J Fahy
Warwick works with high-potential senior finance executives who struggle to get their point across and influence their key stakeholders. Warwick helps the executive gain respect by quickly and powerfully expressing their opinions – even when under pressure.
Warwick is the author of “The One Minute Presenter: 8 steps to successful business presentations in a short attention span world. Warwick can be reached on email@example.com and +86 21 6101 0486.