Senior Finance Executives: Are you struggling to convince your boss in your presentations?

Learn how to turn your technical presentations into engaging message-based presentations that get your boss’ attention and will cut your presentation time in half

Technical ability alone will not help senior finance executive’s get promoted
Many senior finance executives in China have risen the corporate ladder on the back of their solid technical ability and operational skills. They have been able to ride the massive growth in China over the past decade by combining a strong technical grasp and an aptitude to understand their client’s needs in compliance and financing.

These senior executives are often held up as future country or regional Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). However, one significant obstacle awaits many finances executives – their strength in technical issues. Many senior finance executives are too focused on the details, the process and procedures. So when presenting to CEOs, board of directors or  overseas directors, they are frustrated by their inability to get their point across without being bombarded by direct questions, interrupted constantly in their presentation and feeling of being harassed by senior management.  While technical skills got them to where they are today, they can’t take them any further in their careers.

It doesn’t have to be that way. They don’t need to be stuck here forever.

Senior finance executives who can present effectively are highly marketable
Presentations to senior management often cause nerves and tension in any presenter. Many technical presenters – especially in finance – are naturally introverted and when faced with A-type personalities they are often talked-over or easily interrupted. However, by learning some important skills in presentation creation and delivery, even shy and quiet presenters can learn how to get their point across to their CEO in a concise, crisp and engaging way. Importantly, their presentations can be delivered in a much shorter time – which both the senior finance executive and the CEO and directors appreciate! Having a reputation as a CFO who both understands the business and can deliver sharp presentations is a great asset to career promotion. Once learned, these skills deliver a fantastic return-on-investment year-in, year-out.

So if you are currently stuck by delivering overly detailed technical presentations to a group of frustrated senior managers, you are not alone.

Too much information often kills the effectiveness of your presentation
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 you are focused on process, procedure, the small nitty gritty details of data. All of which is essential – and desirable – in finance executives. However, when you reach the C-level, 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. Today, when hiring decisions are made  on the CFO or CEO role -the ability to engage with internal and external stakeholders is one of the most important competencies.

However, as a finance expert, you can’t be expected to automatically know what it takes to create message based presentations that engage your audience in the shortest possible time – you are not an advertising company. The good news is that help is here and you can learn these skills.

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, you first need to understand taglines.

What is a tagline?
Taglines are short catchy marketing phrases which sum up the promise of a brand (or product or movie), and are designed to be memorable and easily passed through a target audience. A good tagline can stand the test of time and become synonymous with a company or product. The 1975-2005 “Don’t leave home without it” from American Express and the 1988 “Just do it” from Nike taglines show how the power of taglines can carry over into building the world’s most valuable brands.

What is your tagline?
Take a look at your next presentation. Use these steps to form your tagline:

1. Write down your happy ending in 25-50 words. In other words what do you want to achieve at the end of the presentation. What do you want the audience to think, feel and do. Be as specific as you can.

2. Take a break and come back to this paragraph.  Highlight key words or phrases. Now imagine you only had time to deliver one sentence to your audience. Keep the value and meaning of your message. Rewrite it in 10 words or less.

3. Put this aside for several hours or longer. Come back and see which words really sum up the essence of your message. Pick out your key words or phrases.

For The One Minute Presenter, our nine word tagline is “successful business presentations for a short attention span world”.  We use two key phrases: successful business presentations and short attention spans.

You now have focus in your presentation. This will help you structure your presentation framework. You can check your supporting points, and choice of visuals (charts, graphs, statistics) against your key words. Ask yourself, “How does this support my key words?”
With practice, you will be able to quickly get to your key words(s) in a shorter time. It will be a challenge the first few times you try this exercise. Stick with it. You need the focus to capture and engage today’s audiences. The clearer your message, the more effective your presentations.

Be aware when you present your ideas
Make your message tangible. Don’t make your audience work it out. If you make them think during a presentation, then while they are thinking, they cannot be listening to your subsequent words. Dr. John Medina, author of Brain Rules, vividly demonstrates how the human brain is ill equipped to handle two processing tasks simultaneously. “Driving while talking on a cell phone is worse than driving drunk.” This is because the human brain uses something called the attentional spotlight. The attentional spotlight, according to Dr. Medina, cannot multitask which means cellphone-talking car drivers have the same reaction time (when stopping) as a drunk driver. So don’t make your audiences think! Do the thinking for them.  Know where you want to take them, shape a clear concept of your overall message, use stories to engage and bite-size your content with slogans, soundbites and taglines. Puzzles are great for long train and plane journeys, but not for successful business presentations.

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 senior executive  to understand how to create a message-based presentation from their technical data, she told me that her presentation to the board of directors went much more smoothly and took less time than previous years. Importantly, she was interrupted much less with sharp questions. She is now able to apply these skills in other areas of her work, such as conference calls, client meetings and internal senior manager briefings.

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  +86 21 6101 0486.

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