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Career Accelerator: Management Presentations That Can Propel Your Career Into The Fast Lane


Terry found herself at a pivotal moment in her career – tasked with presenting crucial recommendations for a new customer interface to the senior management team. She introduced herself and uttered those famous last words: “Please hold your questions until the end.” She never made it past the first slide . . . The CFO asked about the budget impact; the CTO raised concerns about cybersecurity risks; the CHRO questioned the resources available for training; and the CEO asked why they can’t use the same system that their competitor uses.  

Needless to say, Terry’s recommendation was not approved.  If only Terry had known the three strategies for a successful management presentation:




Management discussion


1. Preparation: The Key to Success

The goal of any decision-making meeting should be to know the outcome before you walk into the room. And how do you do that? By gathering feedback from your key stakeholders before that meeting.  


Collaboration: While you may think the senior managers are too busy to attend a “pre-meeting” before a decision-making meeting, in most cases, these managers will appreciate the opportunity to provide their opinions and feedback to be incorporated into your proposal.  The result is a collaborative effort in which the stakeholders feel a sense of ownership and accountability. And these pre-meetings enable you to modify/adjust your proposal based on their feedback.  For example, if the CFO says there’s no budget for a new system, you have time to research making budget cuts elsewhere or delaying implementation to the subsequent fiscal year.


Internal Networking: Of course, these senior managers have fully packed schedules and getting time on their calendar may be challenging at times.  This is where the time you have invested into internal networking (you have been doing that – correct?) will really pay off.  Perhaps you will need to persuade the CTO’s assistant to make time for you on her schedule (maybe that one hour lunch only needs to be 30 minutes). Or after several coffee breaks with your finance colleagues, you have learned that the CFO really trusts her direct report to make decisions related to your department so you can get his feedback if the CFO is not available.


Project Planning: These pre-meetings will require a considerable amount of your time (preparation, meeting attendance and follow ups) and will be subject to your stakeholders’ availability so you will need to build additional time into your project timeline.  While I have been fortunate throughout my career to have managers who recognized the importance of these pre-meetings, you may need to negotiate with your manager regarding the project deadline (if possible) as rushing into a decision-making meeting without being able to gather feedback in advance is a recipe for disaster.  Many senior managers don’t like to make major decisions (one question no one likes to hear is: “who approved that?”) and being able to “filibuster” a decision by requesting additional information or raising unrelated questions in the meeting has become an art form for many corporate executives.



Girl presenting to an audience


2. Competitive Intelligence: Stay Ahead of the Game 

To convince senior management to approve your recommendation, you must understand the competitive landscape, differentiate your recommendation from alternatives and present a definitive gameplan. 


Collecting Competitive Intelligence: Whenever you present a recommendation to management, it is critical that you provide them with meaningful information about your competitors. In fact, I would not ask for approval of any new plan, program, or system unless I had a thorough understanding of our competitors. There are many ways to find publicly-available information about your competitors including online searches (e.g., company websites and social media platforms) and industry-specific surveys and publications. You can even hire (typically for a fee) an independent consultant to conduct a customized survey of your competitors.  Regardless of how compelling the rationale for your recommendation, senior management will want to fully understand the competitive landscape.  For example, if most competitors use System X and you are recommending System Y, it will be important to highlight relevant differences between your company and the competitors that justify adopting System Y (even if it’s objectively better than the System X).


Consider the Opposition: When you are asking senior management to approve your recommendation/proposal, you are also asking them to reject the alternative approaches.  Thus, you will need to thoroughly research the alternatives you are rejecting to ensure that senior management can confidently approve your recommendation.  I could not expect to get management approval if I only addressed one element of each alternative, such as “System Y is less costly than System X and System Z.” I would need to elaborate further – for example: “System Y is more reliable and has 95% of the functionality of System X and System Z at only 65% of the cost.”  This type of statement demonstrates that you have fully reviewed the most important factors of each system – and did not recommend System Y solely based on cost.


Don’t Forget What’s Next: In addition to discussing competitive practices and rejected alternatives in your presentation, you should also clearly state the next steps and who is accountable for each of them. Once your recommendation is approved, everyone’s attention will immediately turn to “what’s next?” While it may be tempting to end the meeting on a high note (they approved!), your discussion of the next steps and accountability is just as important – including definitive dates for key milestones (e.g., “Sign contract in November; Testing in April; and Go Live in June”).  And even if the next steps are stated in your presentation, you should follow up with the participants by written communication as soon as possible after the meeting setting forth these key milestones along with the individuals/teams responsible for achieving them (trust me – it is much better to overcommunicate on this point).



audience clapping


3. Lead With Impact: Captivate Your Audience from the Start 

In the corporate world, time is precious. Don't bury the lead – present your recommendation upfront, immediately capturing the attention of your audience.


Don’t Bury the Lead: One of the biggest differences between presenting as a university student vs. presenting in the corporate environment, is that you cannot expect your audience to hold their questions until the end (and I speak from personal experience – both as a presenter and as an “inquisitive” senior manager). By stating your recommendation at the beginning of your presentation, you will have communicated your most important point to the managers – no matter what happens after slide #1. Additionally, since (in most cases) you should not assume that the attendees have read your presentation materials in advance of the meeting, stating your recommendation upfront will enable them to immediately ascertain if the meeting is worth their time, which will increase the likelihood they will put their phones away and give you their undivided attention. 


No “Out-of-the-Blue” Questions: Since you would have gathered the managers’ feedback in advance of the presentation, the risk of unexpected questions/criticisms is greatly reduced. It is not uncommon for manager to ask an “out of the blue” question or two in a meeting simply because their feedback was not solicited in advance. The time you’ve invested in those preliminary meetings will really pay off as you will be prepared to respond to the managers’ questions and/or have incorporated their feedback into your presentation. 


Finish Strong: Before the meeting ends, you should take a few minutes to restate your recommendation and summarize your rationale before moving to the next steps and key milestones. Ideally, you should do this at least a few minutes before the meeting ends -- don’t wait until attendees start packing up to leave because once their laptops are closed, their attention will be directed to their next meeting or to their lunch (or both, as the case may be).


Success is within Your Reach

With these three presentation strategies at your disposal, you will transform your management presentations from ordinary to extraordinary – and propel your career into the fast lane.

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