Smashing out a great presentation – Project Update

If you’re leading an important project, chances are you’ll need to communicate with senior executives. Whether it’s a presentation to a group or one-on-one, how do you get executives to listen to you? 

Here are a few reminders …

Know your Project

: Do Your homework! You probably know the project in detail but, be able to package it in the right format. Less is more in these settings. Know the detail, and be prepared and able to answer difficult questions. – but not with boring protracted technical answers.

Know Your Audience

: You’re talking to people with busy schedules, people who often responsible for the livelihood of many others. Be respectful by being prepared. You’re there to provide an informational snapshot of the company’s investment in a business problem. So, couch the presentation and discussion about the business.


: You want your presentation to informational, interesting, and concise. Run your entire presentation by a colleague who will serve as an honest coach – multiple times if necessary (which is usually the case). Find someone who’s been successful in this area. Is your message clear and crisp? Do your slides boil everything down to the key points? What doesn’t add to your message? Are there gaps?

Be Confident

: Knowing your project, and calmly and concisely articulate your message will go a long way to increasing your confidence. A calm, commanding presentation is what leaders appreciate. It demonstrates that you’re in control, and the project is in good hands. Leaders feel will like this is time well spent and think highly of you and your professionalism.

Less is More

: Time literally is money. These meetings are much more expensive than most. You’re there to present brief but informational slides. Have a rule that will keep you honest. Some people use a rule of 5, meaning a status to execs will not exceed 5 slides – or whatever that number is, but stick to your rule. One executive I worked with would not sit through a project presentation that exceeded 4 slides. Several informational slides about …

the overall project status

the schedule status

the budget status

issues requiring their support


: The execs can read, don’t insult them or you by reading your slides. Summarize, expand, clarify, but never read. For example, you might summarize the slide in a sentence, or a few words. They’re reading as your talking. Similarly, slides should be uncluttered and easy-to-understand. Busy slides are a sign of sloppiness, and suggests that you’re a novice. I find that a slide that exceed 4 or 5 bullets is too busy. Decide what works for you, and never/rarely deviate.
End on Time: Wrapping up a few minutes early is fine but never go over your allotted time. If there are more questions than you time permits, ask the senior most person in the room if you should answer questions or schedule another meeting. Given the choice I usually opt for another meeting.

This may sound like a lot of work but making a presentation seem effortless can often require a lot of, well, effort. But presenting to your executives is an important responsibility, and a great way to build strong project advocates. 

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