I read an article written by Ty Kiisel that made me think about key things to have in mind when you get a chance to present your project to one or more senior executives.
His article is entitled « When Presenting to Stakeholders—You’ve Only Got About a Minute ».
Like Ty, I observed that a common trait of senior executives is that they’re often fighting for time. As a result, their attention span is quite limited and you better not waste the opportunity to address them when it arises. Having said that, everyone’s time is precious. Time is something we get in very limited quantity when we come to birth. So, be concise, adapt your language to the other party, tease their interest, be specific…
All 10 tips proposed by Ty are certainly worth the lecture. I’d retain 3 as really key in my experience when it comes to presenting to senior executives and I would add one that I could not find in the list.
1. Big picture (personal addition): Remind them of the overall context of the project or issue that you want to discuss. Do not assume that they recall who you are or what your project is about. They have many things to juggle. So, start from the basics of how your project supports one or more of their strategic objectives for the company before diving into any detail. Then, provide a rapid overview of the project scope, investments, duration and key milestones. Position where you are at present against these.
2. Keep it simple: Be straightforward. Expose the facts and why their involvement is required. Don’t overwhelm them with information, be concise, do not use jargon. Doing otherwise would be a waste of time and they’ll think that you can’t synthesize a situation effectively or can’t express yourself intelligibly.
3. Always offer a solution: Offer a couple of options for a solution (but no more than 2). As pointed by Ty, there is no point in bringing up problems without potential solutions. They can decide between two solutions but it is your job to come up with well articulated options that highlight pros, cons, costs and project impact.
4. Specify the actions required of them: What exactly do you need from them? A memo or phone call to unlock a situation, more money, more time, more resources, arbitration, prioritization decision…