Publications & Products
Volume 2, Issue 29

Presenting to Senior Leaders

Managers must be succinct when presenting ideas to higher-ranking leaders, who are often pressed for time, says a presentation expert.

Nancy Duarte, author of the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations, recently shared with the Harvard Business Review some advice for managers presenting to senior executives, including:

  • Summarize up front. "Say you're given 30 minutes to present," she says. "When creating your intro, pretend your whole slot got cut to five minutes. This will force you to lead with all the information your audience really cares about—high-level findings, conclusions, recommendations, a call to action."
  • Set expectations. "Let the audience know you'll spend the first few minutes presenting your summary and the rest of the time on discussion," Duarte says. "Even the most impatient executives will be more likely to let you get through your main points uninterrupted if they know they'll soon get to ask questions."
  • Create summary slides. "When making your slide deck, place a short overview of key points at the front; the rest of your slides should serve as an appendix," she says. "After you present the summary, let the group drive the conversation, and refer to appendix slides as relevant questions and comments come up."
  • Give them what they asked for. "This time-pressed group of senior managers invited you to speak because they felt you could supply a missing piece of information," Duarte says. "So answer that specific request directly and quickly."
  • Rehearse. "Try to find someone who's had success getting ideas adopted at the executive level," she says. "Ask for pointed feedback: Is your message coming through clearly and quickly? Do your summary slides boil everything down into skimmable key insights? Are you missing anything your audience is likely to expect?"

This article is from the Jan. 28, 2013 issue.

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