Let’s say you are the senior IT manager for a small company and your CEO has asked you to present an IT update for the Board of Director’s Meeting next week.
Where to start?
If you are like me when I first encountered such an opportunity, there may be some initial shock. After the panic leaves you, it’s time to prepare, , , where do we start?
Let’s outline what I do and then I’ll explain each part:
- Gather information about the presentation objectives
- Collect the data
- Make a list or two
- Develop a draft of title slides
- Fill in the slide bullet points
- Create your PowerPoint presentation
- Prepare for the presentation
Developing a presentation can be fairly quick, , , or you can agonize over it for days. Use this simple approach and it might make it easier for you. Let’s take a look at each step:
1. Gather information about the presentation objectives
First of all, you need some information from your CEO, , , things like:
- Anything specific you need me to cover?
- What’s the background of the Board Members?
- What’s the objective or goal of the presentation?
- How much time do I have?
You may also want to get some other quick facts, such as:
- Board Member names and where they are from
- Sample of past presentations that worked well
- PowerPoint format or template to use
Once you know what the objectives are and what your CEO wants you to cover, you should be able to identify the appropriate content to develop a presentation. That’s actually the easy part.
You also now know how much time you have, , , let’s say it is 30 minutes.
You need to get a feel for the type of people on the Board. Is this a group that usually lets the presenter walk through a presentation and asks questions at the end, , , or does it have Members of the Board who ask questions every step of the way.
The latter will eat up your time quicker than a bee can dart past your nose, so you need to know that this group can only absorb a little information.
In fact, that’s an important piece of information for presenting to any Board of Directors. In general, members of the Board of Directors are high level and mostly concept people, , , not highly detail oriented people who want to get into the muck. But, there are some who like to get into the detail so learn from your CEO what type of audience to expect.
For an audience who waits to ask questions at the end, , , count on 1 -2 minutes per slide, , , that means you can deliver 10 to 12 slides at most and still have time at the end for questions and discussion.
For the interactive group who asks lots of questions, consider 3-5 minutes per slide, , , that means you can only get through 5-8 slides comfortably.
2. Collect the data
What to cover is very important to know from your CEO. He may want you to deliver a general overall view of what’s taking place in IT for the company, or he may want you to spend the majority of your time to provide an update about a specific IT initiative the Board is interested in.
Once you know what the presentation objectives are and the subject, collect the data you need to develop a presentation. It might include recent management reports, cost justification analysis, project status updates, etc., , , whatever data you have that supports your topic and allows you to develop a few PowerPoint slides to discuss the subject.
It is also reasonable that every bit of the material could come out of your head, , , read on.
3. Make a list or two
At this point, step back and put yourself into the mindset of your audience. In this case, the Board of Directors represent the owners of the company, , , so what would a company owner want to hear about this subject you are about to present?
Make a quick list of what you think they would want to know about. Ask your CEO or the meeting sponsor the question and gain their insight, , , always helpful.
When completed, think about key points you think are important to share. Make another list.
Now, you have a list of what the audience wants to hear and important points you believe need to be presented about your subject, , , plus you have supporting material by which to start developing slides.
4. Develop a draft of title slides
Each of your slides needs a title, , , this is sort of like an outline of a book if you were writing a book. What I do when I plan to write a book is start by developing the Table of Contents, , , this is my book outline. A PowerPoint presentation works the same way, , , each slide is a key point you want to make as you walk through your subject, so create a title for each slide.
A quick and easy way to do this is to take a blank sheet of paper and draw a set of rectangle squares , , , I usually put 6 to 8 boxes on a sheet of paper. Each box represents a slide in your presentation.
Now, put the title of each of your slides in the top part of the boxes. I work left to right and to the bottom in the sequence I want my presentation.
Going into this process, you may not know how many slides your presentation will be or in exactly what order. Creating a paper draft makes it easy and creates thought as you work through the process.
When finished with identifying your title slides, check the number of slides and be sure you have ample time to present the content you are going to end up with based upon the guidelines I discussed earlier.
Once you get the slide titles defined, the rest is fairly easy, , , creating bullet points for each slide based upon its title.
When you start developing the detail of the slides, you may identify new slides you need to add or possibly slides that can be better discussed by combining them. The point is that the finished presentation will be slightly different from what you think it will be as you start working on it in the beginning.
5. Fill in the slide bullet points
Next, put in the bullet points for each slide on the paper to complete the draft of your presentation.
A couple of key things to remember. First, you need to resist your urge to provide too much detail. In a slide presentation, too much detail makes it difficult for people to follow. Use short and crisp bullet points that you can talk about.
Next, keep the number of bullet points on a slide to a reasonable list, , , no more than 4 to 6 points on a slide. Anything over that is too much detail.
Finally, a single point and graphic on a slide can be a powerful message so focus on highlights, , , not detail, unless of course your CEO says he wants you to discuss the detail.
6. Create your PowerPoint presentation
When you are comfortable with the presentation “draft”, create the PowerPoint slides using the presentation template needed to make it consistent with your CEO’s presentations look and feel.
As you build each slide from your paper draft, think about graphics that add value to the presentation or make your points easy to follow. Don’t be too cutesy, , , but good graphics can add a lot. As you build the slides, you will also make adjustments to your bullet points because you will think of things that need to be in the presentation.
Another point about graphics, , , senior executives love charts and graphs that make your message visible. A good chart showing positive progress can add tremendous value to your presentation.
By drafting the presentation on paper first and then building the PowerPoint slides from the draft, it allows you to walk through the presentation a couple of times, , , and this is always helpful for your thought process and will ultimately make the presentation better.
Let me repeat something here. Fight your tendency to provide too much detail, , , we want the major points, , , just the major points.
Fewer bullet points is better than lots of bullet points. Remember, these guys are high level, , , they want the answer, not all the detail. If they need detail, they will ask you questions and you can fill in the blanks.
IT people think everyone needs all the information possible. Just the opposite is the case, so keep your presentation at a high level, , , and use graphics to enhance the message.
Here are the first two slides of my presentation:
7. Prepare for the presentation
Before the presentation, do a few things:
- Prepare a good opening to get things started smoothly, , , it will help calm your nerves.
- Rehearse what you plan to say and become intimately familiar with every slide you present.
- Anticipate questions you may be asked and come up with appropriate answers.
- Develop a list of key message points you want to make for each slide. This can help you stay on message and insure you emphasize each key point.
Prepare and you will come across knowledgeable and on top of your game. Go in there unprepared and they may rip you apart, , , so be prepared.