They say there are only two great motivators in life: sex and money. In most business life it’s unlikely you’ll be asked for the former but when it comes to money it’s very different. Sooner or later everyone in business has to make a presentation and usually those presentations contain figures. However, we’ve all sat through tedious financial presentations praying for it all to end. So how can you bring figures to life and make your financial presentations really live.?
Show me the money
The first thing to remember is that it’s useless to be shy about money. Many presentations fail because they fail to mention the money early enough. Too often people build up their case layer by layer and only towards the end of the presentation mention the cost of the proposal. Whilst this works in print it totally misses it in spoken communications. The audience wants to know as soon as possible what a project or proposal will cost so mention the money early. This helps contextualise the presentation and frame expectations from the outset.
Avoid the financial presentation pitfalls
When delivering a financial presentation it is easy to assume that the spoken word can encapsulate the detail of the figures in the same way as you can with print. Remember that print is far more effective at detail than the spoken word so don’t clutter your presentation with unnecessary detail. Draw out the big picture figures and use them for your spoken communication. Remember that most presentations in business are backed up by a print pack so let the print do the detail.
Although a presentation is financial the same rules apply as they would with an ordinary presentation. In particular, to be effective, the presentation has to tell a story. And it’s the story and your story telling skills that will really make the difference between the figures being dull and boring and really coming to life. Your audience will want to know the story behind the figures and it’s on that basis that they will make their decision.
Another mistake frequently made in financial presentations is to make sweeping generalisations. It’s fine to make a general point but it must then be illustrated by a cogent example that brings the general point to life. So make a general point, then give an example; make another general point and another example and so on.
What about graphics?
Too often people rely on using the same slides in the pre pack or leave-behind print to back up their spoken presentations. The problem is the level of detail on such slides means that you will lose your audience as they try to fathom out which part of a complex slide applies to what you happen to be saying at the time. So simplify and create a special deck of uncomplicated slides illustrating only the points you are going to talk about. But remember the reason you are doing a spoken presentation is so that your audience can get a sense of your personal commitment and ownership of the figures. The best visual aid is you. So be ruthless with your slides. Only have them if they are strictly necessary and will really help you get your message across.
Finally, if you are seeking approval, commitment and buy-in from your audience, don’t forget to ask! Ask at the beginning so they know what you want them to do and don’t assume they will work it out for themselves. And remember to ask again at the end of your presentation. Those who don’t ask don’t get! Good luck!