Presenting to a higher-up can be nerve-wracking, even for the experienced. When the stakes are high and there is not a lot of room for failure, you want to make sure that your presentation does its part in communicating your ideas and findings. Here’s how to deliver a presentation guaranteed to impress your boss.
How to impress your boss with your presentation
Align your goals
Clarify the goals of the presentation. What purpose does it serve? What kind of results does your boss expect to see? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then ask. There is nothing worse than working hard on something that ends up not bringing any value to anyone. Not only will you be wasting your own time, you will also be wasting your boss’ time. Asking questions prior your presentation will not only show initiative, but it will also help your planning process.
Create a structure that is easy to follow and understand
Bad presentation structure kills good ideas. Presenting a swarm of information, no matter how relevant or valuable, is not going to do you any favors. Make sure that you present your findings or ideas in an organized way, complete with beginning, middle and end. If you want to deliver a presentation guaranteed to impress your boss, utilize the structure to your favor—make sure that there is a clear progression in the sequence of ideas that you are presenting. Follow the structure below.
Start with context
Begin your presentation by getting everyone on the same page. Answer the following questions: Why are you here? What do you expect to cover in your presentation? How does this fit with your company goals? Reiterate any goals or KPIs that you and your boss set at the beginning of the process. If it’s a new idea that you are pitching, talk about the problem you are trying to solve and why it matters. Remember that higher-ups tend to be a part of multiple projects at the same time, and they likely participate in several meetings daily. If you want to deliver a presentation guaranteed to impress your boss and get useful feedback, use the beginning of your presentation to place your work in the context of existing projects, or your company’s goals.
Don’t beat around the bush
Now that everyone is on the same page, time to go straight to the point. No presentation is the same, but think of this as the time to present your value proposition, or the main conclusions that you have drawn from your findings, or a summary of your progress. If you think that talking about your process is necessary for your presentation, begin by talking about your conclusions and learnings and then present your process. Make sure the what is crystal clear before you present the how. Considering that you had just talked about the relevance of your work in the context of your company’s goals, going straight to a summary of your results will help your boss see the correlation between the two. It is also a great opportunity to talk about the essential aspects of your presentation, while you still have your boss’ full attention.
But: leave no stone unturned
Never leave out relevant information, be it positive or negative. It might be tempting to cover up mistakes and unsatisfactory results, but don’t. Chances are, the issues that you attempt mask will resurface anyway, only highlighting the fact that you didn’t bring them up in the first place. So bring them up. Not only does this show that you are aware of their existence, it also shows that you are conscious about making sure that they never happen again or that you’re working on trying to improve. Plus, this only gives you an opportunity to get feedback from your boss and get advice on how to handle similar issues.
Show credibility through your process
This is the time to talk about the measures that you have taken to achieve the results that you presented. If you want to deliver a presentation guaranteed to impress your boss, make sure to highlight evidence of your competence and the seriousness with which your pursued your objectives. Showing your boss how you went about your work increases your credibility. Moreover, it also helps your boss understand your results and findings better.
Make the most out of the feedback session
After the presentation comes the Q&A — embrace it. If your boss doesn’t start asking you questions directly, initiate a conversation by asking questions on specific aspects of your work. What does you boss think about finding #2? Does he have a similar experience that could be applied to your process? Try not to think of the Q&A as your boss doubting your work. Instead, think of it as a great opportunity to pick his or her brain. It shows that you can take criticism and are willing to learn from it. Also, make sure that you are prepared to answer the tough questions. Practice with a friend, make a list of questions that could arise based on your presentation. Remember, the presentation itself influences how your boss perceives and understands your work, making it a good starting point for drafting questions and points of discussion.
Remember: your boss is human too!
When presenting to higher-ups, getting over the nerves is half of the process. One way to get over your presentation anxiety is to find a common ground between you and your boss. At the most basic level, your boss is a human being like you. Chances are, he or she has been in your shoes before. Try to focus on what you have in common to relieve yourself from the anxiety of presenting to a “higher” up. How would you present your work to your parents? Your friends? A coworker? Looking at your higher-up as another human being with a different background, different priorities and different competences will relieve you of some of the pressure that you might feel in regards to your performance because at the end of the day, it’s not about your presentation, it’s about your audience’s reception of it.