You’re Presenting To The CEO…Now What?

Since we hadn’t spoken for many months, I recently emailed a young design engineering friend of mine (let’s call him Dave) to say hello and catch up. I was pleasantly surprised to read this in Dave’s reply, “I have gotten a great opportunity at work. I have a top priority R&D project I will be showing to the CEO in November.”


CC Image Courtesy of Laura Rocchio on Flickr

Actually, I was more than surprised, I was thrilled. Why? Because this was going to be Dave’s second opportunity to present to the CEO of his company, a well-known global equipment manufacturer.

Almost two years ago during a mentoring relationship that Dave and I were in, he was given his first chance to present to the same CEO.

Can you imagine such an amazing opportunity for an early career engineer?

When it happened, Dave was a bit stressed out about how to prepare. He had done some presentations in the past, but nothing close to the level of delivering to a CEO.

To ease his anxiety a bit, and to help him get started on the path to a successful delivery, I shared some of what I had learned from my many past presentations.

For you, and to help Dave with his upcoming delivery, here are what I have found to be six of the most important presentation preparation steps :

  1. Create A Calendar – With any speaking assignment, but especially one for the CEO, I recommend creating a “countdown” calendar. A calendar will help you get your arms around the entire project.

    In essence, the calendar becomes a roadmap from your start date to the final delivery. By identifying key milestones, and tracking your progress regularly, you’ll be better positioned to know that you’re headed for a successful delivery.

  2. Draft An Outline – Initially, outlining might be likened to brainstorming. At this stage, you want to capture the ideas that you believe will be most relevant to the audience. This is when you need to step back and think like your audience, and identify their WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) elements. For Dave, he needs to think like his CEO.

    Other key elements in your outline should be a strong opening, a powerful close, and audience interaction during the program if possible.

  3. Include Stories – Storytelling is a hot topic in the leadership and business worlds these days. Why? Because a story allows us to share a message in a powerful way that resonates more effectively. Stories give ideas life.

    To learn more about this important element of a presentation, I strongly recommend Nancy Duarte’s wonderful and insightful book, Resonate. If you’re using slides in your presentation, I also recommend that you check out her book, Slideology. Both are amazing resources.

  4. Build A Script – I know there are differing opinions on whether this is wise and useful, but for me it works. Mind you, I’m not saying you should speak from a script. I would never suggest this.

    For me, the value of constructing a script is the ability it gives me to fine tune my messaging.

  5. Practice – Practice, practice, and then practice some more. While practicing, either audio or video record your delivery so you can review the things you’re doing well, along with the areas that need improvement.

    As your comfort level rises, round up some colleagues to serve as a “real” audience and gather their feedback too.

  6. Deliver With Confidence – If you’re fully prepared, you’ll be able to relax and ace the delivery.

    Something I always try to do is to greet and welcome as many guests as possible at the door when they arrive. This simple step allows me to relax while delivering, because I feel as though I have new friends sprinkled throughout the audience.

Of course, there are many more “to do”s” associated with preparing for an important presentation, but these six can serve as a good foundation. I’m pleased to report that Dave’s first presentation prompted him to send me this comment, 

“I did the presentation for the CEO and 50 other executives. The presentations went very well.  I did a good job presenting the information and got a good amount of questions in return.”

I have full confidence that Dave will receive similar positive comments after he delivers for the CEO again soon… for the second time!

Question: What presentation preparation steps have you found to be most valuable?  You can leave a comment by clicking here.