Congratulations! You and your team just finished compiling a lengthy report about the impact of a months-long project. Now you are charged with delivering your findings to an audience of C-suite executives, senior-level managers, and directors. How can you translate that deliverable into a clear and compelling business presentation? Where do you even start?
Delivering quantitative and qualitative data to different stakeholders is a challenge. While you may want to share absolutely everything you uncovered— walking them through every page and every chart—don’t.
Understanding and addressing your listeners’ needs is the way to go.
Deliverable vs. delivery
There’s a crucial distinction between submitting a physical report and orally presenting the findings from that report.
The report deliverable may include executive summaries, benchmarking, compilations, research, and technical findings. An impressive report is comprehensive and provides what is needed to thoroughly address the questions asked or issues presented.
By contrast, your presentation delivery is intended to synthesize and translate the findings into terms your audience can easily understand and act on.
Once the deliverable (i.e., the document) is complete, it’s time to focus on your delivery (i.e., translating those findings into an oral presentation).
6 tips for delivering the deliverable
You no doubt internalized an enormous amount of information and gained many insights as you wrote your report. Preparing to share those insights is a very different task.
Here are six tips to help. (Take a deep breath—the first one’s a doozy . . . )
1. Detach from the deliverable.
A common complaint about movies based on books is “The book was better!” The book may indeed have been better, but the comparison is often unfair because books and movies are two different art forms. Likewise, giving a presentation is a different artform from writing a report. You must detach from the written deliverable so you can shift into the new context for delivering your content orally.
Part of that shift means reducing the amount and complexity of the information you share. If you don’t translate complex data into memorable soundbites, your audience will miss the wisdom of your findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
2. Develop a curious mindset.
Because you are starting with a huge storehouse of data, a big hurdle is distilling and sorting the information according to what your audience absolutely needs to know. That’s no easy task.
There is a great Southern expression: “You can’t read the label when you are sitting inside the jar.” In other words, you need to step back and take an outsider’s point of view. Be curious and ask yourself, “What are the stakeholder’s biggest questions and concerns?” Not sure what those concerns are? Ask the stakeholders—and be open to their response.
3. Make the information accessible.
Develop a presentation using everyday language so the information addresses your stakeholders’ needs and is actionable. Think about it this way: your report includes recommendations that are critical to decision making. The easier it is for listeners to comprehend and discuss findings and recommendations, the easier it will be to move forward.
When you make it easy to discuss key findings, you become the go-to expert.
4. Remember “Glance & Grab.”
Many times, the written deliverable is a slide deck that is used to graphically display your findings. For a written report or as a resource document, this strategy is valuable. However, repurposing these slides for your oral presentation will get you in trouble.
These charts and graphs contain too much information, making the presentation hard to follow, causing information overload or inviting listeners to ask questions about data not being addressed in your presentation.
Keeping visuals relevant and succinct allows listeners to glance at them and grab the needed information, then return to listening to what you have to say. In addition, if presenting online, remember that stakeholders will view your presentation on a variety of devices, including a smartphone. Ask yourself: is every slide “Glance & Grab,” even on a small screen?
5. Shift from a monologue to a dialogue.
Keeping visuals simple also allows you to turn what could have been a monologue into a dialogue. Rather than struggling to read what is projected on a screen or monitor, displayed on a device, or written in a physical report, you are free to look at and connect with your listeners. This alone can be a real breakthrough.
When you look at the people you’re talking to, it becomes a conversation, even if they are not actually talking to you. If presenting virtually, you may not be able to view your entire audience, but you can keep an eye on the chat box for clues about when people are confused, engaged, or even disagree with you.
6. Practice out loud.
Key to getting the delivery right is practice. You absolutely need to talk through your presentation ahead of time (yes, even if your delivery is a collaborative discussion). Do yourself a favor: find a non-expert outside of your immediate team and talk through your delivery with them.
Ask for their feedback using the following questions:
- What resonated with you?
- What were your biggest takeaways?
- What would you have liked to know more about?
- What confused you?
The process of talking to someone who is unfamiliar with your findings will help you eliminate jargon and ensure your delivery of the data makes sense to someone who isn’t familiar with the report.
Remember, your report was compiled as a deliverable, but your delivery is the final product. To have a clear, compelling presentation, understand your audience, simplify so you can have a conversation, and practice with a non-expert. Take these steps and you will get the business results you worked so hard to achieve.