8 steps for presentations that will win top execs’ buy-in for your campaign

For PR pros—and for anyone seeking a green light and a hefty budget for a project—wowing your organization’s leaders hinges on sharp, data-rich delivery. Follow this guidance.

To get campaign approvals—and ample budgets for them—PR pros must sell top executives.

Generally, that requires demonstrating ROI, with charts and graphs delivered in a compelling presentation.

Easier said than done.

Many PR pros—and other professionals looking to make their case—stumble when they deliver presentations to top executives. It’s an intimidating exercise, and company leaders have high standards and enforce strict time limits.

These tips from executive coaches and PR veterans can help presenters wow top execs and win their approval.

1. Explain the problem. You might have a great idea, but top executives are too busy for ideas that don’t solve problems. Spend the first quarter of your allotted time explaining the problem and the next quarter on the idea that addresses the problem, Sabina Nawaz advises in the Harvard Business Journal. The more urgent the problem appears, the more eager your audience will be for the solution.

2. Leave time for interaction. Reserve the second half of your allotted time for questions, Nawaz advises. That might seem like a lot of time, but it’s essential. Many people think getting no questions means success. Wrong. Questions signal interest in the proposal—the more, the better.

3. Get the numbers right. One incorrect figure, and executives will question the rest of your data. Be sure of your facts, and know the source of your information. If there’s an error, quickly follow up with a correction. If you don’t know an answer, admit it without wasting time, and promise that you’ll follow up. (Make sure you do follow up.)

4. Recruit participation. Plan to answer the question, “What do you need from me?” or, “How can I help?” If you merely stammer, “Ummm … nothing,” you’ll leave the decision-makers perplexed over your goals and their roles. Presenters often forget to solicit participation. “Ultimately, people want to be connected to the success of the company, and your success hinges on getting others involved,” executive coach Jeevan Balani writes in Forbes.

5. Watch your jargon. PR and marketing pros frequently toss out terms like “brand position” and “awareness.” Save those buzzwords for your peers. “Nobody in the C-suite gets excited about programmatic, brand positioning or click rates. But when you talk revenue, costs, profit or impact on society, the eyes are on you,” writes Marketing Week columnist Thomas Barta.

 6. Avoid data overload. “Too many times I’ve seen young account executives throw all their data on one slide (perhaps not even visualized just as a list of numbers) because they feel a need to get everything across up front, and more data must be good, because it looks more official, right? Wrong,” writes Adam Singer in a Search Engine Watch article. Excessive data can overwhelm the audience. Decide what key point you want to get across, and present one chart and one clear conclusion per slide.

7. Simplify the data. To avoid confusing your audience, present data simply and cleanly. For instance, to compare changes over time, simply plot the data in a line graph. Avoid 3D bars, which are confusing. Label all chart elements. Clearly title the chart, label each axis, and appropriately label each trend line or other chart element. The latest software for presentations and PR measurement enables pop-up labeling of chart elements.

8. Make one core recommendation. One well-conceived recommendation resonates better than a multilayered proposal and is more likely to be approved. Leave details (and perhaps a few explicatory slides) about tactical implementation for Q&A. Before the meeting ends, confirm the decision and any next steps. If you’ve received approval of the core proposal, insulate top decision makers from nitty-gritty implementation, unless they specifically ask to be included. Give executives regular updates on progress.

A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.

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