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Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Management Team?

Does the thought of presenting to upper management make your knees knock? Do you spend days on the presentation only to spend your 5 minutes in the spotlight talking to your shoes while the executives yawn and sneak peeks at their Blackberries? For many new managers being asked to present a proposal to the company executives is about as much fun as being asked to clean out the port-a-potties at the Boston Marathon. But fear not, you too can get through this management challenge by using the right strategies and techniques.

1. It’s a Commercial – OK so you’re not Billy Mays (which is probably a good thing since he has died and gone to pitch heaven) but you should still make your proposal compelling. Focus on the benefits to the organization and make a solid argument for your point of view.

2. Do Your Homework – Make sure you have thought through the pro’s and con’s. Be prepared for questions that might come up and have some smooth answers ready.

3. Use a Visual – It’s no secret – executives love graphs, charts and other visual aids. Find some research that supports your position (there’s this cool place called “the internet” where you can find a ton of free resources to help save you time and strengthen your case).

4. Brief is Better – Give your headline, throw down your supporting details, wrap it up and let them ask questions. If your concept is compelling, you can give more details (make sure you have them!) but it’s better to wait for that request than to waste the big boss’s time.

If you would rather die in a fire than speak in public, take a class or find a Toastmasters group in your area. Being able to present your ideas to a group is a skill you will need throughout your management career so it’s well worth a little effort to get comfortable on the podium. Remember that the management team is chock full of people just like you, but if I were you I wouldn’t picture them in their underwear…

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Over her 15 year career, Katy has worked with active professionals from all walks of life. She completed her formal training in Psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, including training and a practicum in crisis counseling. A successful consultant and manager, she has worked with growing and established businesses across a broad spectrum of industries to help identify and leverage the full potential of their staff and systems.

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  • You are so right about executives loving pretty pictures and graphs. I remember a session in one previous existence where the mgmt team spent more time talking about how the graphs looked than they did on the rather serious topic of what the graphs were telling them! Nice post.

  • Barney – so true! Never underestimate the power of a good pie chart 🙂

  • Great tips thanks Katy,
    One of the biggest mistakes Managers make is trying to hide behind PowerPoint slides. Yes graphs are visual and we all love them, and if a Manager has done his/her homework, and is passionate, it’s best not to get drawn in by text heavy slides. Invariably, they end up “reading” from the slides.
    Simple solutions with visuals for the Execs will be highly appreciated I think.
    The third biggest fear for humans is speaking in public, the second is dying. The first, however, is dying while speaking in public!
    Great post.

  • Anonymous

    Great post. Like a great musician or leading sports star success and comfort comes from practice. Many of us could ease our nerves if we had invested in the time to practice our presentation. So Feel The Fear and do it anyway…and often!

  • Katy, I second that entirely — no underwear is needed in the picture. 🙂
    I agree, to be prepared and understand the nature of the management team is #1. I was trained in uni how ‘visual effect’ is the most effective presentation and we shall always treat them with respect. Be brief, simple and straight to the point. Elaborate whenever necessary. That’s the guidelines we should be following at all times. Well done.

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  • Hi Katy, Great tips! Its amazes me that fear of public speaking is the number 1 fear that people have. I think you have got to think of presentations as you performing and the audience engaging. It’s an area where the vast majority of us could improve on significantly. One tip I would add is to be careful not to use tools such as powerpoint etc as a crutch, they are there to support you rather than the other way round 🙂

  • Elaine and Niall, I totally agree with your comments re: not using tools as a crutch or filling your presentation with text heavy slides – no one likes death by powerpoint! Thanks for all your thoughts!

  • Katy, thanks for the easy to follow tips. In today’s world we all need to invest time in improving our presentation skills on all levels.

  • One point I would like to add, if you have issues, present solutions, not questions. It is better to present a solution and have it changed than to simply list issues and problems. When you present solutions to management you look like you are action oriented.

  • I think the inital valuation meant that the Facebook share price had no where to go except down. That said, Facebook is now going to be much more focused on generating revenues and could mean good news for investors, provided they can continue to keep users happy.

  • I think it was a success that Facebook made it to the exchange. Now they have learned a lesson from this. The free market will take care of the situation. My question is: do you think that companies like Facebook and other tech companies will have the same influence like the old traditional manufacturing companies that are a big part of the Dow Jones Index, sometime in the future?

  • Hi Simon, interesting post!
    I stay well clear of chancing my arm with shares. I read an article yesterday that convinced me it’s just not for me. However, as the rules and goalposts change with relation to traditional methods and angles, I think Facebook and peers, can teach us a new form of going public.
    Nothing is certain in this game, and just because they survived since, doesn’t mean investing in FB is now a sure bet. Just look at the history of Apple – enough to give anyone a heart attack over the past few weeks (especially the past few days)

    What built the stock markets before are not what may sustain them in future – the future is so uncertain for us mortals anyway, I certainly won’t be cashing in my post office savings 🙂

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