This article was originally published in 2015 and has been completely updated in 2020.
Presenting to senior executives is a daunting proposition. They are extremely busy and have to make many decisions under great time pressure. Your presentation needs to solve a significant business problem or create a strong opportunity if it is going to stand out. They are not going to let you make a nicely detailed presentation leading to the neat conclusion of your case.
The executives will want to know the big picture. The key is to get quickly to the key points and recommendations, ask them for questions (which is when they may want to dig down into some of your detail), and then finish quickly.
In my experience, top executives are very sensitive about their own turf. They are thinking, “What does this mean for me?” If your proposal has any potential to reduce an executive’s power or budget, they are likely to become an immediate problem, throwing up objections intended to protect their turf. Therefore, you need to think beforehand if any of the attendees may perceive your proposal as a threat in some way. Aim to show that your recommendations will be readily funded and how your proposal will benefit the organization.
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Presenting to senior executives is a daunting proposition. They are extremely busy and have to make many decisions under