Starting With The Answer
By Fred Latala
As an IT professional I follow a linear path to most things like programming, problem solving, etc. Though this has served me well dealing with technology it has caused me challenges with non-IT people.
Early in my career I had the opportunity to present a business idea to the CEO and his staff at a large corporation I worked at. This was the first time I was going to be the lead presenter at this level. I laid out my presentation in my best engineer fashion. I stated a hypothesis, built my case over multiple slides and ended with my conclusion. I practiced and timed myself, I was ready. When I came into the room the CEO asked me to sit next to him. The meeting started and I had the stage. I started my presentation and was on slide 1 when I noticed the CEO was on the final slide of the deck. As I went to change to slide 2 the CEO said “I get it”. I was flustered. One of the other executives came to my aid and asked the CEO for clarification. The CEO responded “I want to move forward with this idea, this is how we need to run our business going forward”. They thanked me and I left the meeting wondering what just happened. Later that day one of the executives in the meeting called me to her office and gave me some coaching. She explained that C-level executives typically consume data and come to conclusions very quickly. My approach, though valid, was actually the opposite of what I should have done. She asked me to go through my deck in reverse order for her. What a revelation, I wish I had spoken to her in advance. Stating the opportunity and giving the recommendation up front cut right to the chase. The remainder of the deck became an appendix of supporting materials.
The moral of the story is to know you audience, get some coaching up front and tailor your message to the audience.
The next time you do a presentation try giving it in reverse order and see how it flows.