Be a Collaborator and Coach
Busy executives typically don’t have the time to create a PowerPoint presentation, but if you let them know it can be faster and easier without challenging or eating into their schedule, then the presentation will go much more smoothly, with their collaboration.
Draw on your experience and creativity—and let them know you’re there to help, assist and support them as a collaborator and coach. Let them know that you can work as a basic presentation designer—or a full-fledged partner in collaborative content—and design value along the way.
If they’re worried or concerned they don’t know what to say or don’t have the time to develop a presentation, encourage them to relax and not stress. However, emphasize the need to ‘not delay, do it today.’
If they’re spinning their wheels and not making the progress you need, tell them that they probably know more than they think they do. Encourage their attempt to extemporaneously deliver an oral presentation to you (and their imaginary audience) in 5-10 minutes, incorporating the key points they want to cover. Capture as much info as you can during this ad-hoc delivery. It’s likely they’ll be more prepared than they initially thought, and feel confident and may already have the presentation messages in their head. It’s your job to support them with visuals.
If the content/messaging is a roadblock that’s stopping them from giving you the information you need, and you’re not able to help, find an SME or colleague who can meet with them to craft a solid outline and slide concepts.
Aim to cultivate a connection with your executive. Get to know them; learn about them, their background, personality, and presentation style. Encourage them to see the presentation from the audience’s perspective. What does their audience want to know and is the message relevant?
Dealing with Difficulties
As enlightened as these best practices are, the reality is that they don’t always work. And your ability to find an alternate path to completing the presentation despite some obstacles is what will ultimately make you and your work a success.
If you’re not getting the answers you need—missed meetings, unreturned calls, or general apathy, simply stop into their office and have a frank conversation either to kick their butt to deliver what you need and work with you and to instill the sense of urgency.
Friction with the executive? Feeling intimidated or disconnected? Ask a colleague or your manager to help you connect; he/she may have a better rapport or can provide some insight or help.
Not understanding the message? Or feel you’re not able to complete it? Be honest and forthright, and ask for help from someone on your team. Hand it over to someone else or an outside agency.
Presentation development can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s vital to stay positive and be kind to your mind and body, recognizing your own limits. Take a break every few hours. Go for a walk. Eat well. Exercise. When you return, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on a task that may have seemed impossible just a few hours earlier.
In the next post of this series, we will look at how experience and age makes a difference.
Since founding The Presentation Team in the 1990’s, Kevin has developed thousands of presentations for clients including Motorola, Comcast Cable, Office Depot, Citrix, Oracle, Johnson & Johnson, NASA, the U.S. Army, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as numerous smaller companies, professional speakers, and individuals.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.