Presentation Tips

How to Present to an Executive Audience: Prepare, Perfect, Practice and Pre-empt

A microphone in a room of executives awaiting a presentation.

When was the last time a presentation inspired you? Seriously…think about it. Now envision the last speaker who truly motivated you and ask yourself, was it their slides? (Dramatic pause.) I’m willing to bet that what got your attention had virtually nothing to do with the content presented…and everything to do with how it was delivered.  

When presenting to an executive audience, this is even more critical. You have only a few minutes to convince your audience that the most valuable way they can spend their time right now is by tuning in to what you are saying. So, as you prepare for that next opportunity to speak in front of executives, keep these things in mind.  

  • Set their expectations – They call it an executive “briefing” for a reason and the execs in attendance will be chomping at the bit to ask questions. Let them know at the outset that you will provide plenty of time for discussion. 

Sarah Holliman

It’s My Party, and I’ll Learn About Sourcing if I Want To

SIG Resources

Today is my birthday.  As commonly happens on birthdays, we tend to reminisce over the past year(s).  And because so much of our life is spent working, this is where my reminiscing takes me because I get to work with my best friend for a company I love, not only because I get to work from home, but because it’s existence is what I dreamt of many years ago when I was younger and (more) clueless.  Yes, I know… it sounds corny, but it’s true.  After all, it was a little less than 15 years ago that I landed in the sourcing world working for a small supply chain management and procurement solutions provider, Enporion.  I had no clue what acronyms like SCM, VMS, P2P, RFP, or SOW were, nor this strange idea of “Reverse Auctions.” 

I have such fond memories working at Enporion, but anytime I tried explaining my job to family or friends I got that “deer in the headlights” stare and I felt like I was a part of some small secret society.  Back then, Mary Zampino (fellow SIG-let) and I had virtually no resources available to us on how this whole “procurement” thing worked. We tried to come up with best practices, templates, and other tools to make our sourcing clients jobs easier and offer them the most process improvement and cost savings possible. We dreamed of creating a knowledge library of resources that we so desperately needed ourselves so that others wouldn’t have to work so tirelessly to do their jobs. 

Liz Mantovani, Senior Manager of Innovation, SIG

How to Get the Most from your SIG Event - Part I: Best Practices for Networking

There's nothing more I love to do than get to know someone new. I'm curious about where and how they live, if they prefer a good book or movie over a roller coaster ride (or both), if they like Beethoven or the Beatles (or both), if they went to school abroad or in the South, or wherever. I like stories. I like people. That makes it easy for me to network. However, not everyone finds networking easy. One of the top two reasons people attend SIG events is to network with other like-minded folks who are in the same roles, have similar responsibilities and face the same type of challenges. Every SIG event offers ample opportunity to network, whether at a reception or a meal or our specific speed networking program at the Summits. So whether you're at a SIG event or (gasp) another industry event, I thought I'd take a few minutes and just offer some ideas for making networking a little easier for the "non-networking-inclined."

Create your own elevator pitch - Be prepared to explain yourself in just a few minutes. It's easy to put together your story if you come up with answers to these questions:

  • What is your role at your organization? How long have you been in that role?
  • What are your immediate goals within your current role?
  • What are your future goals? For your current role? For your future role?
  • What is your boss asking you to accomplish?
  • What keeps you up at night?

Review the attendee list beforehand - If available, review the list of expected, registered attendees. Look for folks in your industry and make a list so you can be sure to find them when you're onsite. Ask your team members or direct reports if there are certain organizations or people you should target. Don't hesitate to ask one of the conference organizers for help making these connections, either beforehand or onsite. We at SIG are always happy to facilitate introductions!

Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG

It's All in the Delivery

Following the 2013 SIG Global Sourcing Summit in Amelia Island this past May, I was reviewing feedback from our breakout session attendees and read a comment that referenced the usefulness of the Duarte workshops with respect to presentation content, delivery and design. Usability and customer experience are both passions of mine and drive me when I am constructing guidelines for our Summit breakout session presenters and their slide decks. As a sourcing professional, I am sometimes hesitant to recommend a particular product, service, or provider. But, I can’t really keep quiet about this organization any longer. I attended the Duarte workshop and it was amazing. If you are someone who has to present things like business cases, market reports, research, spend category strategies, or if you have difficulty conveying your message, then this workshop should be part of your professional development. The two-day workshop took place in the Duarte headquarters in Sunnyvale, CA, where the facilitators immediately threw us off by asking us not to introduce ourselves with our name, company and role¸ but rather our name, company and favorite story. In each 5-10 second introduction, I felt like I already knew the person based on their story and their passion in conveying the story. During the workshop, we each built a presentation that addressed a real problem while in the session...but no PowerPoints were computers or tablets at all! The presentations required agile development yet no particular expertise with design. We learned some excellent strategies for how to structure a presentation and watched guru Nancy Duarte map some really famous speeches (Dr. Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream, President Ronald Reagan addressing the country after the horrible Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru speech on India's Independence).

Mary Zampino, Senior Director of Global Sourcing Intelligence, SIG

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…and Then Some

Everyone can distinguish between a good presenter and a poor presenter...

  • Do they read their slides or speak from their heart?
  • Do they engage the audience or put them to sleep?
  • Do they speak with passion or are they having a hard time speaking at all?
  • Do they look at their audience or are they too busy looking at their notes?

...but fewer people actually think about the fact that the slides someone presents can be equally important. Really good public speakers often have no slides at all…or their slides show pictures that help them tell a story. But most people aren’t comfortable without a crutch, so they err on the side of putting too much information on the page, hoping their audience equates good speaking with a high word count. There is a happy medium—a nirvana for the average presenter that provides them with the cues they need, without all the eyesore charts, graphs, colors and dense bullets. Keeping a few pointers in mind, everyone can step up their game…which frankly will make it easier on all of us, especially those that are trying to focus more on what you are saying and less on how you are presenting it.

Insight #1 – If you have to apologize for the amount of information on the page, you have too much information on the page. Any presenter that starts to speak about a slide by saying “I know this is hard to read but…” has already lost his audience who is now focusing more on figuring out what is on the slide. A good rule of thumb is to consider how the presentation is being delivered. If it’s a leave-behind and not something you are actually presenting, the detail may be necessary. But if you are formally presenting the information using an overhead screen, LESS IS MORE.

Sarah Holliman, Vice President of Marketing, SIG

Pack the House with a Powerful Presentation

A few months before every SIG Summit, I start to think about the presentations and wonder what this Summit's hot topics will be. Is talent management still top of mind? Have thoughts on governance changed? I look forward to getting a sneak peek at the shifts in the industry, but get even more jazzed to hear from new speakers. A great speaker can make even the most mundane topic interesting, and by contrast, a poor speaker can wreak havoc on a hot topic. Have you ever sat in a session and thought about how quickly you can make a graceful exodus without people noticing? A steady stream of people exiting stage left is a telltale sign that the speaker is not capturing the audience. So as you prepare for the SIG Summit, or any other presentation, keep this "top 10" list in mind:

Sarah Holliman, Vice President of Marketing, SIG