Congratulations! You and your team just finished compiling a lengthy report about the impact of a months-long project. Now you are charged with delivering your findings to a virtual audience of C suite executives, senior-level managers and directors.
How can you translate that deliverable into a clear and compelling online business presentation? Where do you even start?
These are important questions. Delivering quantitative and qualitative data to different stakeholders is a challenge. The key to success is adopting a mindset that focuses on what your audience needs to know versus what you feel compelled to tell them.
While you may want to share absolutely everything you uncovered — walking them through page by page, chart by chart — don’t. Discerning and speaking to your audience’s needs is especially important in our Zoom-fatigued era.
To understand how to do this, let’s return to some data presentation fundamentals.
Deliverable vs. delivery
There’s a crucial distinction between submitting a physical report and orally presenting the findings from that report. Once the deliverable (i.e., the document) is complete, it’s time to focus on your delivery (i.e., translating those findings into an oral presentation). These are two very different tasks.
The deliverable may include executive summaries, benchmarking reports, compilations, research and technical findings. An impressive report is comprehensive and provides what is needed to thoroughly address the questions asked or issues presented.
By contrast, to deliver a high-impact presentation, your job is to synthesize and translate the findings into terms your audience can easily understand and act on.
Having discussed the fundamental difference between creating the deliverable and delivering your findings, let’s consider how to present the findings.
5 tips for delivering the deliverable
Warning: If you go into the delivery with the mindset that you “just need to get through this,” you risk all of your efforts being wasted.
1. Develop a curious mindset
Because you are starting with a huge storehouse of data, the first hurdle is distilling and sorting the information according to what your audience absolutely needs to know. That’s no easy task.
There is a great Southern expression, “You can’t read the label when you are sitting inside the jar.” In other words, you need to step back and take on an outsider’s point of view. Be curious and ask, “What are the stakeholder’s biggest questions and concerns?” Not sure what those concerns are? Ask the stakeholders and be open to understanding their perspective.
2. Make the information easily shareable
Then develop a presentation using everyday language so the information you share speaks to their needs, is actionable and is easily shared on the digital platform you will be using. Think about it this way: Your report includes recommendations that are critical to decision making.
The easier it is for listeners to comprehend and share findings and recommendations, the easier it will be for them to move forward. Make it your goal to give your client a context for the data in plain English. Make it easy to discuss key findings and you will become the go-to expert in their eyes.
3. Remember glance and grab
Many times, the written deliverable is a PowerPoint document — a series of slides used to graphically display the findings. For a written report or as a resource document, this strategy is valuable. However, repurposing these slides for your oral presentation will get you in trouble.
These charts and graphs contain too much information, making the presentation hard to follow, causing information overload or inviting listeners to ask questions about data not being addressed in your presentation. Keeping visuals relevant and succinct allows listeners to glance, grab the needed information and return to listening to what you have to say.
In addition, when presenting online, remember that stakeholders will view your presentation on a variety of devices, including a smartphone. Ask yourself: Is every slide glance and grab, even on a small screen?
4. Shift from a monologue to a dialogue
Keeping visuals simple also allows you to turn what would have been a monologue into a dialogue. Rather than struggling to decipher what is projected on a screen or monitor, displayed on a device, or written in a physical report, you are free to look into the camera! This alone can be a real breakthrough.
When you look at the people you’re talking to, it becomes a conversation, even when they are not actually talking to you. While you may not be able to view your entire audience during a virtual meeting, you can keep an eye on the chat box for clues about when people are confused, engaged, or even disagree with you.
5. Practice out loud
Key to getting the delivery right is practice. You absolutely need to talk through your presentation ahead of time (yes, even if your delivery is a collaborative discussion). Do yourself a favor and find a nonexpert outside of your immediate team and talk through your delivery via Zoom.
Ask for their feedback using the following questions:
- What resonated with you?
- What were your biggest takeaways?
- What would you have liked to know more about?
- What confused you?
The process of talking to someone who is unfamiliar with your findings will help you eliminate jargon and ensure your delivery of the data makes sense to someone who isn’t familiar with the report.
I leave you with these basic truths:
- Everyone loses when the audience’s needs are overlooked
- If what you learned is more important to you than what the audience wants to know, your delivery will fall on deaf ears.
- If you don’t keep it simple — translating the data into memorable soundbites — your audience will miss the wisdom of your findings, conclusions and recommendations.
- When you’re so married to your “script” (or slide deck) that you can’t see the audience’s perspective or anticipate their response, your efforts will go down the drain.
Remember, your report was compiled as a deliverable, but your delivery is the final product!
Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high-stakes presentations. She has over 30 years’ experience mentoring every level of professional, from newly minted executives up through the C-suite echelons and into the president’s cabinet. Today she is a trusted consultant and speaker coach for companies ranging from early-stage start-up to Fortune 500. She has also developed a strong following at elite institutions such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Duke University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as serving as a TEDx speaker coach.
Her first book, “Talk on Water: Attaining the Mindset for Powerhouse Presentations,” was a #1 Hot New Release in Business Communications on Amazon in 2018. She is a regular contributor to SmartBrief, the leading digital publisher of targeted business news. Learn more at www.professionallyspeaking.net and www.professionallyspeakingblog.com.