Are you about to make a Finance presentation? Is it about the financial performance of your company? or is it a business review? Don’t worry! In this article, you will learn exactly how to make your Financial presentations memorable. You can use headings in this article as your checklist for making presentations. Check off all the items during your financial presentation, and you will be making great presentations consistently.
In order to make a Finance presentation, or any presentation, you need to consider the following three key ingredients:
- Your presentation / Slide
- Your audience
1a. Your Purpose – Story Telling!
Before you even start collecting all the data, charts and information, understand that you have one purpose for your presentation. You will be telling a story. This will save you countless hours of collecting and organizing unnecessary information, that goes into slides that you later have to eliminate from your presentation. This happens a lot. You could use this time to add so much more value. Having a story telling mindset gives you direction and focus.
But what does story telling mean, when it comes to financial presentations? It means “what happened?”, “what does it mean?” and “whats next?”. Most accounting and finance professionals stop at the what happened stage. This is good information, but it leaves the audience unfulfilled. They need closure. And that comes in the form of what does it mean? and what should be done next?.
For example, you mention in your presentation that sales have increased by $50,000 year over year. This reflects what happened. First, you can add a little more detail to what happened by explaining, for example, that $40,000 or 80% of the total increase is a direct result of price increase for a major customer, while the remaining $10,000 or 20% resulted from increased quantity sold overall. To explain what it means, you can highlight that the business is growing in the Northern region and one of your largest customers has agreed to increased pricing. This may mean there is room to increase prices to customers at least in the Northern region. Now, for what’s next, you can suggest reviewing prices for other customers in the region, and also looking at how the price increase was negotiated for this customer, so that it can be replicated for other customers.
You will be really telling the story if you can add a few personal details. For example, in the case of the sales price increase, may be one of the sales rep has worked exceptionally hard, or may be a new sales rep joined the team, and you can share some details of their performance for the year that should help motivate other sales team members as well.
1b. Preparation and Self Confidence
Once you understand that the main purpose of almost all of your presentations is telling stories, you know how to prepare. Look for information that supports a story you are trying to tell. If you do not know what story to tell, let the data guide you. Here are a few tips for boosting self confidence before presenting financial results:
- Practice presenting. This is a simple way to get better at presenting. You can even practice at your home. Use a camera to record yourself presenting. You will learn so much about your presenting style and what needs to be improved. Record yourself presenting multiple times, each time trying to fix areas you identified. One of the issues you will notice is that you are speaking too fast. Slow down! and see how dramatically it improves your presentation.
- Exercise! you should exercise every day any way. However, on the day of your presentation, work out a little. It helps calm you down and feel good. It could be as simple as a short 10 minutes run around the block.
- Be ahead of schedule! Get into the meeting room or presentation hall early and test the equipment, such as projector and microphone etc. You do not want to be scrambling to fix audio and video issues with your audience waiting in the room. This will give you a very shaky start.
- Use strong body language postures before the presentation to make you feel confident. Research suggests that two minutes of power posing for example, standing tall with arms wide open, or standing like super man with hands on your hips dramatically improves your confidence. I have personally tried this and it has worked really well for me.
1c. Dealing with Data Issues
This is part of your preparation. However, for the accounting and finance community, this is so common that it deserves a separate heading. Many of us deal with data issues on a frequent basis. The data may be incomplete or unreliable. An approach that many of us take is to lay this out in the presentation. We talk about how there is not enough reliable data to provide any conclusion. For example, when explaining an increase in the cost of sales, you may state that it may be that part of the increase in cost of sales is due to purchase price increase, however, our systems do not capture this data correctly, so we cannot really say that.
The problem with such a statement is that it does not really help your audience. Spend some more time during the preparation and data gathering stage of your presentation so that you can really provide conclusive statements. If you drill down with the aim of determining whether purchase price increase is a factor, you will probably find a way to tell whether it is a factor or not with reasonable certainty. You might even be able to quantify the impact. You spend a little more time thinking, and look for some more information that is already available, that may not have occurred to you. Note how much better this statement sounds compared to the previous one. Our Cost of sales has increased by $20,000, 30% of this increase, which is $6,000, is a direct result of increase in purchase price of Product A, compared to last year.
1d. Your Credibility
Credibility is something you develop over time, but it helps a lot when making financial presentations that your audience already places a high level of reliance on you. This reliance is a resultant of the quality of service you have already provided. Every time you have been asked for some ad-hoc information or analysis, did you provide a response that was well presented and accurate? As an accounting or finance professional, you will inevitably have to make financial presentations some time in your career.
You can start working on your credibility factor immediately. Every time you share financial information, double check to determine accuracy. Read you email from a reader’s perspective and make it easy on the eyes. Make sure any attachments to your email are printer friendly, not just in terms of consumption of ink, but also in terms of page alignments so that the user of information can print the attachment without the need to adjust print settings. What if they were in a hurry to take your printed attachment into a meeting of their own, only to find upon arriving at the printer, that it was printed, split from the middle, on 50 pages. Over the course of my career, I have noted that these small things matter a lot and create a perception of quality and reliability, which is your friend when making financial presentations
2. Your Presentation / Slides
2a. Too much material
If you have practiced your slides, you will know how much time you need to make the presentation. If enough time is not allotted to you, or things are running behind schedule, and you will be getting much less time than was originally allotted to you, here is what you should do. Instead of skimming over the slides quickly trying to make sure you present all of your slides, decide on eliminating a few slides completely. Present the remaining slides in the same way as you had prepared to. This way your presentation will still be memorable, actually this might make it even better.
Even if you have the full allotted time, do not go through your slides quickly. Do not move the cursor around a lot. Do not toggle from Powerpoint to Excel and other files a lot. Apply a calm and steady approach. Let your audience absorb information. Eliminate any information that does not contribute to your overall presentation story.
2b. The use of slides and clutter
If you have more than 5 objects on a slide (including text, pictures and graphs), your audience will begin to struggle cognitively, as they are trying to read or make sense of whats on the screen, as well as listen to you. So limit the number of objects to a maximum of five, but the lesser the better.
Focus only on one issue or topic in one slide, that should be obvious from the title at the top. Do not lump multiple topics or points in one slide. This will help you make clear presentations as well. It does not matter if you end up having a lot of slides. Its OK as long as your message is focused and clear on each slide and there is no clutter on the slides.
2c. Numbers vs Images / Charts
You probably know this already, but our human mind loves charts and pictures. We can always present numbers and results better in terms of graphs and pictures. Some graphs such as waterfall chart, bar graphs, and pie charts are great in visually summarizing results. The best thing about charts is that they are memorable and thus make your presentations memorable.
Her is an example. A waterfall chart that clearly explains a lot of detail in a very simple graphic. Click on the video below to see how you can create an automated waterfall chart in Excel.
2d. Visibility of Slides
Is all the information on your slide easily visible to farthest member of the audience? This includes pictures and specially text. Check font size and color scheme. Try and keep all the content more towards the center and away from the borders of the slide.
3. Your Audience
3a. Know them / Understand them
This is linked to the first step in this article. Your purpose or story. It is crucial that you know who your audience is. If you are presenting financial results to a CFO, or a bunch of Finance professionals, your language and level of detail will be completely different from when you are presenting to, say, factory labor.
One idea that really helps in this case is trying to put yourself in your audience’s shows, or better, in their minds. Try to see their perspective. What do they already know? What would they like to know? What would make them connect with what you are saying? You can get better at this by asking a lot of questions in all your presentations, and allotting a good chunk of time for your audience to ask questions. Over a period of time, you will find a pattern, and you will be able to classify the type of audience and the material that you can present to them.
3b. Engage them
The best way to engage audience is by telling stories and asking questions or sharing interesting facts. Make sure they are aligned with the subject of your presentation though. In engaging audience, eye contact is important too. Many presenters, during their presentations, look at their audience by glancing quickly over everyone in all directions. While they may feel, they are making a connection and engaging with everyone by looking all across the room or hall, but actually real engagement only happens with real, one-to-one eye contact.
A better approach, therefore, is to make and keep eye contact with individuals over the course of the presentation. Let people feel as if you are talking directly to them. Hold the eye contact until you finish the sentence, and then make eye contact with another person and do the same. You will start seeing a lot more heads nodding and a lot more people taking interest in what you have to say. If you see someone who is shy, and uncomfortable with the eye contact, let them go. Do not make them uncomfortable.
3d. Feedback and recognition
It is possible that some people who have helped you in preparing the presentation, or helped you with an aspect of the achievement you are sharing in the presentation, are sitting in the room as well. What better way to thank them than recognize them among others for their contribution. This demonstrates your thoughtfulness. They will remember you for this. If they are your subordinates, they will see you as a great leader. Their motivation will get a boost. Others will also recognize your thoughtfulness. All of this making a great combo for a memorable presentation.
In conclusion, remember the three ingredients of a memorable finance presentation. It takes time to master the details, but knowing them and then consciously working on improving these skills will make you a great presenter in no time. I am sure you will already see a big difference in your next presentation. So, I wish you all the best! and would love to see your comments on what you think about these tips, or if you have applied any of them, how did they work out for you.
Here is a link to my YouTube channel LearnAccountingFinance where you will see helpful video tutorials related to accounting, finance and Microsoft Excel.