Presenting to the C-suite | Connecting to the Big Picture
Connecting the dots
The further you get up a company hierarchy the less, in general, that you are paid to worry about the nuts and bolts of execution. Quite the inverse. The higher you rise up a company organization, the more you are required to consider the more abstract elements of company strategy. It’s a bit like when you’re looking at Google Maps. If you start on StreetView and Zoom Out a few clicks you suddenly realize that although you can now see how that street fits into the geography of the area and its position within the city, you can no longer see the individual obstacles on the street level.
This analogy can be helpful to show the way in which your presentation needs to connect your StreetView insights with the over-arching concerns of the leadership team. From your vantage point you will have access to a wealth of information, not all of which will be relevant to the topic of your presentation.
Compressing what you know
It’s pretty simple to understand this concept, and most people already grasped it intuitively, but the real difficulty lies in how you actually go about trying to connect your presentation with their big picture view. The usual sticking point is in the execution. It’s tricky to know what information is relevant and what needs to be cut out for the C-suite audience. It’s a bit like when you compress a file, say a mp3 song, into a smaller format. Done well, and the track will sound almost indistinguishable from the original, heavier file. Done badly and the balance will be all off and it will sound tinny. When you are presenting to the C-suite, the essential thing is to know what to compress and what to leave.
How to choose what to compress
Choosing what information to keep can be stressful, but remember that you’re natural instincts will be of great value to you here. If you ask yourself a series of key questions, your instincts should let you know what the natural balance is. First, remind yourself of what you have been asked to speak. What is the fundamental question that you need to address. Secondly, what are the over-riding concerns of the management team? Perhaps they are thinking about an organizational restructure or a push into foreign markets. These are the considerations which will help you know which information to discard and which to flag up. For example, to go back to our StreetView analogy, if you have been asked about what obstacles you can see on the road do you need to mention the car driving on the wrong side of the road, or do you need to mention that the car is red? When you frame your decision-making in this structured framework your ears will tell you what information jars and what information is harmonious with the question on which you have been asked to speak.