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Five Presentation Tips

May 1, 1993
What makes an effective presentation to the CEO? HR professionals sometimes make the mistake of thinking that they have to reinvent the presentation, according to Ed Dunn, corporate VP of HR for Benton Harbor, Michigan-based Whirlpool Corp. He and other experienced HR professionals suggest the following tips to improve your chances, whether your presentation is to the CEO or to a group of decision makers:

  1. Know the CEO.
    Find out as much as you can about your boss. What are his or her hot buttons? What keeps him or her awake at night? What kind of background does your president or CEO have? Who really makes the decisions? Don't assume that you know the answers. Test your hypotheses. In general, however, most CEOs live in a high-risk environment and tend to focus on the organization's strategy and vision.

  2. Know the business
    Make sure that your program is linked to business goals or supports the business. Be prepared to show how. Use business language, not HR jargon. How much will it cost? What are the anticipated benefits? In what other ways will the program impact the organization?

  3. Keep everything in perspective.
    Look at your presentation through the eyes of the president or CEO. Your boss may have had to sit through 50 other proposals before you enter the room. Although this proposal is important to you—and you believe it's important for your organization—the top executive may consider other things to be more important.

  4. Anticipate questions.
    Try to figure out all the possible questions you might be asked during your presentation. Find out the answers and the possible implications of these answers. Be prepared to overcome negatives.

  5. Keep it short, simple and direct.
    Your CEO is a busy person. "Don't build a spaceship when a little red wagon will do," Dunn says. Don't try to be entertaining. You may have only a few minutes to state the most important points. Don't run the risk of running out of time. If the CEO wants more information, he or she will ask for it.

Personnel Journal, May 1993, Vol. 72, No. 5, p. 115.