For any customer facing role (whether sales, consultancy or service delivery..etc.), conducting face-to-face presentations is an integral part of your job! You might be meeting your customers on weekly or monthly basis, less or more! However, CxO presenting is something that most of us do not do with the same frequency, even if you do, you will always need to be ready for a meeting that is absolutely different than the regular the meetings you have with other CxO subordinates
The scope of this article is about meeting and presenting to CxOs; whatever is there in the X. Meeting a CxO can be simply a maker or unfortunately a breaker! You may have only one chance -that might not come again – to pitch for what you stand for; if this did not go well, it might not go well for long or forever! If it went right, you absolutely have opened the right gate!
Accordingly, preparing your CxO meeting should be different; and if you are presenting, that needs another special preparation as well.
So, whether you are an experienced presenter or still in the beginning stage of learning presentation skills, you will have some interesting take aways out of this article…
Let me breifly discuss the three main stages of these kind of meetings before going into deep details of each of them:
- Before the meeting, you need to be well prepared with what can all serve your purpose
- During the meeting, having the right level of attention and engagement is all what you can hope for a good beginning that will cut most of the way to a positive end, upon finishing, the story doesn’t end, it is just the beginning!
- Post the meeting; make your story! Do the right follow up, fire the right spark and continue the journey of business you have been looking for
Let me get more into that !
Before the meeting
Do the homework
If you are going to speak about an ongoing project, know all facts and review the progress in details. Check with your team what milestones have been achieved and what are the challenges in place, you need to know the overall situation 100%, most probably, other people will be in the meeting room with you, and you never know what questions you might get!
If you are presenting a new proposal, study the current situation about the company you present for and speak to other stakeholders inside this company as much as possible. Know their vision, struggles and aspirations. This will help you so much while pitching in front of the executives so that you can link their needs with what you are showing!
Know something interesting!
It can be very positively distinguished if you leveraged your knowledge before the meeting about something interesting for the audience, like new update on the market, insights about the competitors, new trend…etc
Knowing about your audience background is very useful, their personal interests, their career path, their area of expertise…all these and more
Your presentation: Design, design and flow!
Your slides have pivotal importance in your meeting, there are tons of advices about designing and presenting, however, for CxO presentations, the prospective is much broader and consideration should be taken into higher level !
Humans use their eyes before their ears! So your design is absolutely the first thing to consider if you don’t want to be forgotten! A proper, interesting and storytelling flow keeps your audiences attained and less consumed!
So you can reach to the goal you came for!
Therefore, a Design must be…
- Catchy in a modest way: Your CxO needs to see a difference than other presentations, but not too much!
- Very limited smart animation: Or no animation at all!
- Fewer contents per slide: Otherwise, the eyes will get lost, accordingly the focus!
- Avoid putting too much data: As much as possible! To avoid draining your audiences’ energy too quickly!
In addition, for a proper Flow…
- At the beginning: Story-like start, more incidents and less data
- In the middle: More facts less numbers
- Before closing: More talk about the future!
Cultures are different, accordingly, every way of dressing. Normally – for a woman or a man – a suite works everywhere in the globe, but it is not just the suite, it is rather more about the details of how your look implies…instead of going into fashion dilemma, I want to discuss why you need to be dressed-up! And, what impressions and ideas you want to foster out of that!
- You need to look acceptable to the audience
- You need to show respect to your audience by dressing well!
- You need to avoid looking too slicky or too perfect!
- You need to catch the eye sometimes, but not too much!
- You need to look smart and attractive!
- You need to feel good about your look before your meeting! This boosts the confidence
So no matter what you wear, it’s your talent to choose what can serve the goals above!
Shake hands genuinely
The first thing when getting into the meeting room is to greet your audience, they look at you first before saying Hi, a first impression takes 5 seconds, and this might last until the end of the meeting!, the first 2 seconds when they look at you, and the rest is when they shake-hand with you and say “Hi!”
Shaking hands is a human way of communication where people agree to open up for something, whether a short conversation, a meeting or just a greeting. Shaking hands in all cases is an agreement between two people to communicate, showing the right interest by looking in the eye genuinely and shake hands can be the best way for the other party to positively begin to “Accept” then maybe “Like” you and be ready to start the meeting!
During your meeting
Position and gestures
Stand in a position where your audience can see you comfortably as much as possible, your physical posture builds subconscious impressions among your audience, simply a normal, open and interactive posture is all what you need to lock-in your audience eyes
Avoid rolling your eyes or head to side directions; this implies you are either embarrassed or unfocused. You need to generally look in an angle where you can grasp everyone, and to avoid giving too much attention to one person, even if he/she is the CxO, however, you can shift your eye focus to the CxO direction from now and then if needed
Opening your presentation is the core of your pitch! When you present to a CxO your ultimate goal is to grab the attention from the very beginning, a strong, bold and factual opening is sometimes the best approach for that, a short story telling is another good idea, and there are many techniques that you can use! Just ask yourself this question in order to know how to open up for your presentation:
Why does this executive may want to listen to me?
Because you supposedly will solve a problem, or your will add value
But this is not the right answer! Many others believe they can fix problems and add values; you are just one of them here!
A CxO may want to listen to you because you will convince them that you have the best or the most unique solution for their issues, or you will add a new and interesting value for their business! Planting these ideas in your audience minds and hearts is best done during the opening part of your presentation!
Diversify your communication
Changing the communication style helps in two main things:
1- Refreshing your audience energy of attention, so they can keep up with your presentation
2- Unlocks your audience conscious doors by using different communication keys that can open the way for your ideas to flow
This is generally an act of training, talent and experience, if you cannot do it now, you will definitely can do it later if you kept working on it!
Briefly, maintain a medium, acceptable and clear tone of voice that can elevate to higher levels while using proper body gestures to support or explain the ideas you are presenting, a good way to test you audience attention is to move around a bit and see how they will cope with your move!
Assuming you and your presentation slides are interesting enough, the audience will get engaged properly with you and you will be asked questions during your pitch, if not, then you will need to ask them a question from time to another to elevate or maintain their attention level
The catch here is that if you asked this classic kind of questions: “Is everything clear?” “Any questions?” you will not probably get the right level of engagement you want, also, you need to avoid asking too much provoking questions or teacher-student like questions: “Does anyone know why I am putting this instead of that” or “who can tell me…?” these kinds of questions must be avoided, you are speaking to executives!
Nevertheless, there is a type of questions that is very efficient; I call it the topic-opening question. It is when you ask the audience about specific parts of your presentation and refresh their minds on what you presented, For example, questions like “Do you need me to talk in more details about the KPIs part?” “Is the executive summary covering all queries you have in mind?” “Does this optimization feature links to a current issue you have?” ..etc., I recommend using this kind of questions especially in the parts where you need them to absorb your contents most
Your answers should be clear, short, comprehensive and informative, and then offer to speak in more details if needed. This approach shows that you are aware of what you talking about while maintaining an executive focus
Close with a summary and an idea!
Your closing is the last thing you leave to your audience, giving a brief summary before closing is as important as giving an interesting opening. With the summary, you aggregate all contents into something compelling, simple and easy to memorize, best to use one slide-summary with more visual contents that are easier for the eye to capture
At this time, state the whole idea that made you have this meeting, there is a difference between goals and ideas. You should have mentioned multiple goals during your presentation, so now it’s the best time to make your audience thoughtful or heartfull about what you talked about. For example, if you are presenting to a mobile operator CTO a new service to launch for their IT Service Catalogue, it is the best time before closing to say that the only way to keep leading in the competition is to offer unique, robust and continuous services to your customers, which is why you came!
The importance of such kind of closing is that you bind your audience with a strategic idea aligns with what you have presented, in such way, you get closer to convince this crowd with what you came for without being too persuasive or desperate
After the meeting
Post meeting chats!
Now the presentation is finished and people start to move off their chairs, kicking off some side talks and some action can come to your way!
You might get comments or questions about your presentation or anything else, this opens great chances to build one-to-one rapport with your audience, answer the questions that you know and promise to get back with answers later for the ones that you do not, in both cases; write these questions down in your note. Reply with more details later to any comment you might get, be nice and attentive all the way
Strike while the iron is hot
It is very important to send a confirmation email with your presentation slides (if applicable) and short summary to your audience within one day after finishing your meeting, you need to keep this channel on by sending this summary within the right time window before being forgotten! State the questions you got, confirm the answers you said and promise to get back with more details if needed
Offer multiple options if possible, be flexible and supportive
Confirm any important statements mentioned, articulate your summary so that it looks simple to read and easy to understand
Fire the internal spark
In most cases you will be asked about things that you need to act on, this is where you get your golden chances to show commitment, professionalism and enthusiasm to your customer
Your ultimate goal at this stage will be to get the most detailed and comprehensive answers for your audience, you may need to work internally within different stakeholders/organizations to get these answers for them
Make sure you are doing the right internal follow-up, make sure your audience get the answers they are looking for, send complete answers; that may open another questions to be asked and keeps a positive attention moving forward
If you got a one-to-one question, make sure to send a one-to-one answer, if you got a question by one to all, make sure to send your answers to all. This is one of the secret keys to establish a strong personal bond with your audience
Aligning with different internal resources in your company is vital, without that, you may encounter delays or communication gaps, which will put you in a difficult situation to commit on what you have presented, thus firing the internal spark is needed to be around your customer as complete as possible
Make your story!
Meeting a CxO or a senior executive is just a story that is part of a continuous journey. Make your one easy, interesting, valuable and profitable so that you can sustain long lasting relationship with your customer. When you pitch for a presentation, you are building the most important part of your journey; that should be a memorable success story for you, your business and your organization to share and talk about!