How to craft and nail your upcoming executive presentation

Dave DeFranco

Written by

Dave DeFranco

It can be a bit nerve-racking to present to an executive. We get it. Their position in the organization can cause one to worry about delivering the right presentation — one that provides just enough information to help the exec decide or give strategic direction. There’s always that nagging worry that you might be sharing too much and wasting their time — or serving up too little which then forces the exec to ask for more because they didn’t get what they needed.

We’d like to help shed some light on executive presentations to help you with your next one. Now, there is no magic decoder ring for the perfect executive presentation but with some thoughtful consideration and a little bit of empathy, your next deck should get those executives’ heads nodding.




What is an executive presentation?

Think of an executive presentation as a key business tool. It’s your chance to share your ideas or plans with the top folks in your company — who hold the power for your idea to become a reality.

Think of the executive presentation as a story where you’re the guide. You will lead your audience (the executives):

  • Through a clear path of information (your presentation content);
  • Backed up with solid proof (data and facts) and clear visuals (charts and graphs);
  • And culminate in an ending with a strong finish (your key points or action steps).

Your goal is to inform, persuade, and spark action. Whether you’re pitching a new project, sharing research, or proposing a radical new idea, your executive presentation is your stage for demonstrating how it — and you — can make a difference.

Presenting to a tough crowd

Senior executives are one of the toughest audiences you’ll face as a presenter. They can be impatient due to jam-packed schedules — and they often are asked to make important decisions fast. A long build-up to a big reveal is NOT the way to present to an exec, even if you think you have an interesting story to unfold.

Remember that this might be your one shot. Get to what they care about right away so they can make the decisions you need from them. In a nutshell, you’ll want to present the information that will be important to them, ask questions, and then be done.

Consider taking an executive presentation training

Sometimes a little bit of practice and training is all that the doctor ordered. Try our Presentation Principles™ or Slide Design on-demand courses to really get a grasp of crafting your slides in a persuasive and clear manner. You can do them at your own pace, keep them forever, and review and refresh before all future executive presentations if needed. An executive presentation course is all about making you feel confident with great delivery and well-designed slides.


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6 things your executive presentation should include

When thinking through your executive presentation format, we recommend the below six things to keep in mind.

  1. The goal: What’s the end game here? Set expectations right out of the gate. Don’t be mysterious or bury the lead. “I’m here to show how a new concierge service can increase revenue by 10% year over year.”
  2. The lowdown: Executives are busy folks. Give them a quick rundown of what you’ll be talking about — the topics you’ll be covering and the ultimate action you seek from them.
  3. The proof: Have organized messages and back up your points with solid data. Sharing the evidence for your claims shows you’ve done the work.
  4. The visuals: Use clear visuals to make your data pop. It’s easier on the eyes and the brain when you spotlight the details you want them to see. Don’t bury the insights.
  5. The takeaway: Highlight the “so what?” of your presentation. Be direct. Tell them what they need to take away so it’s obvious.
  6. The action: Be clear and specific on exactly what action you’re asking of them. Do you need their approval? Funds? A team? Their support? Or all of it?

7 tips for keeping executives engaged

  • Keep it snappy: While context is important, starting with too much background information can risk executives disengaging quickly. Get to the point swiftly. Stick to the essentials and ditch the fluff.
  • Create summary slides: When making your slide deck, place a short overview of key points at the front; the rest of your slides should serve as an appendix.
  • Look sharp: Keep your slides clean and professional. Make sure your text is easy to read.
  • Flow like a river: Your presentation should flow logically. Create strong and practical transitions to connect one topic or idea to the next. It helps your audience follow along.
  • Be brief: Executives value brevity. A longer presentation doesn’t necessarily mean greater impact. Focus on key points.
  • Rehearse: Before presenting, run your talk and your slides by someone you trust to give you honest feedback. Try to find someone who’s had success getting ideas adopted at the executive level.
  • Be agile: Be careful though because over-preparation can backfire. Don’t worry about sticking to a script. It’s likely your time might get cut short or unexpected questions arise. Be nimble to go where they need you to go.

Pre-reads and leave behinds are strategic tools to win over executives

Knowing what your executives like and how they prefer to absorb information can make or break the success of your Big Idea™. Executives may require a pre-read to confirm they’re willing to spend their time coming to the meeting or to avoid being surprised in the presentation meeting. They might also expect some form of summary or takeaway so they can mull over your ideas afterwards or share it with others.

It’s no secret that Jeff Bezos banned Powerpoint presentations at executive-level meetings at Amazon. He preferred six-page memos for the executives to read in important meetings, then everyone would discuss afterwards. While we’ve made a living on designing stunning slide presentations, we do agree with the sentiment that there is a time and place where a presentation slide deck isn’t the best medium for all interactions. In many cases, we actually agree with Jeff! That’s why we built Slidedocs® which are perfect for these situations.

Slidedocs® are skimmable, visual documents that powerfully deliver your most important ideas. They are ideal for creating pre-reads or leave-behinds that act as proxy for your important conversations.

Slidedocs don’t replace your executive presentations, but they are created using presentation software so anyone can make them. They give you a way to make your critical information more consumable, easier to understand, and more likely to spread throughout the organization. And we make it easy to get started with your executive pre-reads and leave behinds with these ready-to-use templates.


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Use Slidedocs as an executive presentation template for these situations

A pre-read

The most effective conversations happen when everybody is fully informed. By distributing a Slidedoc™ to an executive before a meeting, you can reserve most of the meeting for building consensus. This is particularly helpful when the topic is highly complex or technical.

Your proxy

Executives will sometimes say, “Send me your slides” before they’ll book a meeting with you. So, when you can’t be there to present your slides, Slidedocs can help fill in the details about your ideas without being there.

Follow-up material to a presentation

Presentations often answer the question, “Why should I embrace your idea?” Yet, after a formal presentation, executives need answers to the question, “How do I embrace your idea?” Providing a follow up Slidedoc with the critical de­tails can help your idea get pushed forward.

Why Slidedocs are great as executive presentation templates

  • Focus on key messages: When you create a Slidedoc, you are boiling down your material to its essence, making the content simpler and easier for the exec to absorb.
  • Visually present your ideas: Slidedocs help executives “see” what you’re saying. When decisions need to be made quickly, visually oriented concepts help executives reach consensus more quickly.
  • Save time: Slidedocs allow executives the time they need to read your material when it’s convenient for them — instead of requiring them to listen to it be presented. If an exec has more time to absorb your ideas, they may be more inclined to adopt them.
  • Drive alignment: After reading a Slidedoc, executives, stakeholders, and decision makers can gather to have a more effective dialog and create movement toward decisions and outcomes.
  • Accelerate understanding: Slidedocs help executives understand your ideas more quickly because the information has been dissected, organized, and visually depicted.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? It is, but presenting to an executive is a great opportunity and can be the key that unlocks exciting doors. If you nail it, people with a lot of influence will become strong advocates for your ideas. If you need some training to help you find your compelling story, consider our Resonate® training so you can learn how to think empathetically towards your executive.

Practice your public speaking before presenting to senior executives

Presenting to senior executives shouldn’t be daunting if you prepare. Taking a quick workshop to learn with a group on the skills of public speaking is a great idea. Whether you lack confidence in public speaking, encounter mental blocks, just want more practice, or just want to polish your own executive presence, our world-renowned workshop, Captivate™ is the public speaking course for you. In it, you can learn presentation foundations like how to increase your confidence in every speaking setting, or how to better persuade others by how you speak, or how to create a memorable impression by leveraging your personality.

It’s time to nail your high-stakes moment

Duarte has long been revered as the storytelling agency of Silicon Valley. For over 30+ years, we’ve worked with leaders from Fortune 100 companies like Apple, Salesforce, VMware, and Cisco — just to name a few. Whether we’re tackling cinematic presentation design, strategic content development, or bespoke executive presentation coaching, we are no strangers to high-stakes moments.

Whether your presenting to senior executives, a board of investors, or the press, we can help. Remember, the secret sauce to a killer executive presentation is preparation. Know your audience, know your stuff, and practice till you nail it. You’ve got this.


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