11 steps for developing PR presentations that wow top execs

You have to speak their language and key on the numbers that matter most to them. Here’s how to plan your talk, excise needless details, and deliver attention-grabbing metrics.

11 presentation tips

Focused PR measurement is the best way to demonstrate to top execs how PR activities serve the organization’s overall goals.

Advanced media monitoring and PR measurement tools can gather multiple data points and automatically organize information into charts and graphs to illustrate the effectiveness of PR campaigns. But that’s no longer enough. To persuade company leaders to approve proposals and funding requests, PR executives must deliver compelling presentations that explain what the PR data mean to the organization’s overall success.

It’s easy to stumble when making presentations to top executives. The executives have high expectations and standards for executive presentations by divisions and departments. They have preferred formats and they rigorously enforce time limits.

These tips from executive coaches and PR veterans can help PR presenters win execs’ approval for PR campaigns and budgets.

1. Address business goals. Numbers of impressions will probably not impress the top honchos. Instead report PR metrics that support marketing and sales goals. Reporting how PR contributed to website traffic would be better; number of sales leads would be even better. It’s best to focus on a handful of metrics aligned with goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely, using web analytics and media measurement tools.

2. Explain the problem. You may have a great idea, but top executives and especially CEOs are swamped by ideas, many of them quite good. They’re too busy for ideas that don’t solve problems. Spend the first quarter of your allotted time explaining the problem and the next quarter on the idea that addresses the problem, CEO coach Sabina Nawaz recommends in the Harvard Business Journal. The more urgent the problem appears, the more eager your audience will be for the solution.

3. Focus on core elements. A concise presentation that includes only the most important campaign elements focuses attention and makes it easier for executives to approve the plan.  Once you’ve put all your information into slides, edit, edit, edit. Eliminate slides. Simplify slides. Make everything easy to understand. Apple’s new product presentations are masterful. The slides have only a few words to drive home one key idea. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. Finely hone your script. Then, edit again based on your rehearsals.

4. Leave time for interaction. Providing thoughtful answers to questions is often more convincing than including details in the presentation. Presenters often waste precious time by rehashing what the audience already knows, overexplaining obvious facts or covering unnecessary details. That mistake crowds out important time for questions and answers. Reserve the second half of your allotted time for questions, Nawaz advises. That may seem like a large chunk of time, but it could be the most valuable. Many people think no questions means success. Wrong. Questions signal interest in the proposal. The more, the better. Small information gaps in the presentation stimulate questions. By intentionally omitting some information from the presentation, you can anticipate questions and formulate answers in advance.

5. Get the numbers right. One incorrect number and executives might automatically question the rest of your presentation and PR measurement data. Be sure of your facts, and know the sources of your information. If there’s an error, quickly follow up with a correction. If you don’t know an answer, admit it without wasting time, and say you’ll follow up.

6. Recruit participation. Plan an answer to the question: “What do you need from me?” or “How can I help?” If you merely stammer, “Ummm, nothing,” you’ll leave the decision-makers perplexed over your goals and their roles. Presenters often focus on convincing others their ideas are brilliant and winning budget approvals. They forget to solicit participation from others. “Ultimately, people want to be connected to the success of the company, and your success hinges on getting others involved,” executive coach Jeevan Balani says in Forbes.

7. Speak in their jargon. PR and marketing pros often speak in their own jargon, throwing out words like “brand position” and “awareness.” That’s fine for talking with peers, but when presenting to top-tier executives, adopt the language they know and care about. “Nobody in the C-suite gets excited about programmatic, brand positioning or click rates. But when you talk revenue, costs, profit or impact on society, the eyes are on you,” writes Marketing Week columnist Thomas Barta.

8. Avoid data overload. Account executives sometimes dump numbers onto slides, thinking that large amounts of data will impress viewers, but too much data overwhelms and confuses the audience. “In my experience, dashboards containing tailored metrics work quite well to share easy-to-digest and sizable, but still actionable, insights,” writes Jennifer Sanchis for the International Association of Business Communicators.

9. Simplify the data. Trying to become too fancy with data visualization can confuse viewers. Present data as simply and cleanly as possible. For instance, to compare changes over time, simply plot the data in a line graph. Avoid 3D bars, which can be confusing. Label all chart elements. Be sure to clearly title the chart, label each axis and appropriately label each trend line or other chart element. The latest software for presentations and PR measurement enables pop-up labeling of chart elements.

10. Make one core recommendation. One well-conceived recommendation resonates better than a multilayered proposal and is more likely to win approval. Leave details about tactical implementation for your Q&A. You may want to have some slides in reserve to answer questions about implementation. Before the meeting ends, confirm the meeting decision and next steps. If you’ve received approval of the core proposal, insulate top decision-makers from nitty-gritty implementation, unless they specifically request to be included in tactical decision-making. Provide the executives with regular updates on progress of the approved activity.

11. Look ahead. Positive media mentions please management, but sometimes PR measurement reporting time arrives before results arrive. If that happens, provide a list of current campaigns and the media placements in progress and expected results. That can help coordinate campaigns with marketing and other departments.

A version of this post first appeared on the Glean.info blog.

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