I have an audience with our CEO to present our newest product initiative. How do I make sure it’s a success and that I make a great impression?
Nervous in New England
To make a positive impression, it’s important to tailor your presentation as much as possible to your audience and only include what’s necessary to achieve your desired outcome. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
1) Define your ideal outcome. If you hit the ball out of the park in the meeting, what will the CEO believe or do after the meeting? Do you need her to approve the initiative? Or do you need her to allocate budget and resources? Get clear on what you need and structure your presentation so it leads her easily to that outcome.
2) Be concise. Busy CEOs have huge demands on their time. They’re smart and follow things quickly, so it’s important that you get right to the point. Don’t delve into too much detail – stay at a high level, and only drop into the weeds if the CEO leads you there.
3) Be relevant. Chances are your CEO is focused on three to five high-level outcomes for the business — these may include revenue growth, profitability, expense control, customer satisfaction, new products, entering markets, company visibility, etc. Make sure you’re aware of her top three concerns in the business, and connect the dots on how your project or initiative will contribute to the CEO’s hot-button issues.
4) Be bold. Take a stand and make recommendations. Most CEOs aren’t looking for yes-men, they’re looking for strong leaders who are thoughtful in their analysis and have the confidence to defend and stand behind their opinions.
5) Show your passion. CEO’s look for key executives that can lead with passion and enthusiasm. Tell her why this project makes it exciting for you to come to work every day, what you see that makes it so critical to the business. Paint her a vision of the future for what will be possible once your project succeeds.
6) Be yourself. Most successful executives have developed strong interpersonal skills and are very good at reading people. If you try to put on a false persona your CEO is likely to see right through it.
7) Tell the CEO how she can help. Make an ask! When she gets excited about your project she’ll want to help make it a success. Decide in advance what you need. Do you want her to socialize the idea with other executives? Do you need her to make an introduction to someone in her network, or reach out and call the CEO at one of your target companies? The more you can get her to help, the more engaged and invested she’ll be in your project.