As the role of the CFO continues to evolve, outstanding communication, interpersonal, and public speaking talents are no longer considered irrelevant skills for financial executives. They are now necessities for career success and they play a crucial part in creating dynamic presentations. Body language, articulation, context, and audience connection are all criteria for top notch pitches. But, according to statistics, only 1 in 100 senior financial professionals demonstrate the ability to be an engaging presenter.  

In September 2015 The Atlanta CFO Leadership Council was pleased to present Executive Communication Coaching for CFOs: Articulating Your Vision and Value, conducted by Darlene Price, President and Founder of the award winning Well Said!, Inc.. This event offered valuable advice and tips to help executives master the skill of delivering high impact presentations with confidence, clarity, and proficiency.

We Learned:

Carefully Consider Your Audience Objectives and Content

Your first approach to a noteworthy presentation is to ask yourself about your audience. Who are they and what are their names, titles, and roles? How diverse are they? What are their key issues and challenges? How do they define success? What are their expectations of you? How much do they know about your topic? What are their attitudes about you and your topic and are they positively or negatively disposed? What are possible objections or questions that they might have for you?

Next, consider what your audience members will gain from your presentation and, ultimately, focus on a learning goal for them. Then, develop an introduction and preview which will capture their attention, followed by your key points, supporting material, and a transition to your summary and closing remarks.  

Create A Visually Inviting Presentation

Once you have defined your audience, you must then develop a lively and interesting presentation that will keep them engaged. When addressing your group, it is important to face them and not simply read from your slides. Apply the 10-20-30 rule: A presentation with 10 slides lasting no longer than 20 minutes with all font sizes 30 points or greater.   Use phrases, not full sentences. Choose relevant photos instead of text. Contrast the background color with text color. Minimize the animation of your text. Limit each slide to one point. Omit unnecessary sound effects and use initial caps, lower case, and a simple sans serif font.

Body Language Is the Key To Effective Delivery: Be Natural

In addition to creating an audience-friendly presentation, it is important to pay close attention to your own body language. Focus on your facial and eye communication and personalize your delivery by directing your remarks to one person at a time for about 2-3 seconds each. Avoid eye-darting, looking down, and staring at your presentation screen.  Smile, show emotion, and vary your expressions and gestures.

It is also imperative to constantly be aware of your posture and body movement. Move your entire arm, use open palms, and avoid crossing your arms.   Square your shoulders to the listener, balance your weight evenly, and avoid slouching. Make a confident entrance, state your opening and closing remarks in the center of the room, step away from the lectern, move into the audience, transition from side to side, and avoid pacing.

Also, be aware of and refrain from any distracting mannerisms, including fidgeting, tapping, clicking, and clenching or ringing your hands. Resist pointing your finger at the audience, twisting a ring or a watch, and keeping your hands in your pockets and jingling change. Being as natural as possible will help you gain attention and respect.

Use An Effective Voice

Effective voice projection requires breathing from the diaphragm. To learn how, lie flat on your back with your knees up and a book on your stomach.  Breathe deeply, and notice the book rise and fall as you inhale and exhale.  As you exhale, count aloud or say the alphabet.  Notice the increased vocal volume.   Next, “sing the scales”, which will assist you in identifying your range. Then, once you have discovered your range, practice with a sentence and change the emphasis on different words to work on your pitch.

Your voice tone and vocal projection will help you to demonstrate authority and confidence. Make sure that you are speaking at the right volume and at an appropriate pace. Articulate so that every word is clear and distinct and be cognizant of your pitch and inflection. And, avoid a monotone voice.

Attire Should Be One Notch Above The Best Dressed Person In Your Audience

Although today’s dress code tends to be very casual in the industry, it was advised that the general guideline for presenters is to consider the audience and dress one notch above the best dressed. To portray a level of professionalism and authority, wear a business suit or business casual attire with a jacket. Choose high quality well-tailored garments and avoid showy accessories and busy patterns.

Connect With Your Audience

To be a well-respected speaker, you should never be unprepared or try to “wing it”. It is also crucial that you do not overload your listeners with an abundance of details, disregard their level of understanding, or create a generic detached delivery. Also, be aware of keeping your presentation within the allotted time frame and refrain from using any form of inappropriate humor.

The best way to connect and identify with your audience is to use such phrases as

  • What this means for you is
  • Key advantages to you are
  • The bottom line for you is
  • As a result you can
  • The benefits for you are
  • The key takeaway for you is

As you continuously strive to improve your communication technique, keep in mind that a good speaker is believable, sincere, well-prepared, organized, and always shows enthusiasm, respect, and expertise. Aim to be an active listener, address the specific audience needs, speak confidently, use appropriate humor, and pay close attention to questions and answers.

Practice Makes Perfect

When asked about her recommendations on the best way to put all of these tips into practice, Ms. Price advised us to volunteer to speak at work and in the community or join Toastmasters at www.toastmasters.com. Get as much speaking experience as you can.  

If you would like more information on Darlene Price and Well Said!, Inc., visit www.wellsaid.com. We also encourage you to read her award winning book Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results.

For further details on any of our additional upcoming programs, please contact us.

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