Top Management Presentations – Show Less To Succeed

It’s a very common situation when people pitch their ideas and solutions to top executive teams. The presenter, well worded and equipped with lots of beautiful PowerPoint slides talks with lots of passion about his proposal. The presentation is well prepared, the story flows with a good information layout, nothing seems to prevent the presenter to succeed.

However, the audience, senior executives, don’t show the same excitement as the presenter. They seem to be inpatient, constantly looking at their watches, drawing pictures on their notepad and some of them even may play around with their mobile phone.

How comes? Why did the presenter fail to get the audience excited?

One reason certainly may be that the proposed solution really doesn’t make sense to the respective business. If this is the case, reasons are obvious and we don’t need to discuss this further.

However, I observed very often, that even though the proposed solution would really add lots of value to the company, people fail to get the point across. From my observation in many of these cases the major reason was that the presenter presented all possible features to the audience, but failed to emphasize on those aspects that really matter to the audience.

With very senior management, presenting everything you have to show may lead to failure in the end!

Therefore, don’t present all your good features. Instead, focus on what really makes a difference to the audience. Understanding key issues of the audience and present only what really matters  … this is what sells and makes senior management to agree to your proposal.

To make this more clear, here three examples:

  • Example 1: Selling complex software solutions. A software company had a very comprehensive solution for business intelligence with lots of features. The potential client had already done a lot of research on this kind of solutions and was willing to consider another solution in their software selection process. The reason why other solutions haven’t succeeded yet was due to the fact that this company had some very specific requirements that the other solutions couldn’t fulfill. Despite knowing the specific issue that needed to be fixed, the sales person tried to present all features of the system, neglecting that the customer was looking for very specific points that would differentiate the presented solution from competitors. After about ten minutes, the CEO stopped the sales person’s presentation because he felt that he was wasting his time. Until this point, he felt that he sees exactly the same features that he has seen in many other presentations of other software companies. Fortunately, the CEO was able to phrase his specific question after stopping the presentation and the software company was able to demonstrate the answer to this question within 3 minutes. The fast answer on just one specific issues resulted in a quick decision to move on with this software. The CEO gave instruction to his IT team to have a quick check after the meeting if other requirements are covered, but because the one specific point has been answered he agreed to go for the presented solution. The software company nearly lost the deal by presenting all features, but they won the deal by showing only one specific aspects that differentiated the solution from competitors. Therefore, when selling software, know exactly what problem you are going to solve and don’t present all you have. Presenting all will only dilute the great value that you have to offer
  • Example 2: Presenting solutions for Process Improvement. A process improvement consultant did an assessment of a customer complaint process at a large auto manufacturing company. The main improvement recommendations were to a) change a policy and b) implement process monitoring software. Both solutions are very different in nature and require very different levels of people to implement the solution. While the change in policy will lead to hefty discussions among the top management team, the process monitoring tool can probably be implemented without any involvement of senior management. The tool is simple and inexpensive while the policy has high impact on the customer community and would cost lots of money. The consultant presented both solutions to the responsible Vice President. The presentation of the proposal to change the policy got the client think very hard. He understood and agreed with the solution, but was concerned about how he can position this well to top management. Then the consultant presented about a simple Microsoft Access tracking tool. Now, the client got confused. He was still in the mind set of heavy policy changing and suddenly had to think about data capturing fields and report layouts. After a while of trying to understand the tracking tool, he stopped the consultant to present and asked to separate the issues. Let’s focus first on the change in policy and get this through the senior management team. After this, he will get back to the process tracking tool and implement this internally without involving higher ranked people. If the consultant did understand the impact of both solutions well before the meeting, he would probably have started the meeting as follows: “After the assessment I propose two solutions that are very different in nature. I suggest to focus today only on the first one because this will need approval by the senior management team. We can address the second solution at a later point in about two weeks from now.
  • Example 3: Presenting a Business Plan to Investors. This start-up company wanted to leverage opportunities in the Internet. They had a great idea and the right team together. Now they were looking for investors. The owner of the new company saw lots of upside potential for the time after the initial idea would have been successfully implemented. To ensure the potential investor will be willing to put cash into the company, he not only presented the core business idea and the respective business model. After a quick run through the core business plan, he spent at least the same amount of time talking about all the additional upside potential once the first idea is successful. He probably presented about 5-7 additional revenue streams that could be explored in about 2-3 years from now. This confused the investor completely. The core business idea was diluted in the mind of the future investor. So, what is this business going to be about? Where is the main revenue stream again coming from? It took quite some efforts to moderate the meeting back to the starting point. In the end, the owner had to state very clearly that the investor should forget all upside potential for now and just concentrate on the core business. Then the owner had to present the first part of the presentation again to re-clarify what the new company will be about. Therefore, the attempt to show all if’s and when’s of the far future resulted in a very confusing meeting. The only way to get the meeting back on track was to state clearly that the audience should forget about half of the information provided and focus only on the first 10 slides

These are only three examples where the presenter is too eager on getting all available knowledge to the audience and struggled with the main message because their diluted the content that really mattered. I see this happening very very often.

Therefore, try to take all nice to have information out of your presentations. We always believe that additional benefits and features will increase the chance to succeed. But focusing on the point and presenting only what is closely related to the proposed solution will make you successful.

And what about all the other interesting things that we have to say?

Believe me – they don’t matter!


Photo Courtesy by Melvin Schlubman

It’s a very common situation when people pitch their ideas and solutions to top executive teams. The presenter, well worded and equipped with lots of beautiful PowerPoint slides talks with lots of passion about his proposal. The presentation is well prepared, the story flows with a good information layout, nothing seems to prevent the presenter to succeed.

However, on the other side of the table you see senior executives what don’t show the same excitement as the presenter. They seem to be inpatient, constantly looking at their watches, drawing pictures on their notepad and some of them even may play around with their mobile phone.

Why is this? How comes that even though the presenter did all homework, he or she still doesn’t get the audience excited?

One reason certainly may be that the proposed solution really doesn’t make sense to the respective business. If this is the case, reasons are obvious and we don’t need to discuss this further.

However, I observed very often, that even though the proposed solution would really add lots of value to the company, people fail to get the point across. From my observation in many of these cases the major reason was that the presenter presented all possible features to the audience, but failed to emphasize on those aspects that really matter to the audience.

With very senior management, presenting all features of a solution may lead to failure in the end!

Therefore, don’t present all your good features. Instead, focus on what really makes a difference to the audience. Understanding key issues of the audience and present only what really matters  … this is what sells and makes senior management to agree to your proposal.

To make this more clear, here three examples:

  • Example 1: Selling complex software solutions. A software company had a very comprehensive solution for business intelligence with lots of features. The potential client had already done a lot of research on this kind of solutions and was willing to consider another solution in their software selection process. The reason why other solutions haven’t succeeded yet was due to the fact that this company had some very specific requirements that the other solutions couldn’t fulfill. Despite knowing the specific issue that needed to be fixed, the sales person tried to present all features of the system, neglecting that the customer was looking for very specific points that would differentiate the presented solution from competitors. After about ten minutes, the CEO stopped the sales person’s presentation because he felt that he was wasting his time. Until this point, he felt that he sees exactly the same features that he has seen in many other presentations of other software companies. Fortunately, the CEO was able to phrase his specific question after stopping the presentation and the software company was able to demonstrate the answer to this question within 3 minutes. The fast answer on just one specific issues resulted in a quick decision to move on with this software. The CEO gave instruction to his IT team to have a quick check after the meeting if other requirements are covered, but because the one specific point has been answered he agreed to go for the presented solution. The software company nearly lost the deal by presenting all features, but they won the deal by showing only one specific aspects that differentiated the solution from competitors. Therefore, when selling software, know exactly what problem you are going to solve and don’t present all you have. Presenting all will only dilute the great value that you have to offer
  • Example 2: Presenting solutions for Process Improvement. A process improvement consultant did an assessment of a customer complaint process at a large auto manufacturing company. The main improvement recommendations were to a) change a policy and b) implement process monitoring software. Both solutions are very different in nature and require very different levels of people to implement the solution. While the change in policy will lead to hefty discussions among the top management team, the process monitoring tool can probably be implemented without any involvement of senior management. The tool is simple and inexpensive while the policy has high impact on the customer community and would cost lots of money. The consultant presented both solutions to the responsible Vice President. The presentation of the proposal to change the policy got the client think very hard. He understood and agreed with the solution, but was concerned about how he can position this well to top management. Then the consultant presented about a simple Microsoft Access tracking tool. Now, the client got confused. He was still in the mind set of heavy policy changing and suddenly had to think about data capturing fields and report layouts. After a while of trying to understand the tracking tool, he stopped the consultant to present and asked to separate the issues. Let’s focus first on the change in policy and get this through the senior management team. After this, he will get back to the process tracking tool and implement this internally without involving higher ranked people. If the consultant did understand the impact of both solutions well before the meeting, he would probably have started the meeting as follows: “After the assessment I propose two solutions that are very different in nature. I suggest to focus today only on the first one because this will need approval by the senior management team. We can address the second solution at a later point in about two weeks from now.
  • Example 3: Presenting a Business Plan to Investors. This start-up company is in the field of online games. They had a great idea and the right team together and were now looking for investors. The owner of the new company saw lots of upside potential for the time after the initial idea would have been successfully implemented. To ensure the potential investor will be willing to put cash into the company, he not only presented the core business idea and the respective business model. After a quick run through the core business plan, he spent at least the same amount of time talking about all the additional upside potential once the first idea is successful. He probably presented about 5-7 additional revenue streams that could be explored in about 2-3 years from now. This confused the investor completely. The core business idea was diluted in the mind of the future investor. So, what is this business going to be about? Where is the main revenue stream again coming from? It took quite some efforts to moderate the meeting back to the starting point. In the end, the owner had to state very clearly that the investor should forget all upside potential for now and just concentrate on the core business. Then the owner had to present the first part of the presentation again to re-clarify what the new company will be about. Therefore, the attempt to show all if’s and when’s of the far future resulted in a very confusing meeting. The only way to get the meeting back on track was to state clearly that the audience should forget about half of the information provided and focus only on the first 10 slides

These are only three examples where the presenter is too eager on getting all available knowledge to the audience and struggled with the main message because their diluted the content that really mattered. I see this happening very very often.

Therefore, try to take all nice to have information out of your presentations. We always believe that additional benefits and features will increase the chance to succeed. But focusing on the point and presenting only what is closely related to the proposed solution will make you successful.

And what about all the other interesting things that we have to say? Believe me – they don’t matter!

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