Command the Room: Executive's Guide to Powerful Presentations

Published on May 20, 2024


A lot is on the line when you present to a business prospect, potential investor or your CEO or board. With 63% of executives basing purchase decisions on the quality of a presentation, every aspect needs to be sharp.

Confidence, content and presentation delivery all influence your ability to obtain buy-in from the audience. Yet improving in these areas alone is not enough to ensure a strong, impactful presentation when high stakes are involved.

To captivate attention and make a lasting impression, take time to understand your audience and how you can help them.

Here are a few insights into how executives can command the room and deliver powerful presentations that drive results.

The Executive's Advantage: Understanding Attention Spans

At Point Road Group, one of the most common mistakes we see executives make during presentations is overestimating how attentive their audience is. While the average human attention span is not nine seconds (despite viral claims likening us to goldfish), cognitive research does show that people stop paying attention after about ten minutes. Unless you vary the format a bit, this is when the human brain starts to wander. Drawing people into the presentation early – and maintaining interest with engaging elements throughout – is essential to communicate your message effectively.

Powerful executive presentations - when audiences stop listening | Point Road Group

Here are five attention-grabbing reminders:

  • Leverage charisma and executive presence to command eyes and ears. Exude confidence through positive body language and vocal inflection.
  • Put yourself in the audience’s shoes and tailor content to resonate with their interests. The CEO and board, for example, care less about process details and a lot more about ROI.
  • Let numbers do the talking. Showcase relevant, data-driven insights to enhance delivery. But don’t overdo it. Your point can get lost in a sea of too many figures.
  • Consider the level of detail. Are you providing enough for the audience to understand why they should care about the topic? Or are you including too much? Is anything missing or extraneous/distracting?
  • Change it up! Break up long stretches of talking through slides with time for questions or other interactive elements.

Want To Really Captivate Them? Tell a Great Story

Powerful presentations are all about storytelling. In Talk Like TED, author Carmine Gallo found that stories boost audience retention by 22 times compared to facts and figures alone. Using a relatable, compelling narrative to connect emotionally with an audience achieves two important goals. 1. They will pay attention. 2. They will remember more of what you said.

That said, a bad story can still lose your audience. Above all, good storytelling is clear and concise. Avoid tangents or technical jargon. Instead, focus on the hero (central character) and their journey through conflict/problem to resolution. Ideally, tailor this character so that the audience identifies with it, as part of the solution.

The Key to Enhancing Your Message: Quality Visuals

This isn’t new advice, but it bears repeating since so many people miss the mark: use quality visuals to enhance your message. According to Hubspot, people retain 65% of what they see in a visual versus 10% of what they hear alone.

Powerful executive presentations - people remember 65% of what they see | Point Road Group

However, this doesn’t mean turning every talking point into a bullet or image. Too much text or imagery will overwhelm the audience and your message will get lost. Less is more. Slides should not include all presentation notes. They should include engaging visuals to complement and enhance understanding of what you say.

Do you have important metrics or financials to share? Displaying too much at once can make it difficult for people to read any of it on the screen. Instead, carve out the most impactful figures and consider an infographic (versus a highly detailed graph or spreadsheet).

When creating a presentation, it’s hard to be objective about your own content and evaluate if the level of detail is appropriate. A simple solution is asking someone not involved with your presentation (or its focus) to review the slides and identify areas of too much or too little information (especially with bullets and charts).

Think You’ve Practiced Enough? Think Again!

Delivery plays a big role in the overall impact of any presentation. Even when you know the content of your presentation very well, practice anyway to refine inflection and timing for maximum impact. The best public speakers display a certain ease and relaxed confidence with their delivery. This isn’t simply due to a natural talent; it’s the product of extensive practice presenting their topic to make it look and sound like it’s second nature.

Do you get anxious about public speaking? Welcome to the club; 70% of executives admit feeling that way. Practicing is one of the many approaches that can help reduce presentation nerves. Presentation coaching is a helpful solution to learn management strategies too.

Become a Presenting Powerhouse

Increase your success by giving powerful and persuasive presentations in any situation. Point Road Group will help you accomplish this through our executive coaching programs or corporate workshops. Contact us to learn more.

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