Let’s face it; financial data has a reputation for being boring and a financial presentation can fill even the most devoted professionals with dread.
To change this perception, you need to create a financial data presentation you’re excited to give. Hold the interest of your audience instead of making them feel like they are being held captive. Use these tips to make a financial presentation interesting and make sure people listen to what you have to say.
1. Communicate the story behind the data
People respond to stories better than data and figures. When you plan your business presentation, plan to tell the who, what, when, where and why behind the numbers. Data will appeal to people's analytical brains, but to maintain their interest you also have to use examples to explain who the numbers affect, where the figures come from and why they are important.
You don't need to be a born storyteller to do this, you just have to go a bit deeper. So rather than simply saying 'These are the projections for next year' or 'these are our business goals', go further and and talk about where that projection has come from, what has and can still influence it, and why it's important for your audience to know.
But, remember this: keep it simple. In the words of the great Steve Jobs:
'That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity.'
2. Follow the 10-20-30 rule
PowerPoint presentations used to be great, but overused and, quite frankly, poorly-made presentations have branded them an instrument of evil in meeting rooms around the world.
But, there is hope.
Guy Kawasaki's 10-20-30 rule is simple: a presentation should include: ten slides, last twenty minutes, and use thirty point font.
By following this process, you keep the presentation concise and it forces you to get to the point. This sets up ideal conditions for your audience to tune in to what you're saying.
3. Hide your notes and bullet points
There’s nothing wrong with a handout or takeaway, but if you put your whole business presentation on the handout or on the screen behind you, your audience will read ahead and then tune you out. It's a fact of human nature and we've all done it at least once in our careers.
Make sure your handouts and slides don’t detract from what you're saying. Remember that you and what you have to say are the main event. Keep your slides simple and then expand and explore with your own commentary.
In the words of Mary Angelou:
'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.'
4. Make it picture perfect
Too much text will kill any presentation. People just don't respond to blocks of uninterrupted information. To make a financial presentation interesting, slides ensure you have at least a few interesting and relevant graphics. A well-designed, simple presentation will catch your listeners’ eyes and attention.
If design isn’t your thing, apps for finance like Roambi or Collabmobile turn data into attractive visuals that will back up what you have to say. And, if it's appropriate, throw in a funny picture or gif to illustrate a point. We're all human and making us crack a smile during a data-heavy presentation can be refreshing.
5. Channel the pros
Once you’ve planned what to say and what materials you will use, you have to know how you're going to say it. This means learning to communicate with your audience by taking some tips from the masters.
Warren Buffet, financial investment guru, talks about finances all the time, and if you watch his talks online, he’s a charming, relatable speaker, not boring at all. When Steve Jobs spoke, he took technical information and made it interesting.
How you talk affects how people listen, so work on your public speaking abilities even if you only present in the meeting room.
6. Arrange for discussion
People are more interested in conversation than a speech. To engage your audience in your presentation, allow time for discussion. They might have plenty to say or nothing at all, but it's always good to offer the floor for comments, questions and suggestions for improvement. Interaction reigns in the attention of the audience since they have to participate and prove they've been listening.
7. Open and close
Steve Jobs began keynotes with ‘I have four things I want to talk about today.’ Guy Kawasaki's talks always consist of ten points. By doing this, they are letting their audience know how long their talk is going to last so that the audience know how long they have to concentrate for.
Letting them know what to expect in terms of how much material you have to cover gives your audience something to watch out for and helps them to follow along, knowing there's a fixed endpoint. On your final point, include a ‘and just one more thing’ to let them know you're coming to a close.
If you have a lot to cover, try to find a way of condensing it down into fewer points because if you start your presentation by telling the audience you have 25 things to cover then you're in for a collective groan and disengagement (plus, it's not good for business productivity).
Make a financial presentation interesting
Financial presentations don’t have to be boring and a meeting about finance no longer has to fill your colleagues with dread.
Giving meaning to your numbers, making your financial information visual and interesting to look at and engaging with your audience will help ensure your finance meetings become the highlight of your colleagues calendars, not the dread of their diaries.
You might not get it right the first time, but as long as you're always trying to improve, you'll get there - and your audience will thank you for it.