A few weeks ago, I gave a presentation to some of the company’s C-level and senior executives. Presenting at that level meant my presentation had to be polished, and as for myself, appear to know what the hell I was doing. Not only was my reputation on the line, but also my manager’s and the rest of the team’s. The meeting weighed on my mind in the weeks leading to it. Deep down, I knew the success of the meeting would come down to one thing, preparation.
- PowerPoint Slideshow. I had to develop the slideshow with elements that would grab the audience’s’ attention within the first few slides. Also, the content had to be concise. Which meant, deliver the message with as few words as possible.
- Rehearsal and Fine Tuning. A draft of the presentation was reviewed by my manager. There were times when he did not agree on some of the content, and I challenged him on the content he wanted to add. Going back and forth and sharing ideas helped to create a solid presentation. We rehearsed the presentation the day before the meeting and made minor tweaks. The rest of the time was spent practicing on my own and timing the presentation length.
- Meeting Invitations: Meeting invitations were sent by a highly-visible managing director who knew all the executives. Why him and not me? Simply because I’m not as visible at that level and only a handful of the executives knew me. He was sponsoring the presentation and supposedly, I was hand-selected to give it based on previous experience. If I sent the invitations, most of them would have been ignored. The meeting had to be scheduled one and a half months in advance because executive are usually booked for weeks.
- Meeting Length: How the heck do you hold an executive’s attention for an hour and a half meeting? The solution, provide a tasty catered lunch. Lunch wasn’t served until half an hour in.
- Meeting Participant Location: Booked an executive conference room in advance for three hours, giving time to setup and to tear down. Most invitees were on site, one was in another state. Which meant a web conference had to be setup.
- Web Conferencing System: Tested functionality with a colleague on the day before the meeting.
- Note Taking: Identified two scribes a few days before the meeting. Briefed them on which items to focus on when taking notes.
Before the Start of the Meeting
- Equipment: Setup the laptop and projector fifteen minutes before start time.
- Dry Mouth Prevention: Placed a small bottle of water within reach.
- Remote Participant: Setup web conference and activated the conference bridge. Confirmed the person could hear me loud and clear, and vice versa.
- Microphones: Strategically placed the microphones around the over-sized conference table.
- Pen and Paper: A small notepad and pen were placed at each seating position.
- Introductions: As people were entering the room, I approached people I had not met before, introduced myself and gave handshakes.
- Roll call: Took attendance to log who did not show up.
Towards the End of the Meeting
- Thanked everyone for attending.
- Reviewed the action items.
- Took home leftovers.
The success of the meeting was due to advanced planning, thinking about possible disruptions and how to minimize them, and of course practicing.