It can be exciting and unnerving when asked to present to higher-level management or senior executives about a specific activity or high-visibility project.
The more you prepare in advance, taking into account what’s important to your stakeholders, the better equipped you’ll be to customize your content and approach. This involves how you greet everyone, set up the context, formulate your content, and consider answers to potential questions.
Include empathy and compassion in your preparation.
Like you, your stakeholders’ calendars are probably filled with many meetings and “fire drills” on top of their personal and professional commitments.
Because of that, how they show up will fluctuate depending on their leadership style, the topic’s priority level, and what’s top of mind for them that day. This means that regardless of all your hard work and preparation, you may be asked to cut things short or focus only on the essentials, forcing you to adapt in the moment.
Showcasing that you understand and respect their time will be paramount in how you respond. Also, you’ll need to let go of what you want, aka “your specific agenda or desired outcome,” and be ready for them to interject, comment, and probe at an increased speed.
Your ability to stay present, listen intently and acknowledge what you hear is crucial for fostering trust. Rather than avoiding discomfort by focusing on what you’ll say next, spacing out, or glossing over any concerns, take accountability for the next steps to demonstrate your leadership acumen and maturity.
The “art of pivoting” in the moment.
Managing your emotions effectively while being aware of the energy and vibe flowing in the environment are proficiencies you can cultivate. And unless your instinctual nature is acclimating like a chameleon, you’ll most likely need to integrate new behaviors and habits to minimize your “nerves” taking over a conversation.
When preparing for your next meeting or presentation, here are five things to try:
Do your due diligence.
This includes all your preparation and thinking through your stakeholders’ needs, preferences, and what they typically want or expect when hearing updates like yours. Strategizing your approach with your manager and asking them or other colleagues about their experiences of what works well and what doesn’t is also a plus.
Get crystal clear on your main objective and what you need.
Experiment with the message triangle to anchor your main objective and key messages in a concise and compelling manner. Put yourself in the receiver’s shoes to select the most relevant components and prioritize your facts and details so they are readily available while leaving plenty of room to connect and have dialogue.
Conduct a “dry run.”
Ask a trusted partner to act as your stakeholder, interrupting and asking you various questions to force you to flex in the moment. Based on your main objective, have them reflect on what they found most meaningful and what was missing.
Practice some “boilerplate statements.”
In case you receive blank stares or the discussion gets off-track, you’ll want to have a few transition phrases that you’re familiar with to help you remain calm and address what you’re noticing before it becomes an issue. For example, “I know I’ve covered a lot so far; I’ll pause and see if I should continue or if you have questions” or “In the interest of time, would it make sense for me to set up another meeting on topic X?”
Create and include an agenda and executive summary.
By reviewing an agenda upfront, you can quickly align everyone on the purpose of the meeting. At this time, you can also provide a high-level overview of what you plan to share or ask your stakeholders what’s most important for them and decide how best to proceed to ensure you get what you need to move ahead effectively.
Boost your ability to handle unexpected and high-stress situations.
Dr. Reuven Bar-Own, whose research resulted in the Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i) assessment, defined emotional intelligence as:
“An array of non-cognitive capabilities, competencies, and skills that influence one’s ability to succeed in coping with environmental demands and pressures.”
When you understand how you currently tap into your emotional intelligence, you can determine how best to elevate your executive presence to make the most impact. With an open mindset and self-discipline, you can make small shifts in how you show up to balance your approach, increase your resilience, improve your well-being, and hone skills that accentuate your assets.
My approach centers on you.
You don’t need to go it alone. Self-leadership is about getting to know yourself better and applying that knowledge to activate your best for yourself and those around you. My approach is personalized and customized, tapping into various assessments, disciplines, modalities, and techniques, i.e., branding, communications, change management, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, neurobiology, project management, and psychology. To learn more, schedule a call with me.