Be prepared to give your company what it needs, when it needs it.
CEOs are, at the core of all their various responsibilities, storytellers.
Between serving as the public face of their companies and communicating strategy to stakeholders, a CEO is constantly framing and reframing the story of her company and her vision to a wide variety of audiences.
Here are some of the different kinds of presentations that CEOs need to be prepared to give on any given day, along with some tips on how to develop your skills within each type.
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1. Investor pitch
According to a study conducted by DocSend, investors only spend, on average, three minutes and 44 seconds looking at a pitch deck. Get straight to the point and explain why somebody should put their money and trust into your hands. If a CEO can’t make people care about her business in under five minutes, she needs to go back to the drawing board.
Investors are looking for signs that a company is worth their time and money — revenue numbers, customer data, and upward business trends are key. But don’t rely on the numbers to do all the talking; after all, investors are also looking for entrepreneurs that they can trust.
If your investor pitch weaves together the facts and figures with an engaging story that establishes that you’re a great leader with a capable team, you’ll have an investor pitch that’s ready for business.
2. Board meeting update
Once you have a group investors and advisors, you need to keep them updated on the pulse of your business. While the investor pitch is designed to highlight the potential of the company, board-meeting presentations should offer a more diverse view of what’s happening in the business. From successes and failures to plans for the future, a CEO should provide stakeholders with information to give guidance where needed.
No CEO wants to look bad in front of the Board — so presenting quarterly failures may seem like a foolhardy task – however, recognizing your faults can actually play to your favor if you do it correctly. Be honest about what went wrong, and focus in on what you and your company learned from the misstep. By showing the Board of Directors that you know what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future, you’ll be able to build trust instead of undermining it by brushing your failures under the rug.
3. All-hands vision pitch
Communicating to the people who make your business run is key. Research has repeatedly shown that employees want to hear from the c-suite. In a 2012 study by Tribe Inc., 82 percent of respondents said that they received “not enough” communication on the job, and 72 percent said that receiving consistent messages from corporate was important to them.
CEOs need to think of themselves as cheerleaders, inspiring and motivating their employees to work towards a collective goal. Company-wide presentations should provide employees with a “big picture” view of the business and an eye toward the future.
This kind of presentation is often called a “vision pitch,” much larger than your bottom line, n and able to convey the potential impact of your business on the world.
Be warned, it can become too abstract to be meaningful with a “We make the world better” platitude. Help your employees understand—in concrete terms — how they are making an impact on customers through stories of real people who have been able to do amazing things with your products or services.
4. Press-worthy announcement speech
Apple has perfected the show-stopping press event. When most people think of Steve Jobs, one of the first things they think of are his dynamic and unique presentations at Apple’s major product launch events.
The thing that made his presentations so terrific was his ability to elicit an emotional response from the audience. When announcing the iPod in 2001, he didn’t describe it as just a beautiful MP3 player, he equated it with the freedom to listen to any kind of music, anywhere. Just as investor pitches and all-hands vision pitches need to help the audience see beyond the basic facts and figures to something more meaningful, press-worthy announcements should drive at something much deeper than the technical specs. If you want people to care about what you’re announcing, help them understand the implications of your news in emotional terms.
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5. Thought leadership keynote
Industry events are opportunities for CEOs to raise brand awareness and to reach a wide audience of potential customers. When a CEO is asked to give a keynote at an event, organizers don’t want her to give a company pitch. Instead, a presentation that is meaningful to the audience. CEOs should cultivate a platform of ideas that extend beyond their products or services that they can call upon for keynote presentations.
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, is a particular stand out; his expertise on “delivering happiness,” the idea of making customer service the driving force behind your business, is the perfect example of a platform that simultaneously engages entrepreneurs and positions his company in a favorable light.
Being a CEO means wearing many hats, particularly when it comes to communicating your vision and your plans. Core ideas should stay the same, but you need to be prepared to speak to a variety of audiences — investors, customers, employees, and peers — and tailor your messages to their particular interests and needs.