Big Finance presentation? Combat these 4 pitfalls to stay on track

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When it comes time to present annual numbers or important updates at your company, you want to guarantee it goes swimmingly. 

But you know nothing’s foolproof. There are any number of unforeseen issues that can throw you off, or even derail an otherwise effective presentation entirely.

And if your presentation doesn’t achieve what it’s set out to, it can feel like a big waste of time for you and your audience. That time wasted translates into money wasted, too.

Equipped for anything

Here are four common pitfalls that can deter a well-prepared presentation and how to avoid them:

1. Lack of audience appeal. It goes without saying that you understand all the numbers, charts and graphs in your presentation. But making information and objectives digestible for everyone else – from other executives to finance staffers to assorted employees – can be a challenge.

That’s why you should always do a test run beforehand to gather feedback. Put together a small group of two or three people who are familiar with the topic you’re going to cover and go through the presentation with them.  Even the most seasoned presenters could use an objective opinion on where you might need to expand more, cut back or simplify things for your audience.

2. Poor pacing. While relaying important content in a compelling way, you have to simultaneously pace yourself. After all, you don’t want to hurry through too quickly or hold people too long.

Make sure you’ve got a way to keep track of time, so you know if you need to speed up or slow down. If there’s not a clock in your normal line of sight, putting a stopwatch on the podium can do the trick. Or, if you think you may forget to look at the time, ask one of your audience members to keep track for you. Have that person give you a subtle sign when you reach 10 minutes left, five minutes left, etc.

3. Unexpected glitches. You’re halfway through a PowerPoint slideshow when your computer freezes up. These things happen, but if not handled the right way, they can be a time drain and cause your audience to disengage and lose focus.

Instead of taking pause or fumbling through, address the elephant in the room right away: “It seems we’ve got a computer malfunction here, so I’m going to talk a little bit about XYZ while Stacey reboots it for us.” Comments like this are a great substitute for awkward gaps, and they keep the audience’s attention on the topic at hand rather than the computer malfunction.

4. Too much audience interaction.It’s a good thing when a slide or statistic catches someone’s interest enough that they want to learn more. But allowing too much interaction during the presentation almost ensures that it’ll run long or that you won’t get to cover everything you’d hoped.

Your best bet? Save comments for the end. Encourage audience members to make notes of something that caught their ear and save it for the Q&A session afterward. Or, if it’s a longer presentation, pause after each section to see if there are any pressing concerns before you move forward. By keeping comments and questions more controlled, you can stay on track and ensure every key aspect of your presentation gets covered.