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10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

10 Big Mistakes To Avoid Making When Presenting To The Boss

Presenting to the boss can turn highly talented, intelligent and creative professionals into nervous, jabbering, sleepless messes — but not if you know the key mistakes to avoid.

The strangest analogy I’ve heard was from a former colleague of mine who, after presenting to the CEO for the very first time, left the office looking rather pale. On asking her how it went, she replied by saying, “Well, I’m not too sure. You see, it started off well; he was smiling, attentive, and very polite, but it felt like I was meeting with my gynecologist in that I would soon be leaving the room feeling a little violated.”

Sometimes, a good way to learn is through knowing the mistakes others have made before you. With that in mind, here are my top 10 presentation tips from both my personal and professional experience.

1. Don’t “sit on the fence”

There really is nothing more annoying than listening to someone drone on and on for 20 minutes, drowning you in data and facts, when it’s perfectly clear that they aren’t committed to the topic in terms of making it clear where they stand on it. Take a position, stand by it, and make it clear which side of the fence you are on.

Don’t sit on the fence. Otherwise, you really will get some seriously painful splinters.

2. Lose the attitude

All day long, your boss deals with people who are trying to look good, impress them, or simply suck up to them in some way. It’s not very attractive, and even though it’s the essence of many business presentations, the really good leaders find it tiresome — they don’t need their egos stroked. What your boss wants from you, more than anything, is to see the real you; so tell it as you see it.

Don’t give the “corporate spokesperson” speech. Let them see the real you; that means losing the jargon too.  

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3. Skip the small talk

Your boss doesn’t have time for small talk, so make sure you get straight to the point. Don’t be like a comedian and save the punchline for the end. Deliver your key message straight away and do so with impact.

4. Don’t just present

I really don’t know anyone who actually enjoys the process of being presented to. Most people don’t have the time, attention span, or patience to simply sit there listening to someone read bullet-point slides.

Craft a conversation instead. Get them really thinking. Ask them questions. Help them to use their imagination. If appropriate, challenge their perspective — don’t just accept theirs because they are the boss.

5. Surprise them

I can promise you that for every 10 presentations your boss endures in a week, all 10 of them will be very similar to each other in most respects. You have an amazing opportunity to inspire, enlighten, and engage your boss, so please don’t waste it.

Tell them powerful stories, use props or provocative slides, make them curious, make them laugh. In short, be creative, dare to be different, and surprise them in some way.

6. Help them to feel something

Most business presentations are really boring.

Don’t just talk, but try to really connect with them emotionally by asking yourself “what do you want them to feel?”.

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7. Don’t make them read

The very last thing your boss wants to do is to read your slides or report while you are talking at them.

It’s not a presentation or conversation if they are forced to read. It’s simply you making them read and they won’t thank you for it.

The spoken word elicits a far greater effect than the written word. It’s your job to breathe life into your report, update, or idea, and you will never achieve that by simply making them read it.

8. Make them look good

It’s human nature for each of us to want to look good and to impress our audience when presenting; that self-imposed pressure is often the greatest cause of anxiety many professionals experience.

When all you can think about is how well you must perform and how much your reputation is at stake, you are making it all about you rather than your audience.

Focus instead on how you can help your boss and how you can make their life, job, department, or company better and stronger.

9. Be playful

Remember when we were small children and we asked our parents if we could go outside to play with our friends? Often, one of the first responses you would hear is “Yes, but play nicely.”

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When it comes to presenting, playing nicely doesn’t mean fooling around or making jokes. It just means not taking yourself so seriously, lightening up, relaxing a little, smiling, and having a sense of humor.

Your boss really is human too, so “play nicely” with them.

10. Get out of your head

That doesn’t mean smoking or consuming some mind-altering substance before you present — it means being in the room rather than in your own head.

Many professionals make the mistake of not quietening the noise in their minds before they present to the boss. They enter the room with their minds furiously popping thoughts around like a popcorn maker.

“I hope they don’t ask me a question I can’t answer.”

“I bet I’ll mess this up.”

“I wish I’d done more research on this.”

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“What if they don’t agree?”

Staying in your head like this serves no useful purpose to either you or your boss.

Your job is to be completely present in the room as you speak. That’s the only way you will connect with your audience. You can achieve that by simply taking a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing, meditating to calm the noise in your head, and pausing and smiling before you speak.

Have you made any of these or other mistakes that we could all learn from? If so, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/

Featured photo credit: Tim Gouw via unsplash.com

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Published on March 20, 2019

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

How to Write a Powerful Mission Statement for Your Business

Have you ever felt lost in the minutia of your job?

As a business owner, I can relate to getting bogged down in the day to day operations of my business. Things like inventory, payroll, scheduling, purchasing and employee management take up the bulk of my day.

While these things are important and need to get done, focusing too much on the details can make you lose sight of the big picture. This is why having a good mission statement comes in handy.

What is a Mission Statement?

Put simply, a mission statement is an internal document that provides a clear purpose for the organization. It provides a common reference point for everyone in the organization to start from.

In other words, after reading your company’s mission statement, managers and employees should be able to answer the question “What are company’s main objectives?” For example, Southwest Airlines mission statement reads:[1]

“Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.”

In this single statement, Southwest conveys the company’s goals of providing the highest level of customer service as well as providing a good working environment for their employees.

Mission Statement VS. Vision Statement

While the mission and vision statements are related, there are subtle but distinct differences the you should be aware of.

First of all, a mission statement is designed primarily as an internal company document. It provides clarity and direction for managers and employees.

While there’s nothing wrong with sharing your company’s mission statement with the outside world, its intended audience is within the company.

While a mission statement provides a general framework for the organization, the vision statement is usually a more inspirational statement designed to motivate employees and inspire customers. Going back to Southwest Airlines, their vision statement reads:[2]

“To become the world’s most loved, most flown, and most profitable airline.”

This statement inspires good feeling from the customer while motivating the employees to achieve that vision.

What Does a Good Mission Statement Look Like?

When coming up with a mission statement, it’s important to take your time and do it right. Too often, people (especially entrepreneurs) just write down the first thing that comes to mind and they end up with worthless or (worse yet) a generic mission statement that is utterly useless.

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Remember, a mission statement should provide a common framework for everyone in your organization.

When writing a mission statement, you should always try to incorporate the following;

  • What we do?
  • How we do it?
  • Whom do we do it for?
  • What value are we bringing?

Now, you can see how tempting it is to just come up with something generic that ticks off those four boxes. Something like “We provide the best widgets available online for the consumer.”

After all, that did check off all the boxes:

What we do? Provide widgets.

How we do it? Online.

Who do we do it for? The consumer.

What value we bring? The best widgets.

The problem with this mission statement is that it could apply to any number of companies producing the same widget. There is nothing to distinguish your company or its widgets from any of your competitors widgets.

Compare that mission statement to this one:

“We provide the highest quality widgets directly to the consumer at an affordable price backed up with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If our clients aren’t 100% satisfied, we’ll make it right.”

What’s the difference?

Both mission statements answer all the same questions of what, how, whom and value. But in the second statement, they are differentiating their company from all other competitors by answering the question “what makes us unique”.

Another way to read that is, “Why you should buy from us.” In this example, it’s because our widgets are of the highest quality and we stand behind them 100%.

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You might have noticed the statement didn’t say that we sell widgets at the lowest possible price. That’s because we are emphasizing quality and satisfaction over price.

A different company’s mission statement may emphasize selling widgets at the lowest possible price with little to no mention of a guarantee.

Hallmarks of a Good Mission Statement

1. Keep It Brief

Your mission statement should be no longer than three sentences. This is not your company’s magnum opus.

You should be able to distill the what, how, who and why questions into a succinct message.

2. Have a Purpose

A company’s missions statement should include the reason it even exists.

Make clear exactly what the company does with statements like “We strive to provide our customers with …….”

3. Include a “How”

Take this as an opportunity to differentiate your company from its competitors.

How do you provide a product or service that’s different or better than how your competitor provides it?

4. Talk About the Value You Bring to the Table

This is where you can really set yourself apart from the competition. This is the “why” customers should buy from you.

Do you offer the lowest prices? Fastest delivery? Exceptional customer service? Whatever it is that sets you apart and gives your particular products, services or company an advantage talk about it in the mission statement.

5. Make Sure It’s Plausible

It’s okay to shoot for the stars just to settle for the moon, but not in a mission statement.

Being overly ambitious will only set you and your employees up for failure, hurt morale and make you lose credibility. You will also scare away potential investors if they think that you are not being realistic in your mission statement.

6. Make It Unique and Distinctive

Imagine if someone who knew nothing about your business walked in and saw how it was operating, then they read your mission statement. Would they be able to recognize that mission statement was attached to that business? If not re-work it.

7. Think Long Term

A mission statement should be narrow enough so that it provides a common framework for the existing business, but open enough to allow for longer term goals. It should be able to grow as the business grows.

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8. Get Feedback

This is very important, especially from managers and employees.

Getting their input can clarify how they currently see the company and their role within the organization. It’s also a good way to get people “on-board,” as studies show that people are more likely to go along with an idea if they feel included in the decision making process beforehand.

9. Review Often and Revise as Necessary

You should review the missions statement often for two reasons.

First, as a reminder of what the essence of the company is. It’s easy to forget when you are in the day to day grind of the business.

And two, to make sure that the mission statement is still relevant. Things change, and not everything can be anticipated at the time a mission statement was written.

For example, if a mission statement was written before the advent of the internet, a company that use to sell things door to door now probably has a website that people order from. You should always update the mission statement to reflect these changes.

The Value of Mission Statements: Why Go Through All of These in the First Place?

It may seem like a lot of work just for a few sentences that describe a company, but the value of a well written mission statement should not be discounted.

First of all, if you are an entrepreneur, crystallizing the what, how, whom and value questions will keep you focused on the core business and its values.

If you are a manager or other employee, knowing the company’s basic tenants will help inform your interactions with both customers and colleagues alike.

Strategic Planning

A relevant mission statement acts as a framework for strategic planning. It provides guidance and parameters for making strategic decisions for the future of the company.

Measuring Performance

By having the company’s mission in a concrete form, it also allows for an objective measurement of how well the organization is meeting its stated goals at any one time.

Management can identify strengths and weaknesses in the organization based on the criteria set forth in the mission statement and make decisions accordingly.

Solidifying the Company’s Goals and Values for Employees

Part of a well run organization is nurturing happy and productive employees.

As humans, we all have an innate need for both purpose and to be part of something larger than ourselves. Providing employees with a clearly defined mission statement helps to define their role in the larger organization. Thus, fulfilling both of these needs.

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Now I’m not saying that a mission statement can overcome low pay and poor working conditions, but with everything else being equal, it can contribute to a happier and more productive workforce.

To Hold Management Accountable

By creating a mission statement, a company is publicly stating its highest values and goals for the world to see. By doing so, you are inviting both the public and your employees to to scrutinize how well the company lives up to its ideals.

So if you state that you only provide the highest quality products, and then offer something less, it’s fair for both the public and the employees to question, and even call for a change in management.

If management doesn’t take the mission statement seriously, no one else will either; and the legitimate authority that management rely’s on will be diminished.

To Serve as an Example

This is the opposite side of the coin from the previous statement. If the highest levels of management are seen taking the mission statement seriously and actively managing within the framework of the statement, that attitude filters down throughout the organization.

After all, a good employee knows what’s important to their boss and will take the steps necessary to curry favor with them.

Finally, use the company’s mission statement as a way to define roles within the company. You can do this by giving each division in the company a copy of the mission statement and challenge the head of each division to create a mission statement for their respective departments.

Their individual mission statements should focus on how each department fits in and ultimately contributes to the success of the company’s overall mission statement. This serves as both a clarifying and a team building exercise for all parts of the organization.

Final Thoughts

Developing a mission statement is too often just an after-thought, especially for entrepreneurs. We tend to prioritize things that we perceive will give us the biggest “bang for our buck.”

Somehow, taking the time and effort to sit down and think seriously about the what, whom, how and value of our business seems like a waste of time. After all, we got in the business to make money and become successful, isn’t that all we need to know?

That mindset will probably get you started okay, but if you find yourself having any success at all, you’ll find that there really is such a thing as growing pains.

By putting in the time and effort to create a mission statement, you are laying the groundwork that will give you a path to follow in your growth. And isn’t building long term success what we are really after?

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Featured photo credit: Fab Lentz via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Southwest Airlines: About Page
[2] Fit Small Business: 10 Vision Statement Examples To Spark Your Imagination

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