|1. Main properties
of a presentation to top management
|2. Structure of an
Engineering presentation to top management
This page belongs to the Soft Skills section of Process Engineer's Tools. This section is crafted to share experiences of the author on non technical topics and is inspired by the observations that Engineers do not necessarily bring their career to full potential because of a lack of soft skills such as communication or people management. These are advises from experience and should be taken as such from the reader, as a starting point or elements to reflect on its own situation.
From time to time, Engineers in factories or design offices must make a presentation to the top management of their companies. This requirement can come from the Engineer itself, who wants proactively to present his work, or can be top-down at the occasion of a visit for example, in this case not solicited by the Engineer. In any case, those presentations can have an influence on what the Engineer is working on and more generally the career of the Engineer : this means that a preparation is mandatory if the Engineer wants the presentation to have an impact in the area he is wishing it to be (for example a green light for a project, reaching a new position...).
Whatever the topic to be presented, there are good practices to follow which will help to master the presentation and optimize the results that one can expect. From the experience of the author, the following plan should be followed :
These different characteristics are detailed below.
True to any presentation, the format and message must be adapted to the audience. There are different management in a company, if the audience is part of the Engineering community, make the "meat" of the presentation, on the technical details, a bit larger, while if you meet, let's say a finance manager, this part will have to be reduced at minimum while you will have more to detail additional sales, profit...etc... your proposal will bring.
It is the most important part of the presentation, the most difficult to craft though. Very often you can see this in presentations : the Engineer starts and after 20 s he sees that the manager is yawning or taking his phone or looking elsewhere... clearly the manager has not been hooked and does not really care what the Engineer is going to say, even if it is a breakthrough idea. The risk here is that the idea is wasted as well as the Engineer's morale.
So the 1st slide of the presentation must be impactful, it is definitively the slide you should spend the more time on.
The message of the slide must be clear : I'm going to talk about that and this is going to bring this benefit for you and / or the company. Additionally, you can mention a timeline if it is relevant.
Example of benefits of an Engineering project :
As you can see, a business is about making money, so even if you cannot be very precise, try to link the work that is done to actual money. This will definitively be more concrete and capture the attention of the manager.
Some technical details are necessary... but as mentionned before it should be dosed according to the audience. People who are quite far up will not question your skills, while the technical community or middle management are likely to ask more questions.
In any case, be ready to answer to questions, even if some topics are not directly mentioned in the presentation.
The conclusion slide allows to reiterate the key message, but also, if it is required, to ask for an action of the manager. The expectation should be mentioned clearly so that the conversation that will follow the presentation can be properly directed to what matters. Typical demands for managers are :
The time of the manager is limited, be very clear in what you expect from the discussion.
To be honest, especially in big companies, a long talk may follow and maybe without clear direction at the end, that is why clearly asking the question is so important. It may not be sufficient to get the result you wish, but it is a mandatory condition to have chances to get there.
Top managers have very limited time and more and more a very limited attention that gets constantly diverted by emails, SMS, notifications... presentations for top management must therefore be very short. Sometimes only 1 slide is asked, most of the time it is 3-5 slides. If you don't know, better to check the time you have and the number of slides expected.
As a rule of thumb, 2 minutes is a minimum per slid, so if you have 5 slides, you will have already at least 10 minutes of talking. If it is too long, reduce the number of slides.
Of course, make sure that the design of the slide is clear. No need to be fancy but the slides must be easy to read and identify the key message. Make sure to use the right template if required.
You can find here a presentation model that is recalling you the different concepts shared in this page. Again, these are advises, based on experience, feel free to adapt according to your needs.