5 Tips for Creating an Effective Financial Presentation

  • By AFP Staff
  • Published: 4/11/2024
Effective Presentation Article Header

In the dynamic world of finance, the ability to craft compelling presentations is essential. When a presentation is effective, it serves as a bridge, simplifying complex financial concepts into digestible information that fosters clarity and understanding among diverse audiences.

Effective presentations also wield influence, guiding decision-making and propelling actions that drive financial strategies forward. Moreover, a polished presentation reflects the presenter's professionalism and credibility, instilling trust in their expertise and recommendations.

In essence, mastering the art of presentation is critical to your success, and with these five tips, you will be well on your way to achieving impactful outcomes.

1. Structure Your Presentation to Tell a Story

One of the most powerful tools for making sure your presentation leaves a lasting impression on your audience is storytelling.

When you tell a story during your presentation, you’re not just relaying information; you’re engaging your audience on a deeper level. Stories capture attention and keep listeners engaged, drawing them into a narrative with a clear beginning, middle and end. As you weave anecdotes, case studies or examples into your presentation, you evoke emotions and create a connection with your audience. This emotional connection helps make your content more relatable and memorable.

Moreover, stories provide a natural structure for organizing information, making it easier for your audience to follow and retain key points. By illustrating concepts through stories, you demonstrate their real-world relevance and practical application, enhancing the overall impact of your message.

Strategic business storytelling involves five key elements:

  1. Start: Rather than signaling that you’re about to tell a story, go right into the story to capture your listener’s attention.
  2. Begin with the incident: Skip the setup and go directly to the action point of what you’re trying to communicate.
  3. Involve the senses: Choose the sense(s) that will best activate your listener’s imagination.
  4. Edit for power: Don’t waste your listener’s time making the story longer than it needs to be.
  5. Bridge to business relevance: Ensure your audience has a “lightbulb” moment as they connect the content of your story to the business topic at hand.

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2. Fit the Presentation Within the Allotted Time

First and foremost, it is crucial to fit a presentation within the allotted time — out of respect for your audience’s time and to maintain their engagement throughout. It can be perceived as rude if a presentation runs over, and people often tune out or lose interest. Or worse, if you run out of time, people may leave the meeting before you get to your conclusion. This may result in them missing vital information or even calling for an additional meeting — and no one wants more on their calendar!

Finance professionals are often expected to deliver the same message to different audiences in different amounts of time, so it is important to be able to adapt a presentation to various situations, including an elevator pitch, a bullets-only presentation and a Q&A session.

  • An elevator pitch is usually made without any visual support and is designed to take advantage of a brief window of access to the audience’s attention. Summarize your key points into short and clear statements; prioritize your ideas and connect them logically within a brief timeframe.
  • A bullets-only is a high-level outline of your content focusing on key points and their implications. You can create additional materials for your audience to dive deeper into the topics of their choosing.
  • A Q&A session is where the audience interacts with your insight through in-depth questions. Anticipate audience questions ahead of time to enhance the completeness and clarity of your content.

3. Present the Data Visually

Visuals, such as charts and graphs, enhance comprehension and insight into complex datasets in presentations. They help the audience interpret the significance of the data by underscoring key points, highlighting potential causal relationships, and illustrating trends. Additionally, presenting data visually can reveal hidden insights and outliers that might not otherwise be immediately apparent.

However, many finance professionals fall into the trap of becoming artists with their charts and graphs. As Ben Shneiderman said, “The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures.” Aim for clarity over artistry in your data visualizations, as your images serve to prove your thesis.

When using a graph, make sure you’re able to answer each of the following questions:

  • Which will be more effective, a graph or a table? Graphs are most effective when the presenter is demonstrating a trend, pattern or relationship between two variables or when the presenter is making one or two key points that they want the audience to grasp instantly.
  • Which graph type will tell your story best? Choose the graph type that will make your point most effectively.
  • Did you make your graph quickly and easily understandable? Choices such as colors and shading, data labels, gridlines and legends can impact the effectiveness of a graph.
  • Could your graphing choices cause your audience to question your agenda or character? Graphs are often used to make a point the presenter feels strongly about. Audiences sense this as well and are often on the lookout for efforts to confuse or mislead them.

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4. Format Slides for Brevity and Clarity

A slide deck is not a script; it should support and emphasize the key points in your presentation without duplicating everything you say.

Best practices for formatting slides include:

  • Keep text on slides to a minimum. Use bullet points or short phrases instead of full sentences. Aim for no more than 5-6 bullet points per slide.
  • Simplify complex concepts into digestible chunks. Focus each slide on one main idea or point to maintain clarity and avoid overwhelming your audience.
  • Keep your slide layout clean and uncluttered. Use ample white space around text and visuals to improve readability. Avoid overcrowding slides with too many elements.
  • Use clean and legible fonts. Avoid decorative fonts that may be difficult to read, especially from a distance. Use a font size of at least 20 points for body text and 30 points or larger for headings.
  • Emphasize important information using bold text, color or larger font sizes. Draw attention to key data or takeaways to ensure they stand out.
  • Avoid gimmicks such as wipes and dissolves. Don’t add sounds unless they are integral to the presentation.

5. Rehearse Your Delivery

The more you practice your presentation, the more confident you'll become in your delivery. Start by reviewing your slides and notes with the goal of minimizing your reliance on them during the actual presentation. Practice speaking fluidly without needing to refer to detailed notes unless necessary for specific details. Additionally, ensure you know the sequence of your slides and any transitions or effects you’ve incorporated to avoid unexpected surprises during your presentation.

If you can, rehearse with a colleague who can give you feedback on your delivery. If you’re rehearsing on your own, record yourself so you can watch your presentation and make edits. Video conference tools are great for this, and then you can transcribe the recording so you can easily make changes for when you practice again.

Finally, avoid slipping into a rigid “presentation mode” and instead strive to be authentic. Don’t try to emulate another presenter’s style or persona. Be yourself and communicate naturally, allowing your unique personality and approach to shine through. Authenticity builds trust and connection with your audience, making your presentation more engaging and relatable. Embrace your individuality and present in a way that feels true to who you are.

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