how to make your audience listen (and Understand) your financial presentation

Presenting financial data can be a challenging task. You need to explain these figures well so that even the non-number crunchers understand them.

While this is a Herculean task, you can efficiently deliver your financial presentation by following these five tips.

Present the Data According to Your Audience

When it comes to financial presentations, you must know your audience beforehand. This will help you explain the data in a way that’s easier for them to understand.

Remember: accounting and finance staff rely more on the left hemisphere, which governs logic and analytical thinking. Marketing and salespeople tend to use more of the right hemisphere, which is associated with intuition and holistic thought.

So how will this help with your presentation?

Right hemisphere users or holistic thinkers tend to look away from numerical detail. They believe that focusing on a single point makes it harder to see the bigger picture.

While analytical people love numbers, you shouldn’t present them in rapid succession. They want time to study and analyze the figures.

Knowing these facts, you can create a presentation that’ll capture their attention. It’ll come in handy as you proceed to the next phase of presenting finances: telling a story.

Tell a Story

Robert McKee once said: “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.”

In terms of financial presentation, he’s right.

Telling a story is the best way for you to discuss numbers since you add emotion. It provides a human angle that’s more memorable.

When you tell a story, you add context to the basic concepts. This will help your audience retain more technical financial information.

Make sure to start your story with an impactful statement. Something like “Our profit increased by 20% this year” should peak your audience’s ears.

But how did this happen? That’s the next chapter of your story. Say the improvement is attributed to Account 567, which the company has recently obtained.

When you go about and tell this as-is, it doesn’t sound as compelling. That’s why you need to know the story behind how the company got the account.

Again, it’s all about adding emotion. “This profit boost was made possible by the marketing staff, which helped land the profitable Account 567.”

To end your story, you should explain the ‘moral lesson’ of your tale. “To continue this upward trajectory, we should make sure that our new marketers learn from the current marketing team.”

Simplify Stuff

You don’t always present financial data to executives, accountants, and people who readily understand the numbers.

And even if you do, it’s best to simplify the numbers to their bare bones.

Just think of it this way: you’re explaining an intricate thought to your friends. They may be physicians and engineers, but they’re not experts at numbers. You got to find a way to discuss it with them so that they won’t draw blanks on their faces.

The best way to simplify stuff is to compare it to things that people readily understand. It’s also easier to present them through graphics and pictures, which will be discussed below.

Presentation Design Matters

Apart from knowing your audience and telling a story, presenting a well-designed lecture will keep your audience hooked.

When it comes to finances, make sure to use pictures and graphs to illustrate your data. A 25% profit increase sounds nice, but presenting this as a bar graph – compared to last year’s sales – will drive the point home.

Here are some other tips to follow when presenting financial data:

  • Keep it at one point per chart. As mentioned, analytical minds want to digest data one step at a time.
  • Make sure that the data is readable. Enlarge the graphic as needed so the audience from the back can see it as well.
  • Highlight the data you want to emphasize to your viewers. If you don’t know what colors to choose, you could always rely on the preset design of professionally designed templates.
  • Include the title of the data. Don’t keep your spectators guessing!

Be Ready for Questions

Whether you’re presenting to financial or non-financial people, you can expect a barrage of questions by the end of your presentation.

As such, you need to be ready.

If you’ve delivered such data a few times now, then you may have an idea of the frequently-asked questions. You could prepare to answer them in advance.

Another way to ‘help’ your audience up is to provide handouts before the discussion. You can design your flyers in a way that’s easier to understand. You can even put the definitions of more complex terms. Since they can run through the data beforehand, your handouts should help them understand the numbers better.

If you’re tired of seeing blank, bored faces every time you present financial data – then you know what to do. As long as you follow the five tips above, your audience will enjoy – and actually understand – the detailed data you have just discussed!