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We all have to do it. At some point in your life or career, you will have to give a presentation. Chances are your presentation will have numbers. How many numbers it involves depends on what field you’re in.
However, it is very likely you will have to vouch for numbers that are in your report, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation. On top of that, you will probably get a question from somebody who is looking to impress everyone and will call you out on a mistake you made with your numbers.
Well, guess what? Randall Bolten wants to help you prevent that guy from even asking his “got ya” question. Bolten is the author of Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You, a book that will help you overcome the stigma of presenting numbers and allow you to give more effective presentations involving numbers.
Who is Randall Bolten you ask? Well, let’s just say he’s quite the authority on many things involving numbers. Here are three things that stick out to me about Bolten: (1) he operates a consulting practice focused on financial management and information presentation, (2) he has over 30 years of experience as a financial executive in Silicon Valley, and (3) he holds a BA from Princeton and an MBA from Stanford. So, yeah, you might want to listen to what Bolten has to say. (Catch Randall on Financial Bin Radio on Tuesday, May 1st at 5:30 PM Eastern).
When I make a presentation, one of the first things I want to know is: who is my audience? Who will I be presenting to? For many of you reading Financial Bin, I imagine you will be presenting to either your boss (as an employee) or investors (as an entrepreneur or business owner). Let me talk to the employees out there for a second. Bolten gives some great advice for all of you out there – especially those that have to provide your manager with a ton of updates and reports on the status of your work.
In chapter 4, “Your Audience Matters,” Bolten suggests that you be consistent with how you present numbers as this breeds familiarity with your style and allows your audience (in this case management) to become comfortable with your reporting ability. He also explains that they “can absorb the content much more quickly” and they will “expect a certain level of quality from you.” Having this mindset and focus will only help you that much more come promotion time. As Bolten explains, this skill of presenting numbers can be learned. So, don’t fret if you’re not the best with it right away.
Another part I want to point out comes from chapter 8, “The Pitfalls of Presentations and PowerPoint.” In a section on page 164 titled “It’s Your Presentation – Manage It” Bolten talks about “politely but firmly [keeping] your presentation on track” to achieve your objectives. This is one of the most important items in the book in my opinion. Your audience will ask questions – especially if numbers are involved. That’s a given. However, it’s up to you to keep them on track and not take the entire presentation off on a 15-minute tangent.
For those in the financial world, Bolten’s book is perfect if you’re looking to give more successful presentations. It’s as simple as that. You will be doing yourself – and your career – a huge favor.
Make sure to listen live to Randall’s interview on Financial Bin Radio with David Domzalski. The show airs this Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 5:30 PM Eastern.
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