How to Give a Finance Presentation the Business Will Actually Enjoy

Alan Cameron-Sweeney

Finance doesn’t like giving presentations

And the business doesn’t like attending them.

So, no one’s happy.

It’s a lose-lose situation.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.


My Mortifying Debut as a Public Speaker

After moving to Melbourne from Ireland 15 years ago, I followed my mother’s fantastic advice and joined Toastmasters, a worldwide public speaking group.

At the time, I had an idea of how I should speak to a roomful of people.

I thought I had it nailed down. Solid delivery, big gestures, a sprinkling of charisma.

But recently, I watched an old video of myself at a speaking competition.

I was mortified.

This wasn’t the engaging public speaker I remembered.

I was too formal. I was far too stiff. My delivery… sounded… so… stilted…

That wasn’t the real me.

Everyone got to meet the real me during the tea break. But when it was time for me to hit the stage, the weirdness would take over.


Could the Real Alan Please Stand Up?

It sounds strange, but it took years before I could get the real me to present. First, I had to peel back all the layers of formality, like an onion.

I did comedy for five years. After a run of shows in the Adelaide Fringe Festival, a mentor saw me back at a local gig in Melbourne.

He said I looked so much more comfortable on stage.

He was right. I was.

So, how did I get there?

Well, one night in Adelaide, I had two people come to the show.

Two.

That’s it. Two people - a couple. That was my entire audience.

Still better than no people!

The show must go on. But how?

How do you do a comedy show for two people?

You don’t.

So I got rid of the mic, pulled up a chair, and got us a jug of beer.

I did my material, but like I was telling funny stories to my mates down on the pub on a Saturday evening.

They chimed in, added to the stories, and we had a great time.

It wasn’t a show. It was a conversation.

And that’s what made it such a success. That’s why it was so engaging.

That was my moment of clarity.

That’s how I learned to be so comfortable on stage.

See, the audience and I, we’re just having a conversation.

That’s how I started approaching keynotes and workshops.

I’m standing in front of 450 people in Fiji, but I’m just having a conversation with them.

Four people at a CPA Australia workshop in Brisbane? No jug of beer this time, but it was a conversation just like in Adelaide.

That’s the secret to a good presentation - you have to treat it like a conversation.

Which is great news, because Finance people love conversations.

A lot of us are introverts. We don’t like big parties, we like building rapport.

But when we get in front of a crowd, we seem to forget that.

Instead of speaking with them, we talk at them.

And they lose interest completely.


A New Approach to Finance Presentations

Finance presentations don’t have to be so formal.

You don’t need to speak like a stuffy textbook. You don’t need to act like the numbers you’re presenting are so important that you need to talk about them in a deeply serious tone.

You just need to have a conversation.

Do you know who likes conversations?

Everyone.

More importantly, the business does.

I’ll bet you $20 that you and your stakeholders would enjoy a three person conversation about Finance a lot more than a Finance presentation.

So why not take a conversational approach to your presentations?

I know. Easier said than done.

Don’t worry, I’ll send out another email with tips on being more conversational.

But I’ll give you a key one to start with.

When presenting, you need to increase your voice, energy, and gestures by 20% for them to have the same impact as they would if you were having a casual conversation.

So, put that into action. Keep the energy up, the approach conversational, and the business will be a lot more keen to listen.

- Alan “Conversational” Cameron-Sweeney

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