Why Is Finance Okay with Poor Presentations?

Alan Cameron-Sweeney

Why Is Finance Okay with Poor Presentations?

Oh, Finance. 

We do all the hard work. Month end, analysis, produce the management pack.

We can finally see the peak of the mountain.

And we stop climbing right before we reach it.

How so?

Because we use the management pack as our slides.

We know we shouldn’t. We know it doesn’t make for a good presentation.

No one can even read the table of numbers. 

Hell, you can barely make them out and you’re standing right beside the screen!

Yet we still do it.

Why?

If Every Other Finance Professional Jumped Off a Bridge…

A key element of Finance is providing an accurate view of the numbers.

That’s precisely what the management pack does.

The numbers are right. It’s already been reviewed and approved. Presenting it feels safe. 

Besides, it’s what everyone else in Finance is doing. 

I remember when two “Big 4” consultants joined our Finance Transformation team.

I had been working through Nancy Durate’s Slide:Ology in an effort to improve my presentation skills. I thought I had really lucked out. I was about to learn so much from seeing these two hotshots give presentations!

Nope!

They stood up there, as confident as can be. And yep, you guessed it - presented the management slide deck.

A slightly prettier version, sure. But it was just lipstick on the same old pig.

Why the Management Slide Deck Is So Appealing

Now, don’t get me wrong. The management slide deck isn’t all bad. There are some upsides to using it.

It's already been made.

It’s been approved.

It's the accepted way to present the numbers

You might not have time to create another slide deck. Even if you did, it would still need to be reviewed and approved. 

Besides, you don’t have the time or energy to present the numbers in an engaging way.

That takes effort. Effort you could avoid by relying on the slide deck you already have in hand.

The Story We Tell Ourselves

Finance teams have this idea that presentations are scary. 

It’s not just us. Most people dread giving presentations. But it’s especially true for Finance. 

That’s because we’re numbers people. We produce accurate work.

Accuracy is a science. It’s not art. 

Art is someone else’s department. Leave the engaging presentation to marketing and sales. Let them throw around the buzzwords and splashy graphics.

But is that an explanation for our bad presentation habits - or an excuse?

Are we just trying to give ourselves a Get Out of Jail Free card?

Are we giving ourselves permission to take the lazy approach?

Let me come at this question from another angle.

If we knew we couldn’t fail, would we still present a table of numbers? If we could present like Steve Jobs, would we still give ourselves the same excuse?

I don’t think so.

Are We Really Okay with Being Boring?

Alas, even when we know we could do better, the boss still tells us to go with the management deck.

It's accurate. That’s what matters.

Who cares if it's boring?

It’s not like we’re the gladiator, Maximus, standing in the middle of a colosseum. We don’t need to impress the crowd to win our freedom. 

But hold on. Don’t we?

We’re not a gladiator, no. But aren’t we all trying to win our freedom from repetitive tasks?

Don’t we want a seat at the table? 

And how can we hope to get one if we can’t win over the crowd?

To have more impact on the business we need to work with them. They need to want to work with us. 

If you improve your presentation, stakeholders will be more likely to want to work with you. 

A poor presentation gives the rest of your work a bad perception. 

Times Have Changed

We’re still presenting the way we did 20 years ago. 

But a lot has changed in those two decades.

Finance isn’t the same anymore. Our value is no longer in preparing the numbers.

Much of that has been automated anyway. 

So if we get up there and present the management deck, are we really providing enough value?

Maybe we need to stop being okay with boring presentations.

Maybe it’s for us to actually climb to the top of the mountain.

Am I Being Too Harsh?

What do you think?

Does Finance need to change its ways? Or are there still good reasons to present the management deck?

Am I missing something? Is there a way to make the management deck work? Is it too much to expect Finance to have presentations the business looks forward too?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. 

  • Alan “No Death by PPT” Cameron-Sweeney

Loved this? Spread the word


Related posts

The Number One Reason Your Team Fails to Change

​Read More

Why Your Finance Team Needs an Influence Strategy

​Read More

Why you should shout at old ladies

​Read More
{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}