Thursday, 05 April 2012 15:30

10-Minute Executive Brief

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10-Minute Executive Brief

So you've been asked to provide a review or summary for the boss' boss or even higher up. Top, middle or bottom... your rank is moot! You have been chosen for a reason. That reason could be technical, social, or political. The most important thing for you to know is that -- IT IS A BRIEF.

Prime Directive: Simple, simple, simple.

  1. "Today." Where are we now?
  2. "Tomorrow." Where are we going?
  3. "When in doubt - Leave it out."

Executive Reviews or Summary Presentations don't "win" or "sell" any more than a resume gets you a job. They are strictly informative -- purposeful and meaningful. These tools exist to create, focus, redirect, or kill interest. Make sure you understand your purpose and don't stray.

Depending on your objectives and the mission of your target audience, the purpose may be to secure an action or the next meeting (job analogy: resume --> interview). Other desired outcomes for a review or summary: break-out session, follow-up meeting, all-hands safety notice, agenda item added to staff meeting, do nothing, etc.

This is a good time to point out -- this may be a significant moment in your work-life, but this is a normal day for Joe or Jane Executive. Why is this important? Too many people get freakishly anxious about the potential do nothing "desired outcome." You probably don't have access to all the political realities, the executive calendar, or their private dialog (or how you are being used to further their agenda).

Don't ever assume too much... and don't get freakishly anxious; it's just unhealthy.

Yesterday has no place in your summary. Executives RARELY want to waste facetime on where they've been. Send them an email if you want to grouse your post mortem issues or parade accomplishments. However, before you go lobbing potentially career ending email, you may wish to clear any lobbing with your immediate chain-of-command first. :-)

You are the presentation. You are the VALUE.

  • The slides are a prop...a tool... to support YOU.
  • The audience should be listening to you, not reading and understanding the slides.
  • A slide should have no more than 4 or maximum 5 bullets, or a simple uncongested diagram.
  • The audience should be able to digest a slide in 5 seconds or so.
  • Bullets points should be "abbreviated" or "cliff-note" versions of your talking-points. Demand eye contact.
  • Don't make the slide content such that the audience has to think to deduce your points; you need them to focus on what you are saying, not thinking. Demand their attention.

If the brain sees thinks "garbage."

  • Use 24 point fonts or larger whenever possible
  • Make sure the text or graphic is a sharply contrasting color to the slide background.
  • A slide's title should be the conclusion you want the audience to reach from your pitch and the slide's content.
    e.g., Servers Hardened, not System Security, Software Self-Service Improvements, not Desktop Provisioning, etc.
  • Avoid animation! If you use it, do it in moderation and make DAMN sure you are really well rehearsed (or everyone will roll their eyes and you will look like an ass and everyone will laugh at you and you will be butt hurt... whaaa). Honestly, we are talking about an Executive Brief...a SUMMARY! Leave animation to Hollywood and pre-schoolers!
  • LASTLY, NUMBER YOUR SLIDES (or pages). If you have more than one, number them.
    1. This helps your pre-presentation reviewers.
    2. This helps your presentation audience (with Q&A and follow-up).
    3. Never under-estimate presentation traction and post-presentation follow-up from 3rd parties who may only receive a single page from a slide deck - page numbers are important.

On the subject of Images / Graphics...

  • Images must be simple.
  • Images must require ZERO explanation.
  • Images must NEVER make an audience think!
  • Images must IMMEDIATELY and CLEARLY (without cultural bias) support the VERBAL component of the presentation.
  • Final caution -- images can get out in front of you and STEAL YOUR AUDIENCE! One wrong (or well placed) image can make everyone in the room virtually deaf for 5 seconds -- or send the room off into a circus of side conversations!


  • Not HOOKING the audience.
    1. No energy and passion in the presentation
    2. Nothing to rapidly get the attention and interest of the reader in the first paragraph of the executive summary.
  • Reading your slides, or reading your pitch
  • Too much about the technology, product, or idea and not enough about the business, market, or revenue
  • Not caring about audience "triggers" -- agenda, pain points, relationships, point-of-view, preconceptions, fears, etc.
  • Articulating anything that can "possibly" derail the presentation -- facts/figures, slang/jargon, tools/techniques
  • More than one presenter. Remember the scope, this is a 10-minute (or less) presentation. Don't dilute trust or focus. ONE presenter.

Rich Wermske

Read 1630 times Last modified on Wednesday, 25 April 2012 15:59
Rich Wermske

My pedigree and bona fides are published elsewhere. That said, I respect that a few may wish to learn more about the private person behind the writing.  While I accept I am exceptionally introverted (tending toward the misanthropic), I do enjoy socializing and sharing time with like-minded individuals. I have a zeal for integrity, ethics, and the economics of both interpersonal and organizational behavior.

The product of multi-generational paternal dysfunction, I practice healthy recovery (sobriety date December 11, 2001).  I am endogamous in my close personal relationships and belong to a variety of tribes that shape my worldview (in no particular order):

☯ I participate in and enjoy most geek culture. ☯ I am a practicing Buddhist and a legally ordained minister. I like to believe that people of other spiritual/faith systems find me approachable.  I am a member of the GLBTQA community -- I married my long-time partner in a ceremony officiated by Jeralita "Jeri" Costa of Joyful Joinings on November 18, 2013, certificated in King County, Seattle WA. We celebrate an anniversary date of February 2, 2002.  I am a service-connected, disabled, American veteran (USAF).  I am a University of Houston alumnus (BBA/MIS) and currently studying as a post baccalaureate for an additional degree in Philosophy and Law, Values, & Policy.  I am a retired Bishop in the Church of Commerce and Capitalism; the story arch of my prosecuting and proselytizing the technological proletariat is now behind me.  I am a native Houstonian (and obviously Texan).  At 50 years old, I am a "child of the sixties" and consider the 80's to be my formative years.

As I still struggle with humility, I strive to make willingness, honesty, and open mindedness cornerstones in all my affairs. Fourteen years of sobriety has taught me that none of "this" means a thing if I'm unwilling, dishonest, or close minded.  Therefore I work hard on the things I believe in --

  • I believe we can always achieve more if we collaborate and compromise.
  • I believe that liberal(ism) is a good word/concept and something to be proud to support.  The modern, systematic corruption of liberal ideas is a living human tragedy.
  • I believe in a worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. The pragmatism of this site and my journey is rooted in both classical and social liberalism.
  • I believe in democratic elections and institutions including a media free of commercial and governmental bias.  Liberty and equality perish when a society becomes uneducated and/or ill-informed.
  • I believe in diversity of life and ideas.  Life and ideas can only flourish when the gene pool is vast and abundantly differentiated.
  • I believe in advancing balance in civil, social, and privacy rights such that all of humanity is continuously uplifted.
  • I believe in separation of church (spirituality) and state (governance) -- with neither in supremacy nor subjugation.
  • I believe in private (real or tangible) property explicitly excluding ideas, knowledge, and methods; such non-tangibles, by natural law, being free for all humanity and emancipated at conception.

While change and the uncertainty of the future may be uncomfortable, I do not fear the unknown; therefore:

    • I believe I must be willing to make difficult choices, that those choices may not be all that I desire, and that such may result in undesirable (or unintended) consequences;
    • I believe we must be willing to make mistakes or be wrong; and I am willing to change my mind if necessary.
I undertake to abide the five precepts of Buddhism; therefore:
  1. I believe it is wrong to kill or to knowingly allow others to kill.
  2. I believe it is wrong to steal or to knowingly allow others to steal.
  3. I believe in abstention from sexual misconduct.
  4. I believe it is wrong to lie or to knowingly allow others to lie.
  5. I believe in abstention from non-medicinal intoxicants as such clouds the mind.

Suicide, major depression, borderline personality, and alcoholism are feral monsters ever howling at my doorstep. However, despite my turbulent and tragic past, rare is the day where I have to rationalize, defend, or justify the actions of that person I see looking back at me in the mirror...

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