How to Give a Finance Presentation

Your Finance Presentation
Present numbers the right way in your finance presentation, or you may be pronouncing a death sentence on it

Most finance folks believe that the finance presentation is king.

I’m skeptical of this hubris, but . . .

Financial analysis of the firm is essential, and there are few occasions when financial data do not make their way into a presentation.

With financial data, you can discover the firm’s profitability, general health, and potential.  You can get reasonable answers to the question: “How are we doing?”

But . . .

. . . and it is an especially powerful but.

The results of your financial analysis invariably constitute the ugliest section of a presentation.

Spreadsheet Hypnosis

There is something about a spreadsheet that mesmerizes students and faculty alike.  A spreadsheet splayed across the screen gives the impression of heft and gravitas.

A spreadsheet seems important.

It appears substantial.  It gives the illusion of precision.  Everyone nods.

As a presenter, you stare back at the screen behind you, at the phalanx of figures.  You wave your hand at the screen with the words “As you can see –”

And then you call out seemingly random numbers.  Your classmates or colleagues in the audience watch with glazed eyes.

It’s almost mystical.

Your professor sits sphinx-like.  Some folks shuffle papers, actually digging through a handout you mistakenly distributed beforehand.  Some check email, heads canted downward to their smartphones clasped below table-level.

No one has a clue as to what you’re talking about or how it actually relates to the real world.

You get through your finance presentation, finally, and you’re relieved.

And you hope that you were vague enough that no one can even think about asking a question.  This is common.

And it’s Ugly Finance Presentation

So ugly.

There is a best way that makes things easier for everyone.

Three Steps:  Orient, Eliminate, Emphasize

First, orient your audience to the overall financial context.  If you take information from a balance sheet or want to display company profit growth for a period of years, then display the sheet in its entirety to orient the audience.  Tell the audience they view a balance sheet.  Walk to the screen and point to the information categories.  Say “Here we have this number” . . . “Here we have this category.”

Second, eliminate everything on the screen that you will not talk about.  You strip the visual down to the basic numbers and categories you use to make your point.

Third, emphasize the important points by increasing the size, coloring them, or bolding the numbers.  You can illustrate the meaning of the numbers by utilizing a chart or graph.

If you follow this basic advice, you can improve the finance portion of your presentation immensely and be on your way to an especially powerful presentation.

For more on delivering a powerful finance presentation, consult The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.