Delivering financial information to people who don’t have a financial background can be challenging, yet it’s a vital skill that is commonly demanded of finance professionals.
What are the challenges of delivering financial information?
Being able to communicate important financial information to key stakeholders in the business is extremely important yet doing so in a way that is engaging and that enables everyone to fully understand the meaning behind the figures is no easy task.
Some of the key challenges of presenting financial information to non-financial colleagues are:
Lack of financial literacy
Many stakeholders from outside the finance department simply don’t have the knowledge or training to understand much of the technical jargon that is typically provided in financial reports. This can make presentations feel intimidating, confusing and, quite frankly, rather dull to non-finance professionals.
Lack of relevance
Stakeholders who oversee a specific department may see reporting on wider finances as irrelevant to them. This may also be the case for stakeholders who are not fee earners and therefore might not see the finance reports as being relevant to their job function.
Everyone is busy so persuading non-financial stakeholders to even take the time to listen to financial presentations can be a challenge, especially for those who don’t perceive this as relevant or important to them.
Yet, despite these challenges, it’s vital that key stakeholders are regularly kept informed about the business’ finances. So what can you do, as a finance professional, to improve your financial presentations are on point and ensure that non-financial stakeholders are engaged?
5 top tips to improve your financial presentations
Turn it into a story
Simply talking through a long list of facts and figures is going to be difficult for your audience to concentrate on for long and you will be likely to lose their attention.
Instead, try to take your audience on a journey and tell a story. Think about what the key themes and conclusions are and use these as the basis of your narrative. Break complex information and data down into manageable chunks so people can easily understand what this means for them.
Speak the language that resonates with your audience
Different departments will have different interests and ideas of where they measure value, so identify what these are in advance and adapt your presentation to fit that.
The language of your presentations should, therefore, be notably different for each section of the company - for example, lawyers are unlikely to be motivated by the same things as your HR team.
Adapt the way you present information to suit your stakeholders
Senior stakeholders all have different ways they like information delivered- so adapt to this. Some will want a brief overview of the bigger picture, others will prefer every number explained in great detail at the micro level.
Similarly, some people respond better to more visual information such as graphs, while others will prefer detailed spreadsheets.
Find out what your audience prefers and adapt to that.
Plan answers to difficult questions in advance
Difficult questions are part and parcel of financial presentations so it’s best to pre-empt and prepare for these in advance where possible so that you don’t get caught out.
You should also back up your conclusions and recommendations with convincing and data-supported arguments. Well-crafted dashboards can be a huge help with this. Having them on hand means you can pull up relevant data points as you are asked for them.
Keep it brief (where possible)
Everyone is busy, especially senior stakeholders, so when it comes to presentations, it’s often best to follow the mantra that ‘less is more’ and to be as succinct as possible (unless you know from experience that an individual prefers to go into detail).
Keep your slides short, make the most important data points clearly visible and remove any fluff from your language.
Follow the steps above and you’ll stand a far greater chance of engaging non-financial stakeholders when it comes to the detail that matters.