The Challenges of Presenting Financial Information and How to Overcome Them

As an accountant working in an organisation you know that presenting financial information is a core part of your role.  This is becoming more important as the role changes from being a back office function to more finance business partnering.

Some do this in a way that almost seems effortless.  Others struggle.

Over the years, I’ve noticed there are several challenges that accountants seem to face.

So what are the challenges of presenting financial information and how can you overcome them?

Challenge 1: The conversation you have in your head

No I haven’t lost the plot.  We all talk to ourselves or think things.  One of the common things that might come up is that people are not interested in the financial report.

Another thing is that people don’t really understand the numbers.

What you think has a much greater impact than you might believe.

How to overcome this challenge

Stop trying to be a mind reader.  Some will be interested.  Some won’t be interested.

Don’t buy into the myth that people don’t understand the numbers.  They might not know the technicalities but they can understand that you need to set prices at a higher level than what it costs to make money.

A key part of your role is to bring the numbers to life and make things simpler.

Challenge 2: The one size fits all audiences

Different audiences have different requirements.  The marketing team you support needs more detail than the Board who want the big picture.   There is no such thing as a one size fits all approach when it comes to presenting.

How to overcome this challenge

Map out the different audiences who you present to and consider what they need.  Use interest and importance as a way of segmenting your audience so that you present things in the right way for different people.

Challenge 3: Being a slave to the technology

In Finance Excel is widely used. Excel is great for manipulating data, doing scenarios, forecasts, looking at trends.

It’s not a presentation tool.

PowerPoint is a presentation tool. There’s a risk that you end up loading up slides with too much content.

How to overcome this challenge

Don’t start with the assumption that you need a presentation.  Start by thinking about the best way of getting your message across in a way that will have the greatest impact.  Remember slides support your presentation.  They are not your presentation.

Challenge 4: Being crystal clear in your delivery

Good delivery doesn’t happen by chance.  It’s a performance.  Like all performances you are not likely to get it right first time.

Poor delivery is a consequence of what you do before you deliver your presentation.

How to overcome this challenge

Prepare rigorously before you deliver a presentation.  Use audio recording, video and even mock presentations to practice so that you deliver with confidence and clarity.  Remember – proper preparation prevents pretty poor performance.

The reality is that this is a key skill for any accountant.  So what action are you taking to improve your presentation skills?

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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