It’s the morning of the big presentation.
You wake up early, skin still glowing from the face mask you wore to bed.
Your lucky socks and “special occasion undies” slide on with ease after a great shower.
The presentation script is flowing so well while you apply body lotion. Those practice runs before bed really paid off.
Note to self: Don’t forget to pause after the joke on slide 4. They’ll love the comparison to Other Co and their second quarter of lost market share.
No heavy breakfast for today. Have to stay light and ready to tackle any questions from the Execs.
Now, off to work.
You walk up to your desk and respond to your manager’s question “You ready to rock?” with a confident nod and smile.
You’re number 3 on the agenda at the big meeting so you arrive a little early and get the best seat – you know the one that suggests that you’re not too eager, but still gives everyone the best view of you.
Everyone arrives and the meeting begins. Let’s go!
The first 10 minutes fly by. Then things start to go pear-shaped 😫
Moe from Marketing pulls one of their classic unprepared routines and goes waaaaay over time on topic 2. You try hard not to roll your eyes.
One little problem: there’s only 10min left for the meeting and you have about 15min of content (plus the inevitable questions) to get through. This is not good.
Your story was going to take everyone through a 3-month performance analysis, call out risks, update the project timeline (with 2 alternative scenarios to blow them away 😎) and then hit them with a recommendation that means business. There are 15 slides but you think it could be cut down to 10, but that’s as far as you’re willing to go without losing the message.
Unfortunately, Exec number 2 has other plans.
Realising that they are due to head to an even more important next meeting, Exec 2 asks if you can summarise the key takeaways in 5min. A few more execs agree and now everyone is looking at you.
You have two options:
Bumble throughCreate a summary on the fly potentially risking all your work being summarised poorly
- Prepare for this situation ahead of time using the BLUF principle
Welcome to Corporate Life – a place where you’re expected to summarise tons of work into 5min.
Thankfully, the BLUF principle can de-risk this scenario tremendously.
BLUF is a military acronym that stands for: Bottom Line Up Front
As the name suggests, it’s about putting the important details first. I use this technique in all of my key work presentations. Some people refer to it as an executive summary, I just call it slide 2 – because slide 1 is usually just the title slide 😅
A good slide 2 tells the audience:
- WHAT they should care about
- WHY they should care about it
- HOW they should take action
The rest of the slides take them through the points mentioned in a lot more detail. All of this should be accomplished in a slide that takes no more than 2 min to present. It can be 1 or 2 slides, but I like to aim for a single slide.
The biggest concern most people have with the BLUF technique is that they’re not able to tell the story how they would like to – with a long beginning, middle and end.
Newsflash – the presentation isn’t about you. It’s for the audience.
BLUF is awesome. You can use it in your writing (reports or blog posts), emails and presentations.
The benefits that BLUF delivers are:
- You get to the point immediately. The audience won’t need to sit through a 30min presentation before understanding what you need from them. Execs hate this. If there is a problem, let them know right up front
- It allows the audience time to digest the recommendations and they are able to follow your argument through the rest of the slides
- It allows the audience time to formulate questions or concerns. Execs are paid big bucks to mitigate risk and lend their expertise. Dropping a recommendation right at the end doesn’t allow them time to give you their expert input
- Creating a BLUF slide forces you to get very clear about the message you are telling in your presentation. Do the rest of the slides expand on what you promised in slide 2? If not, get clearer
There are two critical components to a great BLUF slide:
- Put in the work – in order to create a great summary, you need to understand the content deeply
- Understand your audience – know what they want to hear, what they need to hear and how best to communicate it
🎁 As a bonus for newsletter subscribers, here is a link to my Discovery Checklist which you can use to better plan out your presentation and BLUF slide
Back to our story…
And just like that, you look like a star as you clearly communicate your slide 2 to the Executive team in under 5 minutes. Yes, you didn’t get to show the alternative scenarios you worked on. But, you can still send it out in an email for the Execs to read through.
Oh and next time, make sure you’re first on the agenda 😂
I hope you’re having fun applying these presentation secrets to your work.
Is there a particular area that you currently struggle with? Let me know with a reply and I will create a lesson just for you 🏆
That’s all for Edition #12! Hope you have a fantastic week!
✌️ + ppt
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