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5 tips for presenting to executives

Plus five mistakes to avoid at all costs if you want to establish and grow your internal credibility

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I’m presenting to Clari’s c-suite this coming Monday.

It’s not my first time, but the opportunity still comes with a quarter pound of nerves, ½ cup of excitement, and a dash of anxiety. Par for the course when all of the company’s most experienced and powerful people are in a (virtual) room watching, listening, and judging what I have to say. My palms just got a tad bit sweaty typing that.

But honestly, I like the pressure.

The stakes aren’t March Madness levels. I don’t have to “win or go home.”

But nailing these types of opportunities can significantly increase your credibility and notoriety within your company. Both are good for your career growth, promotions, and raises.

But fall short and… well let’s not spiral into a negative self talk and destructive “what ifs.”

As you can imagine, I’ve been preparing all week. Not just on what I’m going to share, but how I’m going to present it.

That’s often overlooked. And it prevents great marketers from getting the buy-in needed to execute the exciting, different, and often fun ideas that make marketing such a rewarding career.

I'm by no means perfect but I've successfully presented my content strategy to Clari's CEO (Andy) multiple times and I've learned what works and what doesn't.

So this week I’m sharing 5 tips I wish I knew earlier in my career, plus 5 mistakes to avoid when presenting to senior executives. Things that've helped me have more strategic conversations, elevate my reputation, and get buy-in to execute on my vision.

Ready? Let’s ride.  🌊

Tip #1 - Always start with the CEO slide.

Look at the top 3-5 strategic company initiatives your CEO presents (usually around this time of year) and align whatever your presenting to those things.

If you’re presenting your H1 plan, tie every deliverable to a strategic initiative.

If you’re proposing a new strategy, tie it to one of those strategic initiatives.

If you’re proposing a new channel, tie it to one of those strategic initiatives.

You’re seeing a pattern…

"Starting a podcast" seems tactical until you tie it to your goal of creating and winning your category. (For example.)

Don't start in marketing-land, start at the company level. 

Speaking of which...

Tip #2 - Speak their language and avoid too much ‘marketing speak’.

Your C-level execs don’t know the importance of engagement rates, impressions, or "dark social."

And candidly, they don’t really care to learn either.

It’s not their job to be a marketing expert. It’s yours.

Remember that MQLs aren’t on that CEO slide either. But "they are a great early indicator that shows if our programs are bringing in the right people who can buy from us."

Framing matters. Meet your audience in the middle and focus on what they care about.

Showing you can translate marketing lingo to real business outcomes elevates the conversation AND your credibility.

Avoid too much marketing jargon or else you risk being labeled as ”junior” or “too tactical.” 

Tip #3 - Numbers don't lie. Hit 'em with real stats.

This one is quick because it’s simple.

Data gives your ideas credibility. Back up your perspective and ideas with data wherever possible.

Execs like:

  • QoQ growth rates

  • Projected results (ROI)

  • 3rd party research that substantiates your point of view

Bring them a plan without metrics and you’re asking to get scorched (I've seen it happen. It’s tough to watch.)

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’'ll persuade on vision alone. Bring numbers.

Which reminds me…

Tip #4 - Share your vision, not just a check list.

Andy (CEO) pushes me to "stand in the future and look backwards" — then get the group to see what I see.

Starting with tactics like webinars, blogs, etc is a guaranteed way to get your C-suite to mentally unsubscribe.

I like to start with a big problem statement to frame my proposal.

Words like “imagine if…” are powerful for getting people to think bigger (your bigger).

Tell them the potential impact of your ideas if your plan works out. Be specific.

Then back into the how.

❌ Don’t start with tactics. And avoid getting into the weeds (or as I say, down to the dirt) — unless asked for specifics.

Tip #5 - Don't just present. Actively encourage input.

All exec want their voices heard and their fingerprints on your plan.

It's kinda their job after all.

So don't go in expecting all head nods, hugs, and handshakes. You won’t get ‘em. Instead invite input. Things like:

"Andy what on this slide is most interesting to you?”


“Andy what risk do you see in my plan that might’ve missed?”

By the way, don’t mistakenly think you have to agree with everything they say. You just want to show you’re self-aware and capable of receiving feedback (and of course, hopefully get some good input to refine your ideas).

There's a time to defend your POV and there's a time to be quiet, listen, and accept feedback. And even if you get unsolicited questions, don’t get defensive.

❌ Don’t expect 100% agreement. And don’t get frustrated if they challenge you’re thinking.

TL,DR (Too Long, Devin Reed)

  1. Always start with the CEO slide

  2. Speak their language and avoid too much ‘marketing speak’.

  3. Numbers don't lie. Hit 'em with real stats.

  4. Share your vision, not just a check list.

  5. Don't just present. Actively encourage input.

When presenting to execs, think big and build excitement.

Then show off your plan that's aligned, ambitious, and achievable.

Holler at you next Saturday,

PS: It took me ~3.5 hours to write this newsletter. You can help me grow it in 12 seconds by forwarding it to one person with a quick “You’ll love this newsletter. Totally worth subscribing. You can sign up here.”

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