Executive Presentations: Presenting Status vs. Strategy

Earlier this year, I posted, CIO Advice: Listen, Answer The Question, Provide Insights to provide CIOs (and really all executives and managers) some basic advice on how to respond to questions from senior executives.

This post follows up with some basic guidelines on creating presentations for CIOs and other senior executives. Now there are many posts providing general presentation advice, for example, these 7 tips include KISS (keep it simple) and know the audience and these 5 tips include selling a vision and storytelling. Here's a good post for Business Analysts on presenting project status. If you're making an investor presentation, there are many, many posts including these 10 tips and pitching VCs (the dry version, more/better details, the more colorful version),  

All good tips. Surprisingly, there are few tips on developing a presentation to CIOs, and more generally, to other executives that either have operational responsibilities, are analytical and data-driven, or have direct responsibilities in developing products.

For these meetings, it is important to recognize the "type" of the meeting rather than just the audience. Here are two examples

The Executive Status Presentation

The goal for general, executive presentations is to "update" executives. They are used to communicate status and share both information and conclusions. Executives see many of these presentations, so it's important for them to be crisp - get your message out quickly or the executives will tune out. For these presentations, I recommend:

  • Present the problem statement - Ideally 1-2 slides
  • Present conclusions - Ideally 1-2 slides
  • Present the supporting details - Pick your best 2-4 slides that highlight the most important data and facts.
This rather simple formula is key to getting the key (but not necessarily all) executives to tune in. Also, since this is a status meeting, you should take control and present conclusions early.  

The Brainstorm or Strategy Presentation

Brainstorming sessions (ones where you want participants to contribute) or strategy sessions (sessions that tend to bring out opinions) require a slightly different format. Good presenters often (and should) already have conclusions, but the job of the presenter to bring the audience "on board", capture differences of opinion, and drive decisions. For these presentations, I recommend:
  • Present the scope of the problem - Ideally, 1-2 slides that should include both what is in scope, and what is out of scope.
  • Present the facts - Ideally, these should be data-driven.
  • Present insights and conclusions
By the time you present any insights, the executive has been given some time to think through the underlying facts and data. Your conclusions have a lot more context, and the presentation of facts prepares the executive to contribute to the discussion.

The Hard Part - What Meeting Are You In?

When an executive sits for a presentation, they may not know whether the goal is to provide a status update or a strategy. If you're presenting strategy but the executive is expecting status, you'll lose her interest by presenting facts. If they are expecting strategy, leading him with conclusions may create friction if he already has biases and doesn't know the underlying facts.

I would suggest announcing this verbally, rather than being explicit in the presentation. You can say things like:
  • Today, let me bring you up to speed on our research project (Status Presentation)
  • Today, we will share results from our research and present recommendations on a go-forward strategy (Strategy Presentation)
 Good luck


  1. Thanks for providing the information regarding executive status presentation and strategy presentation.
    CIO strategy
    Thanks for sharing..

  2. All good tips. Surprisingly, there are few tips on developing presentation to CIOs, and more generally, to other executives that either have operational responsibilities, are analytical and data driven, or have direct responsibilities in developing products.Executive Employers Complaints


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About Isaac Sacolick

Isaac Sacolick is President of StarCIO, a technology leadership company that guides organizations on building digital transformation core competencies. He is the author of Digital Trailblazer and the Amazon bestseller Driving Digital and speaks about agile planning, devops, data science, product management, and other digital transformation best practices. Sacolick is a recognized top social CIO, a digital transformation influencer, and has over 900 articles published at InfoWorld, CIO.com, his blog Social, Agile, and Transformation, and other sites. You can find him sharing new insights @NYIke on Twitter, his Driving Digital Standup YouTube channel, or during the Coffee with Digital Trailblazers.