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Like this article? We recommend What Management Does NOT Want to Hear

What Management Does NOT Want to Hear

Consider the following example of a presentation opening:

  • “Good morning. If you will refer to the 168-page report in front of you, you will see that I am here to alert you to some problems with the LAN switches. The network has been down four times so far this year. For starters, we may need a UPS on each media access unit at a cost of $5,000 each. We would also like to upgrade each LAN switch with Amalgamated Revision 4.12 enhanced power and common logic, and hot stand-by protection switching. Route diversity on each drop throughout the building is costly, but recommended. Furthermore,…”

By this time, the executive is fingering his Blackberry, doodling on a pad, or looking at the next agenda item while expecting someone else to listen to the presentation. What will be the most likely outcome of the meeting? The answer will not be "Yes." He or she does not really understand what you are talking about, only that you think you need something. The answer will not be "No" for essentially the same reason. Management does not want to go on record against whatever it was you were trying to ask for! So what is left? The safe play: “Let’s study it some more.”

Because of a few key mistakes, the presenter does not get his funding; instead, he walks out with a longer list of questions from management than the ones he brought into the meeting. He has also damaged his credibility for the next meeting—if he ever gets one.

The key to a successful presentation is this: Do not speak to management in technical terms. Use business terms. Management understands business terminology, and it is meaningful to them in a presentation. Let's try again another way:

  • “Good morning. Are you aware that D.P.B. (Deep Pockets Bank) runs the risk of a $750 per minute financial hit every time the LAN supporting our fraud monitoring system fails? It has happened four times this year. We have identified several areas of exposure, and would like you to help us consider protective alternatives that can prevent this from happening in the future.”

Wow, how's that for an opening? Will that get management's attention? You bet, for approximately ten seconds. That's about how long it takes the CEO's head to look around the table and ask, "Where did that $750 figure come from?" When the shoulders all shrug, the meeting is over. Sure, they will listen to you, but no action will be taken because the figures are in doubt. What answer can you expect? You guessed it. "Let's study this some more.”

Think about how long it takes to get a meeting with a CEO or a CIO in your company. If you have to take that much time and trouble, go in ready for action and not predestined for failure. Do your homework first.

The best way to "sell" management is to produce believable loss scenarios, and verify your figures with people the manager holds in confidence. These include vice presidents (or equivalent) of sales, marketing, operations, engineering, finance, legal, and other divisions in position to truly assess the effect of a disaster in terms of revenue. A competent consulting company or the company's internal or external auditors can also help because they are credible to management. You will then need a hard-hitting presentation, preferably with less than five slides. We have a modest example in this chapter.

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