Accountants and finance professionals have a reputation for being introverts who are more focused on numbers and reporting than being masters of public speaking. However, as technology evolves and accountants are expected to provide companies with more value-added reporting and strategic planning advice, they will also need to be able to present their findings to upper management and other stakeholders.

In anticipation of enhanced reporting activities, it is wise for accounting and finance professionals to improve their presentation skills. There are a variety of ways to do so. In this guide, we’ll examine a few of the top strategies.

1. Overcome Anxiety Associated with Public Speaking

If you get anxiety before a public speaking event, it’s time to work on overcoming it. To do so, you’re going to need to practice. 

Consider joining a volunteer organization that you are interested in and offering to give short talks about topics you are familiar with. 

You can also join Toastmasters International, which is devoted to helping professionals develop their public speaking skills. Meetings allow members to present regular speeches to their peers. After a speech is delivered, coaches provide you with feedback on your performance.

2. Prepare an Engaging Presentation

A presentation that is short on detailed information, but delivers high-level analysis is much more engaging than one that analyzes every aspect of a topic. People can only take in so much; being overly meticulous might cause you to lose the attention of your audience. 

When you are creating your presentation, select only the most important and relevant information to highlight. 

3. Involve Your Audience Throughout the Presentation

Oftentimes, presenters will focus only on the delivery of the speech, forgetting about the audience sitting in front of them. It’s important to keep the audience interested in your presentations. 

An easy way to do this is to allow audience members to ask questions throughout the delivery. You can also incorporate anecdotes or relevant jokes so that listeners don’t lose focus on the subject matter of the speech.

4. Present on Subjects You’re Passionate About

If you aren’t excited by your presentation, no one else will be either! Thus, it’s important to approach your speech from a perspective of interest. 

Understand the key topics that you are addressing and develop some of your own ideas. For example, if you are presenting an analysis of expenses that have increased over the past year, you could indicate some potential areas in which expenses could be reduced. You can then open up the discussion to everyone to participate in making cost-cutting recommendations.

5. Have a Slideshow Prepared that Highlights Key Information

When you’re creating a slideshow, it is easy to get bogged down with every question and detail surrounding a subject. Instead of inserting lots of facts and text around a number of topics, concentrate on just two or three areas. 

Provide key charts and graphs that highlight what you want your audience to understand from your presentation. During your delivery, make sure to clearly discuss the findings from each chart or graph so that your audience can get a complete picture of the topic at hand.

6. Look Comfortable on Stage

If your presentation involves speaking from a stage or similar setup, make sure that you avoid standing in a tense, rigid manner. Instead, try to keep a relaxed posture when talking. This may take some practice, especially if you are not used to presenting on a regular basis.

A good way to relax when you’re on stage is to find a standing position that you are comfortable with. It’s also okay to move across the stage during the presentation so that you are looking at different people in the audience, too. This can even improve audience engagement.

7. Watch Presentations from Others

A great approach to improve your own presentation skills is to watch dynamic presenters. This can be done at your business or during your personal time. 

Recorded TED talks are a great tool to learn about presenting. During a TED talk, speakers discuss specific topics that they have expertise in. Usually, speeches are less than 30 minutes in length. You can observe the ways that speakers keep their audience engaged, how they stand, and the supporting information they use to drive their most important points home.

Toastmasters is another way to observe individuals who deliver presentations. While TED talks can be watched over the internet from the comfort of your home, Toastmasters’ speeches are conducted in person. To watch a Toastmaster speech, you will need to join your local chapter of Toastmasters International.

8. Understand What Your Listeners Are Looking For

A company that asks its accounting and financial professionals to deliver a presentation is looking for value. Thus, it is imperative for a presentation to address the needs of the company as a whole, including upper management. Fully understand what the stakeholders of your presentation are interested in and dive in deep on those subjects. 

Learn More about Presentation Skills in Our Community

Looking to learn more about presentation skills? Controllers Council is a national community and platform of Controllers, Accounting and Finance professionals focused on accounting best practices, information and resources, recognition and networking. Membership has many features and benefits to propel your career and expertise, and to be an active participant in our exciting community. The Controllers Council Forum allows members to pose questions about presentation skills and other topics. Become a member today.

Additional Resources

Breaking Down 6 Crucial Controller Challenges & How to Overcome Them

Controller to CFO: Ten Roles for Tomorrow’s Finance Chief

Should You Take That Recruiter Call? It Can’t Hurt.