Institute for Higher Education

Mastering the Art of Presenting to Senior Audiences

Key Insights from Joe Howard’s Exceptional Approach 

As an individual who frequently addresses senior audiences through presentations, I recently had the privilege of witnessing a remarkable presentation by Joe Howard, the Vice President for Enrollment at Widener University. This insightful event took place at The Institute for Higher Education in the serene backdrop of Clearwater Beach in June 2023.

The impact of Joe Howard’s presentation was so profound that we were compelled to extend an invitation for him to share his expertise through a webinar. His presentation revolves around strategies for addressing the C-Suite, but its principles are universally applicable to presentations for any audience. If you’d like to watch his entire presentation, you can find it here.

Let’s delve into some of the invaluable tips he shared:

The Power of Audience Insight – First and foremost, Howard emphasizes the importance of comprehending your audience. Who comprises the gathering? What commitment of time are they making? He draws on his experience at Widener University, where he meticulously calculated the cost of having the cabinet members present for an hour—a noteworthy insight for the higher education C-Suite. By grasping the investment your audience is dedicating to your presentation, you become more judicious in your time utilization.

Time: A Precious Commodity – Respecting the time of your audience is a paramount consideration. According to Howard, this translates to scrupulous editing. Extraneous content is to be discarded. If a point isn’t essential on a slide or doesn’t contribute to your message, it’s best left out. Howard underscores the significance of rehearsing your presentation to gauge its length. Failing to do so could inadvertently signal disrespect for the time of those in attendance.

Harmonizing with Their Priorities – A pivotal aspect of an effective presentation is aligning your content with the priorities of your audience. Howard advocates for unambiguous elucidation of how your presentation addresses these priorities. Drawing from his experience at Widener, he illustrates this concept using the example of enhancing yield. By explicitly tying your content to the established priorities, you establish a clear connection.

Balancing Intelligence and Expertise – While senior executives possess substantial knowledge, they may not be experts in your subject matter—that’s why they’ve gathered to hear you. It’s imperative to define terms, especially in domains like higher education. Howard’s recommendation is to provide clear definitions, enabling your audience to engage fully. Additionally, defining your presentation’s goals is vital. Clearly stating what you intend to achieve fosters a transparent and effective discourse.

Crafting Narratives that Resonate – A compelling presentation is a narrative that guides the audience toward formulating their own conclusions. It also instills confidence in your capabilities, your team, and your commitment.

Data as a Supporting Cast – Data isn’t the core of your story; it supplements and substantiates your narrative. Howard suggests aligning your data with your underlying thesis. If a data point doesn’t harmonize with your narrative, consider omitting it. This disciplined editing ensures that your data bolsters your presentation’s core message.

In essence, Howard emphasizes that your presentation is akin to a story, tailored to the right audience at the right juncture. This parallels the essence of effective marketing—presenting not just information but also portraying yourself and your team in the best light.

In the realm of empowering effective communication with senior leaders, 3E stands at the forefront, recognizing the profound significance of presentations to these pivotal stakeholders. Our commitment is to equip our partner institutions with solutions that grant them direct access to data, enabling them to fortify their strategies.

It is with this resolve that we proudly introduce the ForwardIQ data analytics platform, a transformative software that stands as the epitome of enrollment growth empowerment. Within this platform, ForwardIQ Forecast emerges as a beacon of insight, harnessed by our partners who illuminate boards and senior leaders on the potential shifts in NTR, enrollment, and revenue for forthcoming budget planning seasons.

At 3E, we’re not just about data; we’re about propelling institutions toward data-driven success. Learn how to engage stakeholders, the board, and senior leaders through learnings in our recent report: The Four Best Practices for Academic Program Planning Success.