Preparing an ERG Executive Briefing That Gets Results

Many books and articles have been written about the types of metrics you can use to present the progress and accomplishments of your ERG to your company executives. This post will focus instead on describing a simple formula that ERG leaders can use to package their information for a briefing in a way that will capture and maintain executive interest and support.

During the course of my career in diversity and inclusion, I’ve seen many ERG presentations fail — despite the fact that the programs had solid accomplishments that were presented using an arsenal of best practice metrics. What was missing in all of these presentations was, quite simply, good packaging. The same information, just more effectively packaged, can have a much greater impact.

Let me give you an example. One ERG leadership team came to me with a 50-page deck of slides that detailed every program that the group had ever had, and ever planned to have, and was laden with tons of best-practice metrics. They told me this was the material they planned to use in a 20-minute executive briefing that had been scheduled for the following month. The team members were clearly nervous, and with good reason. They had used a similar presentation approach the previous year, heavy on detail and weighted down with metrics. After the meeting with the executive team was over, they felt as though they had rambled and rushed to cram a lot into a little slice of time. It was a nerve-racking experience that they did not want to repeat. Also, the presentation had not brought them any tangible benefits with regards to budget or support for the ERG. Overall, the ERG leaders felt that they had come across as amateurish and lacking in clear focus.

After five one-hour coaching sessions, and much to the ERG leaders’ surprise, we whittled down the 50-page PowerPoint monster into just five slides with a concise and highly focused snapshot of their accomplishments, plans and needs that could be presented in 15 minutes. We also constructed a tight feel and flow for the talking points. After a few rehearsals, the team leaders sounded confident and sharp. To no one’s surprise, about a week after the briefing, the executive committee approved the requested ERG budget and, instead of the two executives they had asked for as speakers for their future event, they got more than three volunteers. This was the ERG team leaders’ first taste of measurable success with the executive team. Although they presented the same accomplishments using the same metrics that they had always used, they had simply spent some time packaging the information a little differently.

So what did this small slide deck look like? Here is a quick overview:

Slide 1 contained the ERG name. It highlighted the network’s mission and who the presenters were. An overview of what the team wanted to convey to the executive committee about their past accomplishments, future plans and support needs was communicated through speaking points.

Slide 2 outlined the ERG’s accomplishments during the past year. I had asked that the team reduce the details in 30 pages of their original slide deck into a list on a single page. Next, I asked them to highlight — on that same page, in a side box — the performance metrics of two of the programs. We selected the two that really showed what this ERG had accomplished in areas that were similar to key programs they were planning for the next year.

Slide 3 provided an overview of the ERG’s plan for the next year. Again, I’d asked them to combine into a one-page list the programs that had been detailed across 15 pages in the original slide deck. Using the same format that we had used for the past year accomplishments, I asked them to select two programs — one that supported the business and another that provided benefits to the ERG members — and to detail these using metrics that projected their expected outcomes.

Slide 4 spelled out in crisp and clear language exactly what the ERG needed from the executive team to execute the plan. Originally, the ERG leaders wanted to say something along the lines of “we would like your support for this plan,” but I told them that this was not the time to be coy, shy or vague. Based on this advice, they asked for a specific dollar amount and for two executive members to speak at a future event.

Slide 5 looked like the usual Q&A placeholder, but a lot more work went into the preparation for this segment before the briefing. First, we left a comfortable five minutes (or 25 percent of the presentation time) for the Q&A segment. Also, rather than going into the room in a “wait-and-see mode,” I asked the team leaders to brainstorm about the questions they anticipated hearing. We identified about 15 questions, and we then spent some time preparing tight, clear answers. We also discussed some questions that we wanted the executive committee to ask, and I coached the team leaders on how to introduce and answer these questions if no one else raised them. Finally, we identified and prepared answers for questions that we would only address if the listeners raised them. I can’t emphasize enough how critical the Q&A segment is to a presentation; unfortunately, many people fail to adequately prepare for it.

The next time you have an opportunity to present to an executive team, remember that a strong list of accomplishments and supporting metrics is good, but a five-hour investment in time to prepare an engaging and powerful presentation can make a huge difference in the outcome of your 20 minutes in the spotlight.