I remember my first Chief Executive Officer. I guess more precise would be that I remember the first time I interacted with a CEO. I had been asked to make a presentation. And to wear a suit. I didn’t have a suit. I had to buy one. I still have that suit somewhere. It doesn’t fit of course. And I wouldn’t wear it anyway. It was a style and colour of its day. Neither of which are today.
It was only the CEO. Not the Board of Directors. My first Board interaction was many years later – and I agree – I don’t know if that was a good result or no. I recall the preparation. I remember the rehearsals – word by word. I recall been given advice on my slides. I remember realising it was not advice – it was required.
One of the requested slides was what everyone called the CEO slide. The first slide – the first slide after the title slide of course. The was the Executive Summary – or more literally the CEO Summary. ‘You may only get opportunity to present that one slide’…‘so make sure it says everything you want to say’. I had 30 minutes on the agenda – and a new suit – my assumption was I would have my time in the spotlight.
Sure enough on the day, my ‘time’ became my ‘moment’. My one slide. He had ‘read it in advance’. I was in and out in less time than it had taken me to knot my tie. ‘You did well’ was the general feedback I remember. I recall a feeling of total anti-climax. All that effort and energy for next to nothing. Well nothing really.
Everyone asked me how it had gone. I didn’t really know what to say. Everyone seemed so much more excited than I was. More impressed than I was…more energised. My expectations were high – arguably too high. I was disappointed. I assumed it was me.
In due course I learned it wasn’t me (unless everyone was being nice of course). For years I used to include a ‘CEO slide’ in every presentation I gave. I even told the story about why a CEO slide…everyone would laugh. I used to laugh. I never thought it was that funny.
Since that day I have had other opportunities to present to CEOs and to Boards of Directors. Although to be fair (or honest) it was a long time after that first experience before I had a second.
CEOs and BODs have changed a lot since then – for the better. I have probably changed a lot since then as well (hopefully for the better as well). I don’t use a CEO slide any more. I do tell stories about CEOs and BODs. Sometimes I laugh…more often I reflect and admire. Repeat the insights. Share the learning. Remind about the suit and tie (for the BOD at least).
I still concentrate on that first slide…my opportunity to make that big statement. To grab attention and steer focus. I always seek help and advice on that first slide from people I know and trust. I normally take full heed of the advice offered. Sometimes I inexplicably totally overlook great advice.
My goal is always the same – to leave a presentation – whether to a leadership team last week, a CEO next week, or a Board of Directors next month – with more or better. More ideas, more focus, more support, better priorities, better clarity, better objectives. More or better.
What I share, say or ask…and how…is important. How open I am to hear, listen and absorb advice, experience and insight is more important.