Many analysts and modellers would agree that public speaking is not their favourite part of the job and whilst it might be fun to imagine your senior management in their underwear, it’s probably more helpful to be prepared by following these basic tips.

Extracted from Using Excel for Business Analysis, Chapter 12

As the person who has built a financial model, or done the analysis on a particular situation, knows the model best, financial modellers are often requested to communicate the results of the financial model as a formal presentation to the board or senior management. Understandably, many detail-orientated analysts often find that it is quite a challenge to distill their 20-megabyte financial model that has taken weeks to build into a 10-minute presentation!

Although most senior management may not be interested in seeing the model itself, they might like to see live and changing scenarios. If the model is built correctly, you’ll be able to make a single change to the input assumptions and the audience will be able to see the effects of these changing scenarios in real time. Make sure that you test all possible inputs in advance—nothing looks less professional than a #REF! error during a live sensitivity analysis.

Should I use PowerPoint Slides?

Not all presentations require you to use PowerPoint, and it’s not always appropriate, but in this kind of environment, where it is necessary to convey lots of information, having the summary tables or charts on a slide behind you, while you are speaking, either in PowerPoint format, or the model itself, will be helpful. It can also help to take the focus off you if you are a little nervous.

Follow these basic rules of presentations:

  • Only display one key message per slide. Don’t crowd it or try to convey too much at once.
  • Give them a more detailed report to look through, but what you show on the screen should be a very concise summary of this report.
  • Make sure the font is big enough and clear on a data projector. Test it in advance if you can—sometimes colours look great on a monitor, but look washed out when projected on the wall.
  • If you are showing the model itself on the screen, increase the zoom in Excel so that your audience can see the numbers. Test this in advance, and remember you’ll only be able to show a small portion of the screen in this way.
  • Use charts and graphics to display your message. Generally the output from a model will be numerical, and charts are a great way of showing this. Research also shows that audience attention and retention of information increases significantly when graphics are used instead of pure text in presentations.

Most importantly, be prepared for questions regarding the output, inputs, assumptions, or workings of the model. Make sure that you can defend the assumptions that have been used, or the way something has been calculated. If you are not comfortable with some of the assumptions, say so up front. The model output is only as good as the assumptions that have gone into it, so you need to make sure that the audience accepts the key assumptions before they will accept the model results.

[img_assist|nid=5180|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=200|height=133]If you have the opportunity, spend some time with the key audience members in advance and walk them through the assumptions and methodology of the model. They might have some questions or comments that you have not anticipated, and it will give you a chance to make changes or prepare your answers to likely questions in advance.

My Model is 30MB with 25 Tabs!  Where do I start?

If you have a 10-minute slot during which you need to convey the high-level output of the model, you probably need about four slides. If we have put together a business case for a new product, for example, outputs for a typical financial model, may include:

  1. A summary of projected cash flows or profitability. You won’t be able to fit more than about five years onto a PowerPoint slide, so if you need to show 20 years, just show Years 1, 5, 10, 15, and 20, for example.
  2. Key assumptions. Use your judgement here to choose which assumptions are important. Select the ones that either impact the model the most, or you are most certain of.
  3. Scenarios analysis. On a slide you’ll probably comfortably be able to fit 4 5 scenarios so choose wisely. At minimum, display a best-case, base-case, and worst-case scenario. See “Scenarios and Sensitivity Analysis in a Business Case” in Chapter 11 for more detail on how to create these.
  4. Results of sensitivity testing. Show the results of tweaking a single assumption. For example, if we were to get our customer take-up amount wrong by 1 percent, this will cause a $500,000 change to the NPV—and this is something the audience needs to be aware of!

If you have longer than 10 minutes, you might be able to show the model itself if the presentation is more of a workshop than a formal presentation. In either case, you should be able to give each person a hard-copy summary report of the first few pages of the model with more detailed numbers than you have been able to include in the PowerPoint presentation. If the model has been well written, each page will form the back up data and source information for the model, and can be printed or distributed if the recipient of the summary results requests further information.

In summary, the output and presentation of the results is just as important as the rest of the model building process, because there is no point in having fantastically built model which none of decision-makers know about!  Once a model has been built, we then need to display its results clearly and concisely to get your message across, whether via a written report or oral presentation. This final stage of the model building process is sometimes not given as much focus by many modellers, particularly those whose skills are often more analytical than visual.