In my years as an analyst, there were two certainties that I could count on when it came to delivering reporting presentations to clients and internal stakeholders:
- Each report took way longer than it was supposed to take to complete – leading to late nights and high stress levels
- Every person viewing the report had a different interpretation of how the data should be presented – leading to late nights and high stress levels
In other words, the only certainty is uncertainty.
Delivering a monthly report, providing meaningful analysis and trying to initiate action within a company is hard; especially when your audience is often a moving target. What might be the perfect report for a marketing manager may cause a VP to have an aneurism.
While there are many reasons for the discrepancy in expected analysis between members of an organization, it always falls on the person delivering the report to take feedback, make adjustments and produce a workable document that can be shared with an organization.
There is a better way
It took me years of trial and error (mostly error) to come up with a template for delivering reports that can appeal to people at all levels of an organization. The biggest breakthrough I had in the process was understanding that it’s usually not what you present, it’s how you present it. This lead me to come up with a monthly reporting presentation template that I’m making available to all paid Knowledge Land subscribers.
When it comes time for you to give a reporting presentation (commonly known as a slide deck) to your clients or internal stakeholders, we have created an easy format that you can use to build a slide deck that will be enjoyed by all. Building presentations in this format should cover most preferences for the people in the room and also provides flexibility to add, remove or rearrange slides in a snap.
Here are the elements that I recommend building into any presentation that involves reporting on the results of your digital marketing programs.
Using an agenda to start your slide deck allows you to set the tone for your meeting by sharing what you will go through in the rest of the report. It is a preview of what to expect and also can serve as your outline for what you might need to cover while developing your deck.
Every presentation should have an executive summary to begin the report. While it may seem redundant to add this to your deck when you have several other slides in the presentation, over time this will become the main reference point for recipients of your report.
Here’s where it pays off to make an assumption: Whatever you present in person will be passed along to at least 10 other people in the organization. Most of these people will view your executive summary slide and not delve any further into the information that you have prepared. Will your slides hold up and pass the test throughout the organization?
I was arrogant and stubborn for much of my early career and concluded that an executive summary was not necessary because all of the information was readily available in the other slides in the deck. Somehow I thought it was reasonable to expect that everyone read every slide in order to form their own conclusions. What a waste of time and resources! Please don’t make that same mistake of assuming that those receiving your report want to share in all of the details.
Simplify the complex
Key Performance Indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the building blocks that make up your executive summary. These are the observations that we have gained into the business and our assessment of the implications and actions that we need to take based on those insights. If the executive summary is your elevator pitch, then the Key Performance Indicators are the answers to the follow up questions that may come out of the summary.
One format that I have found that works very well for presentations is to build a matrix that helps you put each KPI insight into perspective. This table will have two columns for the Insights and Implications that you have gained, and as many rows as you need to highlight all of your insights (I recommend putting at least 3 insights in your report). Here is a sample of how this may look when complete:
|KPI and Insight||Implication / Actions|
Now that we have begun to tell a story about how the business is performing, it’s time to share the numbers behind the story. It is best to start by sharing numbers around the overall performance of the company, business unit or program that is receiving this report. This provides a high level overview of how each unit is performing while also giving context into why it is necessary to produce the report in the first place.
The overall performance slides can include data tables, charts and other visualizations to represent your story. While these visuals likely do a great job of telling your story, I also recommend adding a box with observations and implications on each slide. This allows your meaning to be consistently translated as the report is shared throughout the organization. Remember: for every one person receiving the presentation in person, expect that 10 more people will receive it after the fact.
What should be included in the overall performance reports? You have liberty to include any information that you find valuable, but I would consider the following comparisons:
- Year over year comparisons – How are we doing compared to this same month last year? How are we doing this year to date vs. last year to date?
- Month over month comparisons – How are we doing compared to last month? If your business has minimal seasonal shift in performance, this comparison helps you understand growth or decline in business.
- Target to actual comparisons – If you have set performance targets for your business, the overall performance slides should include an indicator of whether you are above or below your target.
This is all of the work that you actually do to arrive at the answers in your executive summary, KPIs and Overall Performance sections. It is often relegated to the back of your presentation and you may not ever get to showcase these slides while going through the monthly report. It is downright painful to put a lot of work into a presentation and not even have your slides see the light of day, but that’s often a reality we face.
Sometimes you won’t make it beyond the Executive Summary. This may be disappointing to you at the time, but remember this: you wouldn’t be able to answer all of the questions if you didn’t pull together the supporting work in the slides that didn’t get covered. The act of diving deep into the data, metrics and KPIs of the organization is how you set your place at the table.
There are a few housekeeping items you should also consider when delivering a report to an audience.
Always include slide numbers on every slide of your presentation. This is especially important for phone meetings where recipients are following along on their own computers. Slide numbers are often used to make sure everyone is following along at the appropriate pace.
If you are trying to impress your audience, printing out copies of your presentation (i.e. hard copies) and distributing during the presentation can help ensure that your presentation gets noticed over time.
One of my favorite methods of delivery for these reports is to provide an electronic version of the presentation to participants 15 minutes before the presentation begins. This allows them to read along with your presentation in the event that there are technical difficulties viewing your screen, but is delivered close enough to the presentation that they will not be able to read all of the slides ahead of time and steal your thunder.
Deliver Better Reports Today!
There you have it, the blueprint I have used to create awesome reports after years of trial and error. By following the rules outlined above and downloading my template for your weekly/monthly/quarterly/annual reporting presentation, you will begin to produce reports that get noticed! Trust me, my presentations went from being deleted to praised by following these rules of engagement.
It took me years of trial and error to gain this knowledge, but you don’t have to! Go from zero to hero with this reporting presentation template.