Making a Great Financial Presentation

Working in corporate finance for a few years and serving as a Board of Directors Treasurer for a Nonprofit, I’ve had the opportunity to present financial summaries to executives at all levels. I present to people who live and breathe finance and accounting and to those who have very little finance acumen, sometimes while both are in the same room. As a finance presenter, I believe it is our job to assure all individuals of the organization or board understand the financials of the company in a judge free setting in order to allow for thoughtful decision making. The better our marketing team understands our finances, the better the company gets, so how do we present financials in a fashion that is comfortable for all? This is your chance to make an impact on the organization by providing a great financial presentation while encouraging meaningful conversation. I have found a few tips that work great no matter the audience you are working with. Here are some tips for creating financial presentations using Microsoft Office PowerPoint and Excel.

She presented the financials &thenShe had a seat at the table, she stopped feeling like an imposter, she … [insert your victory]

How to make a great financial presentation


1. Break it down


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  • Don’t assume your audience is familiar with your terminology or even finance acumen. Avoid using abbreviations, acronyms or fancy words, keep it straightforward. This also makes you more welcoming and allows a freer space for people to feel comfortable to ask questions and converse on potential financial red flags. 
  • If you know your audience is not finance savvy, take time to speak to or add definitions for terms such as “depreciation” or “net assets”. Include extra details such as “Why is this Key Performance Indicator (KPI) good/bad?” or “What’s a good goal/baseline for where we should be?”

2. Keep it consistent


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  • Every slide should have the same exact font size, colors (try to keep it to no more that three or four colors throughout your presentations), chart sizes, number of decimal places, etc. This will allow your reader to actually enjoy your presentation and feel less overwhelmed.
  • Keep your slides to only two or three designs – for example a chart on the left and commentary on the right OR chart on top and commentary on the bottom. This will help your audience know where to look on each slide, making it easier to follow along.

3. Include visual, quantitative and qualitative


  • Some people want to see the numbers, others want to see a bar graph, others just want to be told what they should be seeing, why not include all three on the same slide?
    • For example: A bar graph in the upper left showing total sales per month, a chart of total sales per month in dollars on the bottom, on the right commentary that says “Total Sales increasing steadily month over month”.

4. Include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Year To Date (YTD)


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  • Research KPIs that are important to your company or industry and speak to where you are compared to your competitors.
  • Comparing YTD versus YTD last year or YTD budget helps us understand our baseline better. 

5. Speak to the variances


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  • Add commentary on major variances. Did you budget $2million in expenses but only spent $1million? Add commentary as to why this variance occurred. You are in finance, so you may not know the answer right away, reach out to the appropriate business partners to get your answers.

6. Keep it simple and relevant


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  • There are so many great tools out there and awesome ways to show data, but try not to overdo it and don’t overwhelm your audience with too much data and flashy symbols.
  • Keep your summaries high level and get straight to the point. If you’re presenting on a 5 million dollar budget, it may not be relevant to speak to a $500 invoice to this audience, use your discretion.
  • Mix it up: Try different graph types for your data (just make sure formatting and color is consistent) and see what resonates with your audience. Did they like the pie chart, or would a stacked bar chart be more helpful, how about a waterfall chart or a simple line graph? I will often include two charts to show the same data (“seen another way”) and try to notice where my audience gets more engaged.

7. Appendix the details


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  • Your presentations should be rollups or summaries, but you will still get that one gal/guy that asks “what’s the $500 in ‘Other’”. Be prepared by including account level detail in your Appendix slides for the curious and detail oriented members of your audience. 

There are so many wonderful tips out there for making great financial presentations, what are some of your favorite? Drop a comment or contact me. 

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