Presenting Financial Figures

Numbers are essential tools used in the decision-making process in a company. Effective management entails the proper use of financial figures. But a lot of people have a fear of numbers stemming from unpleasant experiences with them during their school years. In order to understand and use numbers fear must be overcome first. Understanding will then follow; you will know what numbers can tell and what they can not tell. You will know when it is appropriate to use them and when it is not. You will come to know their limitations. Only at this time will figures become a useful tool for making decisions and enhancing the quality of decisions.

Decision-making in a company usually involves presenting financial figures to several managers, not all of whom have backgrounds in finance. The objectives of presenting financial figures to them are to educate and inform them of the financial performance of the company and convince them of future trends that must be considered in order to give direction to the company. This means that the presentation must be clear and comprehensible to the audience. It is not enough to print out financial statements, hand them out and discuss them line by line. This will not accomplish understanding and clarity. Doing away almost completely with figures and financial terms and steering away from technical discussions is tempting because it may seem easier and simpler, but neither will it achieve the goals of educating, informing and convincing the audience.

A better approach to presenting financial figures is to try to level the financial understanding of the attendees. He should put himself in their shoes and think of ways to incorporate financial terms and figures in his presentation in an easily understandable manner, explaining along the way the terms that can not be replaced with layman’s terms.

To prepare for the challenge of presenting financial figures, the presenter must first select the most critical numbers, making sure that all assumptions or basis for each are explained. Decide also which financial terms and concepts are needed for the presentation and how these terms can be explained in layman’s terms.

It is a good idea to develop an outline of your presentation showing the objectives, critical financial concepts or principles and critical figures. This will serve as a guide for the flow of your presentation.

The presentation should start with an explanation of the objectives. Tell the audience what you wish to accomplish and give them a summary of the discussion points. Establish clearly the importance of understanding the critical concepts that you are including in your presentation. Tell the audience why they need to understand the concepts. To explain the concepts, you can relate them to some familiar and ordinary situations. Analogies can be used as a tool to accomplish this. To maintain your audience’s attention throughout the presentation, keep referring back to your familiar and ordinary situations that you used as examples so that your audience can keep up with the story that you are trying to tell. Take short breaks to let the audience absorb the ideas and figures and encourage them to ask questions.