How to give feedback to your boss on his presentations

 In Message creation

Recently an executive client relayed this scenario . . .

His CEO was coaching him to deliver an important presentation for a customer. The CEO had scripted the presentation and then demonstrated how he wanted the presentation to be delivered.

He then said to my client, ‘Do it how I did it – word for word – mimic me’.  That is, the CEO wanted my client to deliver the presentation using the exact scripted words, and vocal tone and cadence he had used.

My client was extremely frustrated with this instruction.

He knew, and other members of the team knew, his mimicked delivery would come across as false, and that it would be perceived that way by the client. (as had been confirmed by prior CEO mimicked, client presentations).

How would you handle that scenario?

I didn’t have any stellar recommendations for the client.

Still – here are suggestions for handling the situation*

Here are techniques #5 and #6.

5. Ask permission to present your position

DON’T: Launch in to the discussion without paving the way.
Why not?: The timing may not be good, and even if it is, by asking permission, you give your boss the chance to brace his/herself and invite the feedback.
DO: Ask your boss for a specific amount of time to raise a concern.
POWERPHRASE / What to say: “I’d like five minutes of your time to share my perspective on the widget decision and get your feedback on my thinking. Is now a good time, or could we schedule a meeting at another time?”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “I don’t like the widget decision for the following 300 reasons…”

6. Be pleasantly persistent

DON’T: Give up to soon.
Why not?: It takes time for people to change positions. A “no” can signal a need for making a stronger case for your idea.
DO: Gather new evidence and ask to make your case a second and even a third time.
POWER PHRASE / What to say: “I’ve looked into this idea some more and would like the opportunity to run my perspective by you in the light of new information. Can I have five minutes of your time?”
POISON PHRASE/ What not to say: “I give up.”


*Some CEOs/senior executives will never change their behaviour and don’t care what you or other people think. Here are two paraphrased points of mine, from the landmark book Leadership BS, by Jeffrey Pfeffer. (Pfeffer is currently ranked #17 in Thinker’s 50 list of top management thinkers).

  • Leaders can be untruthful and get away with it – because many times their transgressions don’t have negative impacts. They don’t lose their jobs. Sometimes they are promoted.
  • At times, aggressive leaders earn more money and status.

Own the Conversation

What difficult conversation do you need to have with your CEO or other senior leader? In the next seven days, with the above suggestions in mine, start charting a course for how you’ll handle the matter.

p.s. Watch this ‘bad’ presentation for a few minutes (if you can bear it) as example of how NOT to present.

p.p.s. Check out this post on success from former U.S. Senator, Robert F. Kennedy.

# You might want to trial my Confident Personal Communication video learning programme because it will give you practical techniques to ‘Own the Conversation’.

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