How to present financial data
Whether you are just starting out in your training contract, or have a bit more experience, presenting financial data to others will be part of your role. Here's how to present data in a clear and concise manner for clients and employers.
1. Pitch it correctly
As a first step, it is important to think about who you’ll be presenting your information to. For example, is it for a client meeting, or will you be presenting to colleagues from across the wider business?
Knowing your audience will help you understand their needs, and the level at which to pitch your presentation. Will they require lots of detail, or will a general overview be enough? Think about how they will use the information you give them in their work, and whether you need to provide any specific insights to help them.
2. Consider terminology
As part of your preparation, you should also give some thought to how you will explain your data. Again, this very much depends on your audience and their existing level of knowledge. Consider whether you should change the terminology to make things more understandable, or put together a short glossary of financial terms which can be issued in advance.
You don’t want to alienate your audience with lots of financial acronyms and terms, but at the same time, it’s important to demonstrate that you have a good knowledge of what you are presenting. Check for understanding as you go through your data; ask if anyone has any questions and explain any abbreviations.
We know that all organisations have their own internal jargon, so be careful to avoid this. It may be clear to you, but if you are delivering to a client or external party, the message you are trying to convey may be completely lost.
3. Anticipate questions
With any presentation, whether to clients or internally with colleagues or stakeholders, it is likely that you will be asked questions about your figures. Put yourself in their shoes – what areas would they be most likely to ask about? Try to anticipate the questions that might come up, and prepare appropriate responses.
It is also a good idea to put together a summary of the key data into a hand-out, should people need extra information. If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, say that you will come back with the information within a given timescale.
4. Use only relevant information
It can be tempting to include all the financial information you have gathered in your presentation, but this might not always be the best approach.
Think about the data you have and differentiate between what is most important, what is ‘nice to have’ and what is irrelevant. If you include lots of figures which are not relevant, this can confuse things and bombard your audience with information.
By questioning and justifying to yourself why each set of data is included, you will help ensure that you only include the most relevant, helpful figures. Portions of the information that is omitted from the presentation may be used to answer questions, so keep it handy.
5. Think about the visuals
You don’t need to prepare a fancy presentation full of colourful charts, but it is a good idea to give some thought to how you will present the information. A big spreadsheet full of figures can be intimidating to people who don’t work with numbers, so try to keep things pared back where you can.
Also remember that if a chart or table requires lots of explanation to get the main points across it could be misinterpreted by your audience.
Take a step back and try to ensure that any tables or charts can be understood on their own. If you are using spreadsheets, think about the formatting – use a consistent, easy-to-read font and keep things clear and uncluttered.
It is also important to consider your organisation’s branding. If you are representing your firm or company and presenting to external stakeholders, it is important that what you present is in keeping with any branding policy, particularly to ensure the visuals look professional and consistent.
6. Summarise the key points
Financial presentations often contain a lot of complex information, so it can be difficult for your audience to focus on the most important points.
Help your audience out by giving them a ‘key points’ section or summary at the end, where the most important information is laid out. If you make any recommendations or set out different options as part of your presentation, ensure that these are clearly laid out.