Presentations can be a powerful way of communicating the results of an audit engagement. They can be used to highlight better practices, identify opportunities for improvement and garner buy-in for proposed management actions. However, there are several things to consider in delivering an effective presentation.
Effective presentations begin with preparation. Kaye (2009)1 advises "There is only one good reason to give a presentation and that is to cause change. Your first step in planning a presentation is to determine why you are speaking. What decision do you want the audience to make? What outcome/conclusion do you want them to reach? What action do you want them to take? Your presentation is a success when you deliver the result that was expected.”
Preparation provides an opportunity to collect ideas, identify the main contention of the presentation and determine the evidence needed to support these ideas. Visual aids can be used to support the presentation, although these should not detract from what is being said – they should simply reinforce the main ideas. For example, a closing interview presentation may incorporate graphs or photos to clearly illustrate the nature of the findings.
Rehearsal is also key to delivering an effective presentation. Presenters should have a good idea of the time that the presentation requires and ensures that this aligns with the time available. Rehearsing the presentation helps alleviate nerves associated with public speaking, while also adding energy and commitment.
Effective presentations start with a powerful impact statement that may only last one to two minutes, but clearly establishes the purpose of the presentation. These statements should introduce the presenter, articulate the purpose of the presentation and structure the presentation into key sections. An example of an engagement closing presentation that exhibits this follows:
Hello. I’m Mary Smith, and I am the lead auditor for this engagement. Over the next hour, I plan to take you through our key findings from the engagement, provide an opportunity for you to comment on our conclusions and work with you to develop some actions to address these findings.
Weissman (2003)2 believes an effective presentation leads the audience to a clear objective. He says, “the journey gives the audience a psychological comfort level that makes them ready to respond positively to the presenter’s call to action—as well as to the presenter”.
While delivering the presentation, it is not unusual to be nervous about public speaking. Presenters should channel their adrenaline into enthusiasm, manage their nerves through positive self-talk, and control their breathing.
To increase connection with the audience, presenters should make eye contact and understand how the audience is responding to the presentation—staying alert to the audience’s body language. Brody (2000) suggests that “hitting the emotional buttons will create more impact and action than pure data. Include stories, analogies, and metaphors to reinforce the key points”.
The closing section provides an opportunity to create a mutual dialogue with the audience—to offer the floor to the audience to ask questions and to provide clarification as required. Rather than introducing new material during the closing, it should reinforce the call to action and main points of the presentation.
Keep in mind
Presentations are an opportunity for auditors to demonstrate their competence and proficiency. They should convince stakeholders of the thoroughness of their work and generate support for proposed management actions. A well-planned and executed presentation will reinforce the professionalism of internal audit and provide additional value from each engagement.
Kaye, S (2009) “It’s showtime! How to give effective presentations”, SuperVision 70(9): 13-15
Weissman, J (2003), “Inspiring Presentations, Executive Excellence 20(7): 14-15
Brody, M (2007), “Marketing: 10 little-known, rarely discussed, highly effective presentation techniques”, Commercial Law Bulletin 15(6): 2