By Suzanne Bates
I don’t know about you, but I forget a lot of things-- unless I write them down. Ask me, for example, to quickly summarize the most significant events of the last quarter in my business, and I’m not sure I’d have the right answer off the top of my head. Sure, I can tell you who I met with, what projects we completed, the kind of things that were on my calendar; but could I put that into perspective on a moment’s notice? Probably not!
That leads to a question -- when is it time to start preparing your quarterly or annual report to your team, the board, or your organization? Can you really expect to put the significant events of a quarter into perspective if you spend just a couple of hours, a week or a few days (or the night before) before you speak?
One of our large financial services clients asked us to prepare a template they could use to prepare for a quarterly meeting presentation. So we worked on it together, and I have their permission to pass it along to you.
The answer to the question when is: it’s an ongoing process. And you need to start in advance, to give yourself time to analyze and put things into perspective.
It’s a good idea to make sure you have a “Feedback Loop” of the right information coming in, and analyze as you go; flag something that concerns you or that you’ve noticed and keep it in an electronic file. For example, you might have an issue in sales, service, production, or marketing two months before your meeting, and then forget about it when the time comes to prepare your presentation. Yet that event could be the linchpin idea that puts a key issue into perspective for your team.
You won’t have total recall if you start just a few days before the presentation to gather a few slides and throw them into your presentation. You may not remember the stories and examples of the good things or the failures that everyone can learn from. Remember, your job isn’t just to report the numbers but to also tell the story in a way that gets their attention and sticks with your audience. That means you need to put real thought into the messages you share about the business.
All you need to do to prepare is ask yourself a series of questions. These questions become an outline for your quarterly presentation.
Give yourself the gift of time, to come up with creative ways to present your review of the quarter or the year. Perhaps the most important component of this type of presentation, other than a clear, powerful message on progress on the business strategy, is the way you say thank you and congratulations for the wins. A quarterly or annual report is a chance to connect the people in your organization with your mission and purpose and to inspire them to work hard toward worthy goals. So be sure to tell stories and cite people’s efforts; let them know how important they have been to the effort, and how much you count on them going forward.
Finally, use the time at the meeting to set the course for the future. A quarterly or annual report isn’t just a look back at history – what’s already happened is only important in the context of the future.
Here are 15 questions you can use as a template to prepare for a quarterly meeting:
Template: Quarterly Meeting Preparation
Ask yourself the following questions at least one month in advance. You may want to add questions of your own. Jot down the answers and keep them in an electronic file. Use the answers as your outline for the meeting.
- Name three accomplishments this quarter.
- Why were these significant?
- Identify a story about a team or individual in each accomplishment that illustrates a behavior or action that made it possible.
- What has the organization learned as a result of these successes?
- If applicable, what failures have we had this quarter?
- What impact did that have on the organization?
- What are the lessons we learned?
- What do we want and need to achieve in the next quarter?
- Why are these important? What difference will they make?
- How will we make it happen?
- What are the important values and behaviors that drive us as an organization?
- How can every individual in the organization demonstrate or live this value?
- What difference will it make to individuals, and to the organization, if we achieve these goals?
- What contributions have people and teams made that make our success possible?
- What qualities and values have made us successful this quarter (year)?