The talk of quotas and the very welcome push from the BCA to increase the numbers of women in leadership will provide opportunities for more women to be noticed in general and in particular as candidates for senior roles.

A terrific outcome will be an increase in situations where women need to make high-stakes presentations to senior – demanding – audience. Situations where women will need to present their team's recommendations to decision making bodies as they are given more opportunities to step up and then afterwards when they are appointed to more senior roles.

This requires a whole new skill set for many aspiring women, and one which will need to be acquired quickly as women leapfrog into new positions.

The skill set involves being able to distil and focus clear messages so that they resonate with different audiences, map out supporting points in a compelling way and then prepare a PowerPoint presentation that gets to the heart of the matter really fast: ideally within the first 30 seconds of your presentation.

Yes, even if it is a really difficult, technical and complex topic you will be able to communicate the general gist of your argument in 30 seconds – if you are across the material and your audience.

Here are some thoughts on how you might go about it:

Distilling messages is hard thinking work that requires effort, discipline and skill. It requires us as communicators to step out of our own world where we are intimately familiar with our content and into that of our audience who most likely is not. The key thing is to clarify the one unifying question that our audience will want us to answer, and answer it. Sounds simple, but it actually requires a lot of thinking. This step in itself will focus your presentation and boost its relevance to your audience.

Mapping out your supporting points is easier to do once your question is clear, but still not easy. I like to brainstorm my ideas and then organise them into a hierarchy as a storyline, which is a bit like a structured mind map. I use neosi to do this, but you may like to use sticky notes or a whiteboard.

Preparing a PowerPoint presentation is the easy part once my argument is clear. I make sure that the order of the pages reflects my storyline, that I have an executive summary up front that matches the structure of my story so that my audience get a snapshot of my overall argument up front. I then ensure each page describes only one message. Sometimes, when the situation allows for it, I will avoid preparing a whole presentation and rather use the one-page storyline as a guide for the meeting.

Once the substance of my presentation is clear, I find I can present with far more confidence. I have faith in my recommendation, am confident in my ability to present it to others and also far more comfortable in taking prickly questions. The process of building the story deepens my understanding of the topic, confirms my argument and ensures I am much more aware of what my audience is looking for. I hope it does for you too.


P.S You might find our PPTX image library useful, you can download a free sample here >>



I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at


(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.