Going in cold, not knowing anything about what you’re presenting, or not having an answer when somebody asks a meaningful question undermines your credibility. When the Audit Committee asks you a question, they don’t want to hear crickets, watch you stammer out “I don’t know,” or see you run out of the meeting to get an answer.
Although you’re not expected to understand everything that’s going on with the company globally, you should have a strong grasp of the material you’re presenting. Make sure you come equipped with the answers — or at least with some semblance of an answer — for questions that you would anticipate being asked based on the information on your slides. When a question is asked, take a moment to collect your thoughts before replying. It’s far better to pause momentarily to reflect than to give a meandering stream of consciousness response.
Seasoned auditors might have a lot of chaos and stress swirling in the background — yet they can make presenting look easy by being clear and succinct in their communications. If you’re not an experienced presenter, my best advice is to prepare and practice. Remember, in this important meeting with executive management and the Board, you are representing the Internal Audit department and the value that you bring to the organization. The process should be given due respect, which includes a high level of professionalism. Consider speaking from a persona similar to that of your audience — putting yourself in the Audit Committee’s position and viewing it from their perspective. Strive to embody the best version of yourself for the duration of the presentation — which will be easier because you will have done the prep work necessary to be well-versed in your subject and confident in your ability to communicate it.
Whatever your level of experience with presenting to the Audit Committee, it doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. Personally, it was one of my favorite parts of the job and something I looked forward to every quarter. You have the opportunity to hear the ideas and guidance of the most experienced and highest advisors of your organization. It can be an invigorating opportunity to learn and grow as a professional. By getting the lay of the land, being well versed in what you’re presenting, and putting the best version of yourself forward, you’ll be in a strong position for a successful Audit Committee presentation that satisfies the audience and makes you look like a pro.