CEOs, CFOs, and other finance pros can communicate financial results more effectively by enhancing their story-telling skills, says Peter Margaritis, CPA, CGMA, a leading consultant and trainer with Fortune 500 companies. The kind of story-telling Margaritis is talking about, is not about turning your 10-K, 10-Q, or cash flow statement into fiction, but rather taking your data-driven, non-fictional financial results and expressing them as a memorable and impactful story.
How can you do this? By simplifying the message where possible, says Margaritis, and providing context that your listening or reading audience – investors, lenders or others – can more easily understand and relate to. A memorable financial story is more likely to inspire positive action, and even if the story is ‘bad news,’ providing transparency and context within your disclosure can help mitigate potential negative reactions and enhance a long-term view.
Financial Storytelling: Upcoming Event Sept. 22
As one of The Business Learning Institute’s Thought Leaders, Margaritis is slated to kick off the MACPA’s 2016-17 Quarterly Financial Leaders Series on September 22, on this very topic: Financial Storytelling: The Key in Growing Your Organization to the Next Level. Register to attend the program, which offers 4 CPE. (See also info below about the entire 4-part series and discount for registering for the 4-part bundle!)
Margaritis blends his background as a CPA and CGMA together with communication, training and talent development skills, making him a popular speaker and corporate trainer for CPA and CFO audiences and other business executives. We asked Margaritis, who bills himself as the Chief Edutainment Officer of his company, to share some of the takeaways he plans to offer at the September 22 program. His response:
- Determining what are the KEY benchmarks – three or four – that demonstrate the company’s progress over the past years
- Develop a story, not a data-filled laundry list, that communicates the key benchmarks in a context that even non-accountants would understand.
- Know your audience so you can create impact in your presentation to move from boring to action.
Why communication is a lost art, and what CEOs, CFOs, CPAs can do about it
Communication is a lost art, some say, particularly in navigating or trying to explain and interpret financial information recorded in accordance with GAAP and SEC rules. How can CEOs, CFOs and other finance managers improve financial communication?
“I believe that financial execs and CPAs struggle in getting their point across because they are speaking in the language of accounting verses plain English,” says Margaritis. “Moving to plain English requires the person to put the information in a context that the audience can relate to, especially if they are non-accountants.”
“People love stories,” he continues. “People remember stories and are moved by stories; the ability to take financial information and wrap it up in a story can touch the audience’s emotion which adds a human angle to the facts.”
FASB, SEC disclosure projects
Is there a relationship between the skills and message that Margaritis imparts in his training in financial storytelling, vis-à-vis the FASB and SEC’s current projects on the disclosure framework and disclosure effectiveness, respectively?
“I do see a relationship to those regulatory projects, “says Margaritis, “because financial execs and CPAs like to provide a vast amount of detail verses discussing the key material points. We pack our presentations with more data than necessary which is very confusing to our audience. The audience quits listening and then pulls out their smartphone. Less is more is a key concept in presenting financial information.” Note: for background on the FASB and SEC’s disclosure projects, see: FASB Disclosure Framework, and SEC Disclosure Effectiveness.
Who will benefit from program
Who will benefit from attending the MACPA’s Sept. 22 program on Financial Storytelling? “Anyone who presents financial information, no matter the size of the audience,” says Margaritis.
Illustrating the communication skill and style he hopes to impart, Margaritis tells a story himself. “I like to use this analogy about two speeches that were given at the Gettysburg National Cemetery,” he says. “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address contains 272 words and we all remember this speech. Do you know who spoke before Lincoln? A vast majority of people do not know this answer. It was Edward Everett, the former Secretary of State, who spoke for two-hours that day. Lincoln made his point in 10 minutes. Less is more!”
Quarterly Financial Leaders Series
Learn more about, and register for each of the events in the MACPA’s 2016-17 Quarterly Financial Leaders Series; each event offers 4 CPE.
Sept. 22, 2016
Dec. 1, 2016
March 23, 2017
May 18, 2017