Best Practices for Budget Presentations

  • Be ready to answer the most unexpected of questions (e.g. “What could you do with half of that?”).
  • Understand that the budget details, about which you care deeply, will never be as important to the budget authority; accept this and figure out what is important to its members.
  • Remember that your presentation has to be layered – the budget authority might approve your proposal without a single question, having only seen the executive summary.
  • Remember that you better have a second (and possibly a third) layer of detail to present to your budget authority.  They just might have a lot of questions for you.
  • Avoid any kind of public confrontation – agree to meet personally with a questioner who isn’t satisfied with your answer.
  • Do not commit to a specific number in an open forum; if you’re backed into a corner, agree to a range or to discuss it at a follow up meeting.
  • Balance is the key for budget authorities who are accountable to voters – if financing, spending, and performance are balanced, your budget will appeal to everyone.
  • Know that people who work with numbers for a living want to see how things compare with other things (e.g. year-over-year, per capita performance, increase of total services, etc.); give them what they want.
  • Use whatever tools you need to get your message across, but be sure that your message gets through.  Graphs and charts, PowerPoint presentations and executive summaries are great visual aids, but if your message is muddled the process of approval will be unnecessarily complicated.