In my executive coaching sessions with my clients, they often say they are concerned about their long-winded speaking style and are not ready to give a high-level executive presentation.
They often say, “If only I were a stronger public speaker or had better vocabulary and grammar.” However, what they really need is to master one thing, and it’s no more, no less.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Today’s leaders are not looking for you to give a 10-minute monologue. They want you to be concise. In my corporate training to leaders, “Leader Presence: Four Ways to Instill Trust and Earn Respect as a LeaderI focus on this important mantra for effective communication with executives: be concise.
Read on for some of my tips for keeping your message tight.
“Executive Presence isn’t necessarily about being formal or lavish in your communication, but rather simple and brief. The more you keep talking, or explaining yourself, the more you cloud or water down your core message.” ~ Kerrie Peraino, Chief People Officer, Verily Life Sciences
1. Get down to business
I’ve seen many clients struggle with stating their facts right in front of them, the very reason they were called to executives. Often, especially early in your career, you’ve been asked to speak because you’re the local expert in a particular area of the business. You have in-depth knowledge in an area that audience understands only superficially.
It’s tempting—either to demonstrate your worth or just to give context to what you’re explaining—to provide detailed or technical information and a backstory. In a word: don’t. At least not in the beginning.
Share your main point in advance in the most straightforward way, then provide the most concise details possible to support your statement.
Be ready with your extensive knowledge to back it up with more information if/when there are questions.
2. Focus on facts, not feelings
Many of us have been pressured over time to “soften” our communication and be less forceful or direct with our words. This is especially true for women and individuals from some cultures and communities where strong statements are seen as a challenge to authority, or as arrogant or overly grandiose.
So I have with some clients who have adopted a speaking style that is heavy on personal verbs and thus downplays their conviction or certainty. Instead of saying, “If we keep using that supplier, 30% of our shipments will be late,” they will choose, “I don’t feel that supplier is right for what we need as a business right now.”
As a result, they seem less sure of the right course of action and are absolutely unlikely to make a decision. It takes more time to express yourself in this indirect way and the audience quickly loses interest. Concentrate on the facts at hand and leave the softer statements for other more appropriate settings, even if this is not your usual style.
3. Pre-Edit Yourself
The reality of presenting to executives means you are on the scene, at least for part of the discussion. This can be very uncomfortable for many people.
The best remedy for this kind of discomfort, aside from exposure and experience, is practice. Practice the phrases you want to use, the words you want to say to convince effectively. Plan your points and think about one to two sentences that clearly state your point.
The keys to brevity are knowledge and certainty. Spend some time turning your thoughts into a tightly constructed message. Make concise communication your habit with everyone — your team, your colleagues, and even in your personal life.
The more you tense your “clear and concise communication” muscles, the easier it will be to get to the point quickly.
Ready to take on executive communications, but don’t know where to start? Stop watching public speaking videos. They are useful, but not what you really need. Start practicing how you’re going to do it get your message across with laser focus. Be consistent and build the habit in all aspects of your life, and it will serve you well in the boardroom and beyond.
Do you need to learn how to be a clear and concise communicator? How to stop wandering? Hire Joel Garfinkle as a executive coach to positively improve your reputation and others’ perception of your abilities. He recently facilitated webinar training sessions for junior management as they hone their speaking skills for clearer communication. With his guidance, they were able to hone their messaging and gain confidence in succinct speaking. Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the US and is the author of: 11 motivational books. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter And his Youtube Channel which contains over 100 of Garfinkle’s inspiring two minute video clips.