Executive communication is learned. This clearly was on display at a recent health care forum with multiple speakers addressing a conference room full of executives. Of all the speakers, only one stood out. As these speakers were judged against one another, so too are CEOs—regardless of industry and company size. When employees and investors consider companies in which to invest their time and treasure, CEOs’ executive communication skills shape perception and action.
It’s likely most CEOs and leaders understand whether they are strong, weak, or somewhere in the middle of the pack when it comes to executive communication. What’s less clear is whether CEOs take advantage of technology to improve their executive communication skills by watching the equivalent of game film of their competition.
Do CEOs search YouTube for examples of executive communication? Do CEOs realize their executive communication directly impacts their perceived leadership strength? Do CEOs correlate executive communication with the ability to recruit and retain talent? CEOs at larger corporations likely realize this and invest time in honing their skills. Many middle-market CEOs, however, might not realize the best talent in their area, for example, compares them to their higher profile peers at larger corporations.
If CEOs don’t know how they stack up, they would benefit from knowing. If corporate boards and even nonprofit boards seek to achieve their goals, they would do well to direct their executives to hone their executive communications skills. Every organization competes with others—regardless of segment—for talent, time and treasure.
Below we’ve assembled some executive communication tips based on our experience observing presentations. And, we’ve included some video and article links to resources for leaders to improve their executive communication. These include presentations from Manpower Executive Chairman Jeff Joerres at Marquette University’s The Difference Network to Hubspot’s many resources on communication related topics.
Executive communication tips
- Know the material, which allows you to pivot and adapt to the situation.
- Supplement the material on your slides with information rather than read what’s on the screen.
- Guide your audience through the information presented to give them context and meaning.
- Incorporate local news of the day into your presentation to personalize it for the audience.
- Get out from behind the podium and walk among the crowd, making eye contact with individuals.
- Engage the audience by asking questions during the presentation as prompts to what’s next.
- Display confidence, energy and animation.
- Tell stories to illustrate your points. People retain stories.
- Get exercise a few hours in advance of a presentation to relieve stress and nerves.
- Use video or audio recordings to improve your executive communication effectiveness.
Executive communication resources
Granted, not everyone can be a Steve Jobs. But you are competing against other CEOs for talent and treasure, whether you like it or not. Check out these links to some CEO presentations we found.
Karl Robe is a principal at Karl James & Co. LLC in Milwaukee.