Blah Blah Blah... Executives Talking Badly

How often have you attended a meeting only to hear someone drone on? You wonder if they are ever going to stop and make their point. Do they even have a point?

Strangely, the ability to communicate clearly and get to the point is not as common as one would think.  And yet it is a valued executive communication skill that conveys leadership and authority. Presenters who are clear and concise inspire confidence and trust in their listeners. Mention executive presence and you think of decisiveness, confidence, and clarity. 

When leaders get "stuck in the weeds" and deliver an excess of data and details the listeners tune out and the message gets lost. This style of communication will cost the leader credibility and ideas will not be approved. To embody a leadership role, the presenter must speak with clarity at a higher, conceptual level.

A client approached me one day alerting me about the arrival of the new CEO. He was concerned that his department could lose headcount and that the funding for his project could be cut. As a hedge, he asked me to coach his team on clearly communicating their value. We spent a half day creating branding statements. Each person was able to articulate the value they brought as individual contributors, the value the department contributed to the company, and the value the company brought to the marketplace. As a result, my client's team remained 100% intact with no loss in headcount and his project continued to be funded. That's the power of clarity. Unfortunately, we don't learn this in school.

How do you learn to speak clearly and get to the point?

Think Big. Start with the big picture. High level audiences want the concepts not the details. So give them the helicopter view. When you're looking down from an aircraft you can see beyond the horizon. Decision makers don't care about the nitty gritty of the project methodology. Tell the listeners what they need to know-not everything you know. Remember, the only time you'll get stuck in the weeds is if you're walking through them.

Create a Template. Be prepared even for a five minute informal meeting. Fill in your points in the blanks provided. Do this for phone meetings as well. It will keep you organized and prevent you from going off on tangents.

Come to a Stop. Fast talking goes hand-in-hand with being long winded. It's not that the presenter is speeding. It's more about speaking in one run-on sentence. This speech pattern conveys nervousness and prevents the message from landing.

The remedy is to pause. Pause for a couple of beats at the end of a sentence: "Good morning." (one- two) "We're going to discuss the project plan." (one -two) Pausing allows the listener to process the message and for the speaker to have impact.

Use Fewer Words. Presenters who can't get to the point typically over explain and repeat themselves. Begin with an agenda to keep focused. Say something once. Stick to the facts and move on. If it's not clear, the audience will ask questions. 

Look the Part. To influence stakeholders, leaders must embody their role with their dress, demeanor and delivery. 

Do you have difficulty getting to the point?  Read Knockout Presentations to learn how to get organized.  

Knockout Presentations is the indispensable guide to delivering your message with clarity and confidence. With hundreds of tips to improve your communication style in your personal and professional life, this book contains valuable information that leaders can use every day.