“There are good leaders who actively guide and bad leaders who actively misguide.
Hence, leadership is about persuasion, presentation and people skills.”
A survey conducted a couple of years ago with leading CEOs and CHROs by the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) concluded that the one skill most valued and most absent in the current workforce was communication skills.
Let’s let that settle in for a moment.
Huh? How could that be?
Don’t big companies prefer leaders that know how to “get things done”, “increase productivity and efficiency”, and “inspire greatness in their employees”?
Well, “Yes” they do. But guess what, these are all things that hard skills find extremely challenging to accomplish.
Why? Because they deeply rely on changing the mindsets and behaviors of people. There are no pills for this. No algorithms, forecasts or computer models either. The only method known to mankind for achieving these business aspirations is the effective practice of genuine, highly focused and clear communication.
Today, this role in business is filled by the executive speaker. The reality is, it is not being done effectively in far too many corners of the business world.
So, how can you become a more effective executive speaker?
THE ABC’S OF EXECUTIVE SPEAKING
Becoming an effective executive speaker requires you to practice and master The ABC’s of Executive Speaking. They are Authenticity, Brevity and Clarity. These three attributes comprise the heart of every effective executive speaker. If you truly want to speak like an effective executive, with all of its power and promise, you must exhibit these qualities when you speak. Nothing less will do.
Being an effective executive speaker begins and, for intents and purposes, ends here. If you cannot speak with an authentic voice your value, trustworthiness and legacy as an executive will not be firmly established. Authenticity is the foundation upon which everything you say as an executive speaker is built. Authenticity can be thought of as a quality of genuineness, supremely unique to you, the speaker. It is a state of existence in which your natural personality, ethos and pathos are free to surface and make sincere connection to your audience.
Do not confuse Authenticity with Transparency. Transparency is about establishing clear and unfettered access to all elements of an enterprise or endeavor. While an Authentic speaker should be comfortable with being transparent, what can and cannot be disclosed at certain times to certain audiences still remains situational within the world of business. Delicate discretion is a key tool of the Authentic speaker.
Authenticity is a genuine quality of self. Your Authenticity will be established when your audience senses you are …
Genuine – being true to yourself
In Hamlet (Act 1, Scene 3) Shakespeare wrote, "This above all: to thine ownself be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." Do not pretend to be someone you are not. Beyond honesty being the best policy, it is the only policy for a speaker.
Do not knowingly deceive or misrepresent the facts to your audience in order to support a false agenda. All professional speakers know that the most important character you bring to the stage is the one of a truthfulness that holds the highest respect for your audience, while you safeguard them from harm.
Your audience must understand the information you share has value. Value in your perspective, concreteness of fact, and the sincerity of your intent. Your content must be timely, accurate and impact them in a meaningful way.
As an authentic executive speaker, you confidently own content that is originally yours, credit fully content you have borrowed from others, and humbly share what you have learned with your audience.
When writing on success, Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Self-trust is the first secret of success.” You goal as an authentic executive speaker is to leave your audience feeling comfortable and trusting in the content you have shared. You must be able to help your audience trust you by showing them you trust yourself through both words and actions.
From Authenticity we connect to the next attribute, Brevity.
While Shakespeare was busy getting Hamlet to be a truer person, he was also letting us know that getting to the point of your message (not sword) is essential to effective speaking when he wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
In executive circles, Brevity is a sign of respect. “Time is money,” as they say. In today’s business environment, people are doing more and more with less and less available time. They prize their time as the precious possession it is. Effective executive speakers do not waste their audience’s time.
In business this means being…
Getting to the point requires you to weed out any content that may be unnecessary. It means you have to learn how to be precise in both content and language. It means learning how to be terse.
It’s tough to be terse.
Executive subject matter experts struggle with limiting the vastness of their knowledge when speaking to their audiences. They often dowse them with a fire hose when a sprinkler will do. Being economical of language and content is a great way to practice the brevity essential to your skill as an effective executive speaker.
Now we can bring it all together by connecting Authenticity and Brevity to the third attribute, Clarity.
For an effective executive speaker, Clarity equals Certainty. You speak and share only facts about which there is no doubt based on the current information you have validated.
To speak with Clarity, you must:
- Choose your words with a preciseness that avoids confusion or obfuscation.
- Avoid confusing your audience with a plethora of acronyms and jargon.
- Help your audience maintain their focus on what you are saying by limiting or removing all interferences including “ums”, “likes” and “you knows”.
- Speak clearly with proper pronunciation, articulation and grammar.
- Answer every question you pose.
- Be confident, assertive and determined.
- Clarity is the ability to help your audience remember and repeat the core of your message and the point of your speech.
GOOD LEADERS ARE EFFECTIVE EXECUTIVE SPEAKERS
Shiv Khers, one of the world’s leading self-help authors, motivational speakers and activists said, “There are good leaders who actively guide and bad leaders who actively misguide. Hence, leadership is about persuasion, presentation and people skills.”
Every executive ought to challenge their ability to be an effective executive speaker by learning and practicing The ABC’s of Executive Speaking. The Universe knows how sorely lacking and how desperately the world needs effective executive speakers. It shouldn’t take a survey to tell us what we already know. The best way to motivate, inspire and transform people is through the power of the spoken word. Humanity has been doing this since the first spark ignited a communal fire.
The best way for you to accelerate your career into and through the executive ranks, build consensus for your most important initiatives, and establish yourself as a thought leader in your professional field is to become a master of The ABC’s of Executive Speaking. When you do you will become highly valued and sought after by businesses, organizations, and colleagues.
This blog is rooted in helping my readers develop the essential people skills they need to succeed as speakers and in other areas of their lives. Many of you are executives, aspiring to become one, and/or a more successful speaker. This blog is here to support you with articles like this one. I deeply appreciate your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on this post or suggestions you might have for a future blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.
To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz