Do you communicate with executives at work? Maybe you do this every day, or perhaps it is a once a year situation. Either way, you can make an impression with these nine tips for how to communicate with executives. The nine tips are:
- Get to the point.
- Keep it short.
- Make it clear what’s you need them to do.
- Limit your message to three points.
- Make the impact of your message clear.
- Make sure you include timeframes.
- Never talk about the technology. Talk about what it does.
- Be specific about the effort involved.
- Define the outcomes clearly.
So if you want to ace your next executive presentation, check out the tips below.
1. Get to the point
When talking to executives, if you don’t get to the point, you’re not going to get what you need from that interaction. You might reduce the importance of your message. You might lose the focus of that executive. It might take too long to get your message out. So get to the point.
And how do you do this? You can use a method like Bottom Line Upfront, where you give a headline. This helps you say the most important part of your message straight away. It makes it clear what you need from that executive right up front.
Alternatively, you can use a method like framing, where you define the context for the message then state your intent. That shows what do you need from them. Then deliver a key message or a headline. Whatever you do, make sure when you’re talking to executives, you get to the point.
2. Keep it short
Executives don’t have a lot of time. Neither do you. Don’t waste the little time that you have by explaining the backstory. And definitely don’t try to build up to a big point. Keep it short. Get to your point quickly and don’t spend a lot of time explaining your topic.
How do you do this? Summarize. Don’t give back story. Don’t explain things in the order in which they happened. Summarize the message you want to deliver. Use something like goal problem solution to create a structured summary. Or use situation complication resolution. (It’s a McKinsey method).
Whatever you do, make sure that your message is compact and making the best use of the time that you’ve got. Get to the core information that you need to give that executive. So when you’re talking to executives, make sure that you keep it short.
3. Make it clear what you want them to do
When you talk to an executive, don’t spend time giving lots of details until you’ve made it clear what you want that person to do. Until they know what they’re doing, they’re not going to be able to help you in the way that you need.
How do you do this? You tell them in the first few lines.
- Here’s what I need you to do.
- I’m looking for a decision.
- I’d like your advice.
- I need some help.
- We need more budget.
- I need your approval for something.
Whatever it is that you need or want them to do, make it clear up front.
If you want them to talk to another department on your behalf, that’s what you need them to do. That’s what you should be saying in the first few lines of the message so that they understand what’s needed from them. Do that, and they’ll be ready to listen to the rest of what you have to say. So if you’re talking to executives, make sure you make it clear what’s you need them to do.
4. Limit your message to three points only
If you’re talking to an executive by the time you’re talking about point number four, they’re going to have forgotten the first thing that you said. This is true for talking to anyone, not just executives. Time with executives is short. Your time is short too. You want to make sure you’re maximizing the benefit of the time that you have. You don’t want them forgetting things that you’ve said. So how do you do this?
Limit your messages to the three most important points. Talk about something that impacts them, something that you absolutely need, and something that only they can help with. Focus on the things that impact them, the things you need, and the things that they can help with. Do this and you’ll be focusing on the most important messages. So when you talk to executives, try and limit your message to a maximum of three points.
5. Make the impact of your message clear
When you talk to an executive, if they don’t know what the impact is, they’re not going to know why they should care. They won’t know why it’s important, or what they should pay attention to. When you talk to an executive, make sure you make the impact of your message clear. This could be the impact to them, the impact to their team, the impact to the business or the impact to you. Whatever your topic and whatever the message is, there’s going to be an impact to someone. Make sure that impact is clear early in your message. How do you do this?
Make a statement that shows the impact and whom it impacts.
- This message impacts your team against target ABC
- This is important because it will affect our budget
- This is important because it will affect a deadline
Make the impact clear whether it impacts the executive, you, the team, the business, or somebody else saying who it impacts and how it impacts them. So when you’re talking to executives, make sure that the impact of your message is clear.
6. Make sure you include timeframes
If you don’t include the timeframes in your message, the executive isn’t going to know when this thing will happen. Are you talking about something in the past? Talking about something now? Or is this happening in the future? If it’s now, how long is it lasting for? If it’s in the future, when is the future? Is it next week? Three weeks? Next year? Whatever you do, make sure you include clear time frames. How do you do this?
Well, when you deliver your message, say,
- This is something that happened in the past
- I want to talk about something that happened yesterday
- Something happened last year that we’ve just discovered
- I want to talk about something that’s happening right now. It impacts us today and it will last for the next few months
If you’re talking about the future, say when the future is. For example.
- I want to talk about something that’s going to happen in three weeks
- We’re going to have great results that will last for the next nine months
Whatever you do when you’re talking to executives, make sure you include appropriate timeframes.
7. Never talk about the technology — talk about what it does
When you’re talking to an executive, never start by talking about the technology. Don’t explain exactly what it does, how it works, or the way in which it functions. If you do, you’re not going to get what you need from that conversation. Executives aren’t experts on these topics. They’re the experts on what happens with the technology. They are experts in how to make decisions about it. And what it means for the business.
So, what should you do if you find yourself wanting to talk about the technology? Stop. Then talk about what it does for the business instead.
- What does it do for the user?
- How does it help the executive?
- What does it do for the company?
- Which problem does it solve?
When talking to executives, don’t talk about the technology. Talk about what it does for them or for the business or for the customer.
8. Be specific about the effort involved
If you’re asking the executive to do something, you need to be clear about the effort that involved. This is also true if you’re asking for something from them. This means letting them know if it’s a small thing or a big thing. Do you need time, money, resources, attention? If you’re asking the executive to take an action, give them an idea of the scope and the scale. For example:
- This is a small request
- We’d like your help talking to someone about this topic
If you’re asking for support with a piece of work, say:
- The piece of work is likely to take a number of months
- We’re going to need a budget for it
- And we’re going to need some specialist resources
Whatever you say, make sure you are specific about the effort involved. If you don’t do this, the executive isn’t going to know how to prioritize your request against all the other things they are asked for. And you really don’t want them to guess. They might guess your thing is too big to deal with today. When talking to executives, be specific about the effort that’s involved.
9. Define the outcomes clearly
If you’re describing an issue, problem, risks, asking for something, or proposing an idea, make sure you define the outcomes clearly. If you don’t define the outcomes, the executives aren’t going to understand why it’s important. They won’t understand the ‘So what?’ So how do you define the outcomes? Define outcomes in terms of financial outcomes, quality outcomes, compliance, safety, time, efficiency.
If you’re talking about an issue, talking about the outcome of the issue not being resolved. Say something like:
- It’s going to cost us this amount
- Our profit is going to come down by a certain amount
- We’re going to have delays of X, number of months
- We will be out of compliance
When talking to executives, make sure that you’re defining the outcome. And do it in a way that they will understand.
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