Executive Presentation Skills

Good executive presentation skills means good communication in business. Without effective presentation skills it's almost impossible for you to show real business leadership.

The ability to speak to a group of people is as important to an executive as breathing in and out.

I'm not really interested in opinions about whether it's the number one thing for an executive.

Some will argue that empathetic listening is top of the list. One government training course suggests that Influencing/Negotiating, Interpersonal Skills, Leveraging Diversity, Oral Communication, and Team Building are the big ones to master.

Some even suggest that it's the size of your vocabulary that matters most.

As I moved through my own 21 year military career as a Naval Officer I've seen a lot of lists like this. I've also seen a lot of very effective executives, both military and commercial. I've seen a much larger number of executives who were very ineffective communicators.

I've never seen a single effective executive who can't speak well to a group of people.

Many of the poor executives on the other hand were so bad at speaking in front of groups, they would have been better off marketing themselves as an insomnia cure.

Others were so ignorant of their effect on the hapless audience, it made me cringe in embarassment for them, or laugh at them behind their backs along with everyone else.

Now don't feel sorry for them! Feel sorry for their audience! After all the executive is the one who's attempting to persuade the audience, so they have the responsibility to get it right.

It's their job to develop effective presentation skills. The audience's listening and BS detector skills are just fine!

Executives, like all other presenters, have an obligation to obey the cardinal rule of no fear public speaking. All communication in business would be improved if this rule was kept at the front of every executive's mind.

The Rule: Don't Be Boring

That's the key to having effective presentation skills. It's even more important in the 2010s, because your audience can probably get the information you're sharing by asking Google or something similar.

Let's look at how this rule applies to different types of speaking that an executive routinely does, and see how it will improve your executive presentation skills.

  • Meetings. Why are people bored in your meetings? Because they don't need to be there in the first place. If you're calling a meeting you have the opportunity to create a hand-picked audience of people who are very interested in what's being discussed. Most professional public speakers don't have that luxury.

    Once you've got the audience sorted out, now arrange the meeting so that it's a dynamic, interesting, productive event. Most meetings aren't monologues so you've got even more scope here than in most public speaking situations to be inclusive, ask questions etc.

  • Briefings. Why are technical or informative briefings so boring? Is it the subject matter? Never!!! They are boring for a couple of reasons.

    Again some people don't need to be there - don't invite them.

    Far more common, and far worse, it's because the executive conducting the briefing hasn't had enough respect for the audience to present it properly. As I said above, Google answers most things these days. People can get information easily, quickly and conveniently 24/7. Your briefing had better add value in some way. Get creative.

  • Sales Pitches. Some of the worst violations of the Don't Be Boring rule occur here. If you aren't talking about what they want - you are as boring as any other time wasting intrusion in their lives.

    You may deliver your pitch flawlessly. You may amaze yourself at how well you remembered your best jokes and used the pause to such great dramatic effect.

    But you won't sell anything because they were bored.

The Simple Way To Better Executive Presentation Skills

So how do make sure you always obey the rule "Don't Be Boring"? Easy. Don't be bored.

When you are next faced with an opportunity to speak in front of a group of people ask yourself this simple question:

"How do I want them to respond?"

Don't just answer 'promote me' or 'buy my stuff'. I mean how do you want them to be during your performance? Interested, fascinated, absorbed, excited perhaps?

Then that's exactly how you need to be while you're preparing and delivering it.

If you find that no matter what you do, you still believe you can't be that way ... then do something else. Have the guts to turn down the assignment, give it to someone who can be the right presenter of that material.

Executive presentation skills aren't everything. People admire courage in executives too!

And more importantly ... even if 'they' don't admire your courage, you'll know you did the right thing.

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