This week I was invited by a corporate communications senior team at a Fortune 10 company to answer a singular question:
How do you get speakers to do THAT?
Of course, “that” had some different definitions depending on who you asked, but what they were really asking was:
How do you hold your executives to doing the hard work it takes to deliver a concise, compelling message when they are in front of more then their immediate peers? Especially when they really need some speaker coaching to get to the next level? And even more so when the talk is being recorded and posted to the entire company?
While I’m not going to give away all of my trade secrets here… I will share three top takeaways:
Issue 1: When you (corporate communication team) “write” talking points for your executives, more often than not, they will translate them into their own voice, words and cadence.
I want to suggest that in these points what you are really doing is framing up messages, deciding what gets in and out, dividing up messages among presenters, and trying to infuse some strategy to make them sound smart and visionary.
That doesn’t mean you have written for them a narrative arc that is easy to deliver complete with visual, compelling stories with which the audience will resonate.
Issue 2: Schedules are insane, and most execs don’t want to commit time to review iterations or practice.
I suggest when an exec first ascends into a new role is the time to infuse some new accountability for prepping these types of events. That could mean instead of one big prep session a week before the event for an hour, we are going to take 20-30 minutes, two times the weeks before to work on:
a) strategy and message
b) content and story
c) outline and visuals.
Good presentations take multiple and small iterations, not one big push.
Issue 3: Keep language super simple when it comes to actual talking points.
Unless there is a specific technical phrase for which there is no alternative (often found on analyst / earnings calls ), drill down the language to an 8th / 9th grade level.
Audiences want to feel smart, not dumb. They want to connect, not be alienated. Language is the first place an executive can engage or not, especially with a mixed audience. Eliminate jargon, four syllable words, and acronyms.
While we admittedly had a lot more insights over our four-hour session, these are ones everyone can relate to and use immediately.
Ruth Milligan is the Founder, Managing Director and an Executive Coach and Trainer with Articulation. She is perhaps best known as one of the original curators for any TEDx event (the license program for TED). Since 2009, Ruth has selected and coached over 200 speakers who have taken the TEDxColumbus stage. She is often tapped as an expert in the TED-style of speaking and has authored a class on how to be a TEDx speaker coach. Connect with Ruth.