Yourself to Senior Management:
Polish Your Public Speaking Skills in Advance
It’s no secret…the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the
more important your public speaking and communications skills
become. And the faster you develop and hone your skills, the faster
If you have your sights set on increased responsibility and
the job title and salary that go with them, you will need to
position yourself ahead of the crowd…in advance. At all stages of
your career you need to sell yourself, your ideas, your value, and
your ability. To position yourself for promotion, learn what it
takes to sell yourself and your ideas to senior management.
Perhaps you’re already speaking up in team meetings and
getting your ideas across effectively. If so, how do you feel about
facing a room full of senior management or at least 5 around a board
room table, all staring at you? What is different? Well, for one
thing the stakes are higher. All business communications are
important, but with senior management as your audience, you are in
the hot seat. They are going to accept or reject the recommendations
that you, your department, or your team have worked so hard on.
Weeks, months, maybe even years of work depend on your few minutes.
Who wouldn’t be nervous?
Don’t worry. You are human. This is a perfectly natural way
to feel. Remember, they can’t see how you feel, only how you look
and act. You want them to focus on and consider your proposals, not
your anxiety. And you’ll look cool and collected when you follow
Seven Fripp Do’s
A report to senior managers is not a conversation; however, it must
sound conversational. Once you have your notes, practice by speaking
out loud to an associate, or when you are driving to work, or on the
treadmill. Make sure you are familiar with what you intend to say.
It is not about being perfect. It is about being personable.
(Remember, rehearsal is the work; performance is the relaxation.)
2. Open with your
Don’t make your senior level audience wait to find out why you are
3. Describe the
if your recommendation is adopted. Make these benefits seem vivid
4. Describe the
but frame them in a positive manner. If possible, show how not
following your recommendation will cost even more...
5. List your
specific recommendations, and keep it on target. Wandering generalities will lose their interest.
You must focus on the bottom line. Report on the deals, not the
6. Look everyone in
the eye when you talk. You will be more persuasive and believable. (You can’t do this if you
7. Be brief.
The fewer words you can use to get your message across, the better.
Jerry Seinfeld says, “I spend an hour taking an eight-word sentence
and making it five.” That’s because he knows it would be funnier. In
your case, shorter is more memorable and repeatable.
Three Fripp Don’ts
1. Don’t try to
memorize the whole presentation. Memorize your opening, key points, and conclusion. Practice
enough so you can “forget it.” This helps retain your spontaneity.
2. Never, never
read your lines—not
from a script and not from PowerPoint® slides. Your audience will go
3. Don’t wave or
Don’t let nervousness (or enthusiasm) make you too animated—but
don’t freeze. Don’t distract from your own message with unnecessary
Where to Start
1. What is the
subject you are reporting on? Be clear with yourself so you can be
clear with your audience.
2. Why is your
enough to be on the
busy agenda of senior level managers?
3. What questions
your audience be asking? Can you answer them early in your
Here’s an example
What is your central theme, objective, or the big idea of your
report? How can you introduce it in one sentence? Suppose that
you’ve been in charge of a high-level, cross-functional team to
study whether there is a need for diversity training in your
company. You might start by saying, “Our committee studied diversity
training programs and whether one could benefit our company. Our
conclusion is that diversity training would be an exceptionally good
investment. Long term we would save money from recruiting, increase
employee retention, and improve company morale.”
“We recommend that the company initiate a pilot program, starting
next quarter, using the ABC Training Company at an investment of
$.... The ABC Company has successfully implemented this program with
one of our subsidiaries, as well as many Fortune 100 companies.”
Describe what’s in
it for them:
Address the needs of senior management, as well as the company.
Answer the questions they will be asking, and show them how your
recommendation can make them look good. For example, senior
management is usually charged with increasing sales and reducing
costs. What if this program means saving money by lowering employee
turnover, yet has a relatively modest cost?
“Why is this program a good idea, just when we are cutting
unnecessary spending? One of our company’s key initiatives is to
recruit and retain 20% more of the best available talent than we did
in the last fiscal year. If this training had been in place last
year, not only would morale have been higher, but our 23% minority
associates would have rated their employee satisfaction survey
higher. As you remember, for the last three years our minority
associates traditionally rate their satisfaction 3% lower than the
other population. This training could have helped increase
satisfaction and retention. We would lower the cost of recruiting
and training new associates.
“How does this investment compare to other investments we
have already made? As a comparison, the initial cost of the pilot
for all three offices is 2% of what we spend on maintenance
agreements for our copier machines in our headquarters building.”
You’ll make a strong impression and increase your chances of
acceptance when you can be short, clear, and concise.
Be prepared and
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