Every single day I get asked about how to talk to those scary, high-flying creatures, you know, the ones who are the Chief Executive Officer of X, Y, or Z. Those folks. Those rushed, intimidating, not (always) very friendly leaders at the top of the food chain.
Here’s what you need to know. They all have one thing in common when you’re speaking to them. There is one single thing they are curious about: what can you do for me today?
That means that actually, you’re in the business of selling ideas — a solution peddler—if you will. Your ability to sell your findings, ideas, and recommendations to the C-SUITE is what catalyzes your success. And that involves making your message, presentation, and conversation, all about them. (That’s how you sell, btw.)
The essence of excellent C-Suite Communication is drawing a short line between what you know and your recommendations, to the current strategic objectives of your audience.
In this series, we will cover how to prepare, how to structure your message, best practices for a strong delivery, the best visual support, and how to deal with questions without losing your cool. Let’s start by answering this question:
WHO IS the C-SUITE ANYWAY?
One of the best strategies for messages that hit home is knowing your audience.
UNDERSTANDING THE C-SUITE
While all your audiences need accurate, timely, and curated information, the C-Suite audience has far more responsibility and much less time and brain space than others in the organization. Being highly organized and structured will help them retain and remember your recommendations. Winging it is for amateurs. To help you know where they are coming from, use these questions as starting points:
- What are some adjectives that describe the people who work in top senior leadership roles?
- What concerns do they have that are different from your day-to-day concerns?
- What are some of the risks that C-suiters have to manage that you don’t? (Consider how many people in the world are dependent on the quality of their decisions. That means suppliers and those who sell your products.)
- What does this audience need to do with the information you offer them?
FOR EXAMPLE: A C-SUITE exec might be a highly organized woman with a type-A personality who also has 3 kids, and is president of her HOA. In other words, she is hyper-driven, short on time, and beyond exhausted. She is concerned with reporting to the top boss that we are meeting our financial goals for the year. If the company is not, she could have to consider options such as layoffs or decreasing benefits.
The information you share will help her determine what bottom-line needs to be communicated to top leadership and what actions need to be taken in order to get the company meeting the goals that have been set for this year.
For the people in the C-SUITE such as the example I gave, it is of the utmost importance to get your message across in the least amount of time and with a supreme amount of confidence and clarity. Speaking to this audience can be intimidating so it is essential to address the common fears that can get in the way of effectively communicating with senior leaders. These can range from fears around speaking up in general, public speaking, to addressing this specific audience, to answering questions. Name them (your fears) to slay them.
It also helps tremendously to be confident and convicted. In other words, you have to know that you bring value to the C-SUITE. What is the unique value you bring to the C-Suite conversation? Consider these questions to help you get clear on what you bring to the table:
- What is your area of expertise? (Be their trusted advisor.)
- What are the kinds of things you know and they don’t?
- What are ways you can help them mitigate risk?
Communicating to the C-SUITE well is a career-changer, and it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. These tactics will help you skip the sweat and make an impact. Next, we will cover a useful process to prepare your content specifically for what the C-SUITE needs from you. If you’d like to bring a the Mixonian Institute C-Suite Communication Bootcamp to your group, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.