“Unboxing” the Executive Speech

Think of the worst executive speech you’ve sat through at company meetings. When the CEO starts talking, do you expect entertainment or drudgery? A few minutes into his speech, you notice the anecdotes are detached, jokes fall flat, and the audience’s suppressed yawns with glassy-eyed stares. The speech has lost its battle and the result might well be a classic reflection of your company’s microcosm, managing without leading.

executive speechThe goal of a speech is to persuade. This means appealing to every aspect of the human being listening in the room for them to take up your point. Incorporating visuals, sound, or even other people into the presentation helps your audience to identify and stay with you all the way through.

And for the speech to sway things your way, it has to have focus. People probably already know the topic of discussion before you walked into the room so they really expect information about that subject, not how good you swing a 9-iron. So keep the anecdotes and jokes minimal or risk people forgetting your talking points.

Back in the day, a speech could be more effective if packed with high emotion or statesmanlike words. That won’t work too well today when there is more focus on the facts than Trumanesque delivery. Your audience is looking for the substance, not the personality. Remember that fluff is easy to spot and while you can get by on politeness, it’s not likely that anybody will be convinced by drivel. Do the research.

Another sure way for people to tune out during your big speech is using a written statement as the speech. Try reading a newspaper editorial out loud and see how soon you lose breath mid-sentence. Speech and print are two different things.  One is conversational with a more natural flow while the other uses more aesthetics and structure, like designing a garden. Think about it, how did your parents put you to sleep when you were a kid? Same effect today, chief.

Steve Jobs was a model CEO presenter. He knew his subject but he knew his audience better. But whether you’re a fan or not, it’s easy to understand why Jobs’s presentations got applauded whether at a Macworld convention or a commencement exercise. He was able to persuade.