In this three part series we’ll look to cover one of the most feared skills that a leader can possibly look to exhibit: Communication. Get communication skills for leaders right, and the world can be your oyster. Get communication skills for leaders wrong, and you’ll get nowhere near the results you could have achieved (Read that as NO oysters!) In Part I, we’ll take a look at planning your presentation, Part II we’ll delve into proper practice/preparation you should undertake, and lastly in Part III we’ll tackle presenting… Enjoy!
Communication Skills for Leaders – Planning Your Presentation
Think back to your last communication moment as a leader and ask yourself the following questions:
- What was my point?
- How effective was I at delivering that point to my audience (scale of 1-10, 1 being “I didn’t” and 10 being “I’m a regular Dale Carnegie!”)
- What action did my audience take based on our conversation?
- What should I do different next time I communicate with the same/different audience?
If you’re like most leaders, the pursuit of perfection is never complete. The perfection “carrot” is perpetually dangled ever so close, but always out of reach. When it comes to communication skills for leaders, consider yourself as a participant in a two-way interview. On side one (1), you are the interviewer loaded with your interview questions and on the other side two (2) you can play the role of interviewee.
What is Your Point?
Important to identify is what you want to discuss. Your focus on this primary point(s) can tighten your conversation. Typically, in executive coaching session after executive coaching session, I hear leaders mention that their communication isn’t driving results that they intended. When I ask them “What was your point?” they typically begin rambling. “No wonder!” is my response. If you can’t surmise your communication point into a Twitter Tweet (140 characters) then your audience will probably be lost.
If That’s Your Point, What Do They Need To Hear?
After identifying what the point of your conversation is, you need to identify what your audience will need to hear in order to do three things: (1) Understand, (2) Identify direction that should be taken, and (3) Know what successful implementation looks like (or the end destination you intend to arrive at).
With these three points in mind, craft your presentation so that you deliver on what it is that your audience needs to hear with an outline for your presentation. Important to now regarding the presentation strategy is to fully write out what you intend to say as an opening/closing statement(s). Keep these paragraphs tightly focused around your point! The body of your presentation should act so as to support the point you are delivering, provide direction, and share successful implementation. Body discussions should be captured with short/bullet-point lists (No need to fully craft exactly what you are going to say, instead look to capture the essence of the points as well as pro/con stance on them if necessary).
Audience Emotions – Will They Care?
After you’ve knocked out your communication skills for leader presentation planning outline, you’ll want to identify what emotions your audience will have from three (3) perspectives: (1) What is their emotions heading into the conversation, (2) What emotion do you want them to have at each section of your presentation, and finally (3) What emotion do you want them to have as they depart towards implementation/execution?
Typically leaders do a lousy job of not only identifying intended emotions audience members should/will have, but emotional perspective is often off-base (i.e., wrong). No this much, if you’ve never planned the emotional angles for a presentation, this will come as a strong, sometimes confusing aspect of your presentation. If you mess/miss this aspect, your presentation is likely to miss the mark!
Structure Your Presentation
If you go into a conversation without any direction, any outcome will do. However, if you properly structure the conversation your audience members will have a greater chance of retaining the information relayed (Some studies show that audience members retain upwards of 40% more content when the presentation is conducted in a structured manner, and that manner is explained/discussed at the beginning of the conversation).
Here are a few presentation structures that you may want to experiment/explore, keeping in mind your point (message) as well as audience:
- Problem – Solution
- Pros – Cons
- Chronological Logic (Past, Present, Future)
- Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
- What’s Wrong? What’s Right?
- If – So – Then
In Part I of this communication skills for leaders presentation series, we’ve taken a look at planning your presentation. With proper identification of what your presentation point is, focusing what your audience needs to hear, considering emotions for your communication, and properly structuring your presentation you will be able to lay the groundwork for an effective presentation. In Part II of this series we’ll take a look proper practice/preparation you should undertake, and lastly in Part III we’ll tackle presenting.
PS – You may also enjoy some of the other recent posts I wrote:
- The Leadership Challenge: Helping Those That Don’t Want Help
- The Leadership Challenge: Saying “Thank You”
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Mindful?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Better Off Lucky Than Good?
- The Leadership Challenge: Can You Drive the Development of Leaders Who Transform Your Business?
- What’s Inside Your Leadership Time Capsule?
- The Leadership Challenge: 10 Characteristics to Develop Your Executive Presence
- The Leadership Challenge: Happy New Year! Now What?
- Leadership Amnesia: Should You Forget the Past to Move Forward to a Better Future?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are Your SMART Goals DUMB?
- The Leadership Challenge: Are You Climbing the Leadership Mountain?
- The Leadership Challenge: They Want You To Fail! 8 Leadership Tips to Overcome Failure
- The Leadership Challenge: Do You Exercise Your Moral Muscle?
- The Leadership Challenge: Conducting Post-Mortem Reviews
Sam Palazzolo is the Managing Director at Tip of the Spear Ventures, an agile Venture Capital and Business Advisory Services firm specializing in Executive Coaching, Leadership Development, and Communication Skills Training for Leaders.