6 Rules for Communicating With Executives

Lea McLeod | The Muse | 8/31/2023

The first time I made a presentation to an executive team, I quickly realized it wasn’t business as usual. There was a different energy in the room. It was intense, efficient, and expectant. No one had to tell me there was no time to waste; it was obvious. I knew it was an important opportunity, but at the time, I didn’t realize how unprepared I was for it.

Thankfully, it went well—but I realized that working with executives isn’t exactly your typical meeting.

As you grow in your career and are offered more opportunities, you’ll likely have the chance to interact with those higher-ups, too. When you do, you’ll notice that they operate a bit differently. They read situations more quickly, get to the meanings behind the message, and have an uncanny ability to decipher numbers and recall information in a remarkable way.

So if you want to be upwardly mobile (read: get promoted), you’ll need to understand how to be seen and heard by those senior-level managers most effectively. Start with these six tips for communicating with executives so you can start preparing for that higher-level interaction.

1. They Fly at a Different Altitude

To have the most meaningful conversations, you have to understand your audience.

Executives see across the whole organization (or industry) and connect the dots from top to bottom. So to connect most effectively with them, you need to understand how your subject of conversation fits into their worldview.

To practice this, take a complex customer you’re working with and practice presenting an update on your work with them. You’re deeply involved in the day-to-day detail of what the customer needs, if the shipment went out on time or a day late, and the challenging personalities of the client.

But when you’re speaking to an executive, you shouldn’t focus on the day-to-day tribulations of account management. Instead, you’ll want to talk about the total revenue they generate, the margin contribution, and your strategy to grow their business. Ask yourself, “What does the CEO want to know about this account?” and develop your material from there.

Read full article here.

By MIT Sloan CDO