We recently finished an intensive workshop with one of our top clients. The topic was Executive Communication Skills, and the goal was to coach a small group of about 10 rising executive stars in the art of persuasive, executive-level communication skills. We covered a lot of ground over the two days, but one topic worth sharing here is the concept of “speaking in the executive voice.”
Have you ever been in the presence of someone who just commands attention with their words and their speaking style? Have you ever witnessed someone captivate people by their mere presence? I’m sure you have, but it doesn’t happen often. It’s happened to me a few times in my career, and when it does, we tend to remember the moment, the person, and their topic. We remember it clearly because it just doesn’t happen very often.
What is it that makes that person memorable? What is the “je ne sais quoi” that makes them memorable? What is the special sauce? There is no denying that some people have a natural gift to command attention. Some people have the voice, a natural confidence, some aspect of a physical presence that sets them apart. But is it all natural? Can some of it be coached and nurtured? I think so.
We could discuss this issue from many directions, but in my mind, it all comes back to a comfort level on the content, a high level of preparation, and the confidence that comes from knowing your topic, your audience and being comfortable in your environment. People ask me all the time how to acquire the executive voice, and there are some specific delivery skills that can be coached… A more measured pace… Speaking in declarative sentences… Riveting eye contact… Enough volume to be clearly heard, but not so much as to overwhelm… All of these things and more can lead to a polished delivery.
But none of those skills will help you if you are not, first and foremost, totally comfortable with your content, and your conviction about what you are saying.
We can spend days and days working on the executive voice… and I just did with some great people. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the executive voice is all about delivery. It starts with content, preparation, practice and conviction.
Have a great day.