Three different perspectives on how to talk with or present to senior executives:
- Do your homework
Find out what the executive cares about ahead of time; for example, don’t focus on profits if growth is on the agenda.
- Be yourself
While some formality is needed, let your true personality shine through; executives rely as much on how you tell them something as they do on what you tell them.
- Read the situation
Know when to stop; if you’ve made your point, don’t keep going even if you have more information to give.
The Retrospector believes that many people don’t want to talk to executives because employees wonder if they are unnecessary and don’t want the executives to wonder the same thing. In How to talk to an executive and not sound like a complete idiot, he provides the following similar recommendations:
- Think from their perspective
- Be confident
- Be honest
This sounds simple but I believe that most people are afraid that they’ll say the wrong thing and leave a bad impression.
The Powerpoint Ninja includes more detailed suggestions in 7 Tips for Presenting to Senior Executives. My favorite is:
Executives are frequently going from meeting to meeting — often not always knowing what the exact purpose of the next meeting is. Their admin assistant may have accepted the meeting on their behalf or they may not have had time to review any information prior to the meeting. You need to tell them why they’re there and why your topic is important to them.
Regardless of whose advice you follow, I would suggest that you remember that senior leaders are people first and executives second. Treat them as you would like to be treated.