27 Sep

Confidently Clarify Executive Communication

Speaking with greater clarity and purpose is vital for any leader, whether they are talking to an employee, client, board room, or the news media. Those who lack this ability will appear weak, befuddled, and ineffective – and will fail to convey their ideas and leadership vision. But those who have a mastery of communication have a powerful asset that can influence others and ensure extraordinary success.

Clear messages will only come from clear thoughts, so know what you want to say before you write or speak. Take notes, isolate talking points, and avoid flowery or complicated language. Keep it simple, and avoid using more words than necessary to convey your ideas. When communication is clear it improves the chances that hearing and comprehension on the other end will also be clear.

If you suffer from stage fright when talking from the podium, try to turn your speech into a dialog or conversation, because everyone is more comfortable in conversation. Pause from time to time to ask a question and get feedback, or break up the monotony of the speech with visual aids or interesting anecdotes and concrete examples. The idea is to get the audience to interact with you – and that can be done through verbal dialog or through something as easy as nonverbal eye contact with audience members.

That’s why it is so important to understand that people speak both with words and with silent body language, and that both are potent ways to broadcast a message.

If body talk contradicts your words, for example, it gives the audience a sense that you are unsure of yourself or even worse, that you are being less than honest. That can destroy your credibility, whereas carefully chosen language that is supported and underscored by meaningful body language will have a potency that resonates with your audience on a deep internal level. As they hear your words, for example, they will also feel them on a more subtle psychological or emotional level triggered or reinforced by your visual body talk. So become fluent in both ways of speaking and you’ll be doubly successful as an executive communicator.

If you aren’t comfortable speaking in public – or if you lack the ability to put together cohesive statements when addressing employees, composing memos, sending emails, or talking by phone – then you aren’t alone. Most leaders have plenty of room for improvement in this critical area. But the good news is that anyone can learn to be a confident, engaging, persuasive speaker.

Seek out coaches who can help you hone those skills and join speaking groups like Toastmasters. The investment of time and energy will generate rich returns for the rest of your career.

What qualities do you admire in a powerful and effective speaker or communicator? Can you identify the mechanics or practical nuts and bolts behind their charisma that makes them so engaging? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic.



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Sarah Hathorn is a leadership development mentor, executive presence coach, image and branding consultant, public speaker & author. She is the founding CEO of her own successful company, Illustra Consulting, and the creator of the proprietary Predictable Promotion System™.

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Copyright © 2011, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS

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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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