How to communicate like a CEO

Ann Wright (1)Our guest blog this week comes from Ann Wright co-founder of Rough House Media.  Ann has more than 25 years’ experience of working with the media – on both sides of the fence!  She has worked on prestigious projects and gives us her insights into how we can all be the best when it comes to communication. 

Whatever you do in life, whether that be working on your own micro-business, climbing the corporate career ladder or running a small business, you won’t get very far if you can’t communicate well.

We all think we can communicate – after all we’re all able to talk and have a conversation aren’t we? But actually, how easy do we find it to get out point across?

As a journalist, TV producer and media trainer, my business is communication, but even I find it hard to respond when faced with people on a political soapbox – even if I know they’re wrong.

So why does it matter – what are the benefits of communicating well? Well, for me, there are six:

  1. It enhances your reputation
  2. It makes you seem credible
  3. It calms nerves about your business and your abilities
  4. It Increases sales
  5. It persuades people to your cause
  6. It helps you negotiate well and win arguments

Many will have heard the formula that says when analysing good communication, appearance contributes 55%, your voice is 38% and just 7% is what you say.

How do we make sure our appearance doesn’t detract from our message?

  • Facial expression – be interested, alert, positive and responsive & listen to your audience
  • Maintain eye contact – if you don’t, you’ll seem uncomfortable or even shifty
  • Be natural – if you don’t naturally gesture, don’t do it, and if you do, don’t try and suppress it
  • Body language – be positive, be open, sit up straight, don’t slouch, don’t be too tense and don’t invade your listener’s space
  • Look right – make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing and are groomed. You need to look like a credible representative of your company. People will make assumptions about you if you are wearing inappropriate dress and can be distracted from what you say
  • And finally be confident – go into every communication with the right mindset, knowing your material, know how to control your nerves, be that sipping from water, or deep breathing or another technique

Now, the second important thing to consider if you want to improve your communication skills is your voice.

When I’m reading my son a bedtime story, I use a whole range of verbal techniques to make it more exciting and interesting. These can be boiled down to these 6 Ps. Use them all and it will help to give what you have to say more impact.

  • Passion – this is the most important thing. That you sound like you mean what you are saying. After all, if you don’t sound like you’re interested in what you’re saying why should anyone else be?
  • Pitch – the level, or pitch of your voice makes a difference to how you are perceived. A high squeaky voice it can be unconvincing, and doesn’t necessarily command respect. A deeper tone is more reassuring and authoritative – remember Margaret Thatcher changed her voice when she became leader of the Conservative Party.
  • Pauses – these add impact, they signal that you have said something important that you want people to remember, they give people time to absorb what you are saying, and they encourage other people to speak.
  • Pace – if you speak too fast, you can sound nervous, and people can’t keep up with what you are saying. If you speak too slowly, there’s a danger you might become boring or sound too laid back. The trick is to vary your pace can add interest to what you say. You might pick up the pace when you want to convey excitement and slow down to add emphasis.
  • Projection – give your voice some power, but don’t overwhelm your listener. You need to tailor this to the circumstances and your audience. But remember people must be able to hear what you are saying or they may get annoyed or simply stop trying to listen – don’t your voice disappear into you
  • Personality – which is all about being natural and using your own personality. If you are trying to be someone you’re not, you won’t sound convincing.

These are tricks that the masters of communication like Barack Obama, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson, have learned and use in every speech and communication they have. Why not watch some their speeches on Youtube and see how many of these you can spot?


What’s your experiences of public speaking?  What skills do you use?  Join the conversation.

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