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"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

Speaking to Your CEO? — 5 Ways to Make Your Presentations Memorable

Will you be speaking to your CEO? Here are 5 ways to make your presentations memorable.

Will you be speaking to your CEO, your organization's leadership team, or stakeholders? Here are 5 ways to make your presentations memorable!

If you'll be presenting to your CEO (or the entire C-suite or the board), I'd like to make your life easier. So here's a true story: Once upon a time, I worked with a sales person who was a star in his industry. He was a high-energy performer whose pitches succeeded time after time. In fact, he routinely retired his monthly quotas faster than anyone on his company's sales force.

The day we worked together, however, he wasn’t up to his usual game. In fact, he was nervous and uncertain of his abilities, and was visually and verbally anxious.

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What was going on? — Well, he was rehearsing a presentation to be delivered to a group of CEOs. He’d never spoken to the C-Suite before, and he had the idea that he was the wrong person for the job. Other people specialized in speaking at this level, he told me, and it was only by a scheduling conflict that he was being moved temporarily into this slot.

He needed to improve his abilities to present to this group, and he knew it. Fortunately, he had two factors on his side: (1) He was a knowledgeable, dedicated, and talented salesperson, and (2) There were tools available to up his game quickly to speak to such a high-level audience. Below are five of them.

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1. Work Hard to Launch Your Presentations Strongly

If you speak to your CEO; or if you are a CEO who speaks to boards; if you’re a lawyer who presents to panels or commissions; or if you’re the voice of your organization, you need to understand and use these tools. The 5 approaches I talk about here will, in fact, serve you well whenever you present in a high-profile situation

The first of them is launching your presentation strongly. In many ways—in terms of content, visuals, along with your verbal and vocal performance—you need to show you’re speaking for leadership in no uncertain terms, and to do it at the start of your talk.

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Senior-level professionals want to understand from the moment you begin speaking that their time isn’t going to be wasted, that you have something valuable to offer. You’ll take them along that path if you clearly and concisely let them know right away where you and they are going together. That is, you need to preview your talk. You can do this in two ways: a) reveal the specific items you’ll be covering, and b) tell them how they’ll benefit from what they’re about to hear. Your CEO will not only be able to follow where you’re going every step of the way. His or her attention will now be fully activated because of the importance of your topic.

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2. B-L-U-F, or Bottom Line Up Front

If you want to speak with professionalism and impact to a C-Suite audience, you need to practice the technique that I call B-L-U-F. That stands for Bottom-Line-Up-Front.

Imagine this situation: You’re an analyst who’s been tasked with researching the feasibility of a merger between your company and a competitor. At this meeting, you’ll be delivering your recommendations to the senior management team.

Scenario A: You thank the attendees for their time, and remind them of the task they assigned to you. “So I started my research,” you say, and then present a blow-by-blow account of where you looked for the relevant data and the strategy behind your plan of attack. Eventually, you get to you recommendation.

Scenario B: You greet your listeners the same way. But as soon as you remind them that your job was to deliver a recommendation, you do that immediately. Once you’ve given the results of your research, you back up and explain that evidence and how you came to your conclusion.

If you proceeded in B-L-U-F mode, or Scenario B, you just succeeded. In fact, it’s a good thing you gave your bottom line up front. The CEO was called out of the meeting by her secretary three minutes after you started; and five minutes later, the CFO had to take an emergency phone call. If you had taken your time getting to that bottom line, they’d never have heard your recommendation during the meeting, and you'd have to follow up with them afterwards.

Discover the secret of connecting with audiences! Download my free article, "How to Begin a Presentation: The Critical First 60 Seconds."

3. Use Body Language for Strong Physical Expression

To speak as a leader when you speak to leaders, you need to use body language effectively. And once again, you set the right impression (or not) within the first minute of your presentation.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that body language means gestures and nothing else. The truth is, you’ve been making statements about yourself and your level of confidence and charisma before you ever opened your mouth!

For the purposes of your presentation, but also concerning your future at this company, your CEO or board wants to be impressed by your confidence. In fact, they want to be amazed by it. And the evidence of that self-regard starts with how you hold yourself and move.

How’s your posture? Your handshake? When you enter a room, does it look like you mean business? — Do you walk with purpose, make strong eye contact with everyone, and compose your face so that your expression is open and receptive? Do you take a moment as you stand at the head of the table before you start speaking to gather the power in the room?

When you speak to a group, you're like a radio: what you broadcast is what listeners receive. You don’t have to be the most confident person in the room—you just need to look the part. I don’t mean arrogance, of course. But broadcasting confidence through your posture, stance, walk, and gaze means that audiences will be more confident in you. (Here's my Free guide, "The Body Language Rules: 12 Ways To Be a More Powerful Speaker.") You’ll see listeners' confidence in you in their own body language, which will give you a higher level of, well, confidence. It’s the type of positive cycle you want to get to in public speaking.

4. To Speak as a Leader, Command the Stage!

Now take that displayed physical confidence one step further. For the presence required to speak successfully to the C-Suite and boards, you need to command your stage.

Yes, you’ll sometimes be seated at a conference room table. In this case, your confidence will be displayed in your upper body gestures, voice, and the pace of your remarks. But let’s assume you’ll be standing as you present—without a doubt the best situation because you’ll be able to use full-body communication skills.

As a speaker, i.e., the leader in the room at this time, it's your job to command your performance space. Presenters who lack confidence seem to shrink, not grow, in space. “All the world’s a stage,” Shakespeare reminded us. And if there’s ever a time you need to command your stage,  it’s when you’re speaking "up" to leadership.

Use the actor’s position of “down-center” or closest to your audience to deliver your opening. Move to another part of your performance space to introduce each main point. Once there, gesture naturally—but maintain your position while discussing that topic. Then come down-center again for your strong conclusion.

Think about the exciting speakers you've watched. Does Tony Robbins command a stage? Is Brian Tracy a poised presenter who takes center stage and ignores the lectern? You bet!

And don't forget the sound of leadership! Here's my Free Tips & Tricks Guide, The Voice of Authority: How to Sound Like a Leader. 

5. Conclude Your Presentation Memorably

Now that you’ve concisely and compellingly given your CEO or board the essence of what you were there to say, and assumed command while doing it, you’re ready to seal the deal. This is the last step in your ability to speak memorably to the C-Suite, and it’s where you get to display your creative chops.

Of the parts of a presentation—greeting, grabber, main points, supporting evidence, use of visuals, building in audience interaction, etc.—the conclusion is the speech element most likely to be short-changed, or even completely neglected.

Yet it’s an absolutely necessary element to making your presentation resonate in the minds of your CEO or board. It’s not particularly difficult to make listeners pay attention while you’re speaking. But will they act on your recommendations over the coming weeks, months, or years? Will they retain the change of thinking or feelings you’ve been working hard to make happen?

For your ideas to be retained by your CEO and be memorable, you have to do more than deliver data. You must ask yourself: “What can I say now that will make the ideas I’m advocating sticky, so that my presentation will stand out in his or her mind?"

Here’s where creativity comes into play: What can you say that will give your talk a little immortality? What is the reference, metaphor, story, case study, quotation, or other device that will leave the audience slightly in awe—perhaps even sorry that you’ve finished speaking? 

As you can imagine, it was a concentrated (actually, a daylong) session with my salesperson client as we used these 5 ways to raise his presentation to C-Suite level. As always, videotaping was our tool for observing his progress. At this point, he may not have been the most confident guy in the world when presenting to these CEOs. But he was able to perform successfully in that situation, with some time-proven techniques in his toolbox.

This blog was first published in 2016. It is updated here.

You should follow me on Twitter here.

Cropped headshot for Speak for Leadership back cover -- 8.30.21

Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking and overcoming speaking fear. His company, The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. He was named for nine consecutive years as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals, and also named as One of America's Top 5 Speech CoachesHe is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His handbook for presenting in videoconferences, Speaking Virtually offers strategies and tools for developing virtual presence in online meetings. His latest book is Speak for Leadership: An Executive Speech Coach's Secrets for Developing Leadership PresenceContact Gary here. 

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