Executive Presence Spotlight: Speaking Clearly and Concisely
In Arden’s continued quest to more precisely define executive presence, we now look to the importance of speaking clearly and concisely.
From in-person meetings to virtual ones, communication permeates our work lives. Nearly every aspect of forward momentum in the workplace relies on effective communication, which is why it’s such a lucrative skill that’s often linked to individual and company advancement and success.
At the center of countless corporate contexts, you rely on communication to convey a project’s next steps to colleagues, motivate team members to think and work outside their comfort zones, and explain key sales points during a proposal in order to close a deal.
But there’s no hard and fast rule as to how to approach communication, and everyone has their own way of getting their points across to others. For rising executives to maximize their leadership impact and efficiency, refining their communication acumen is key. Let’s see what our coaches have to say about how they define this quintessential skill.
Speaking Clearly and Concisely Defined
Our coaches define speaking clearly and concisely as getting to the bottom lines without unnecessary story and fluff. At the top levels of an organization, there tends to be increasingly more bottom lining and facts behind delivery; upper execs are faster to get to the point and use less meandering storytelling and detail.
There are many ways to look at speaking patterns and how to best understand the speaking and listening needs of our colleagues. Here’s one of our favorites at Arden:
Story People vs. Point People
Story people like to relay the details of the situation and they like to offer the context of the situation first so the end solution or question lives inside a bigger picture. They tend to start with the history of something and end at the bottom line, perhaps along the lines of “Last year at our annual conference we had five speakers. Some of them were well-received. We got a lot of feedback, especially about the afternoon speaker who spoke on emotional intelligence. But others thought that the time management talk brought them the best things to take back to the office. (A few more minutes inserted here then…) so we think it’s best to limit the number of speakers this year.”
Point people say the bottom line first, sometimes backing it up with detail or color, more like “We’ve decided to limit the number of speakers at the annual conference this year based on last year’s feedback.”
As you might imagine, we all like to hear others speak in our preferred way. But if you’re a story person, point people will seem to be abrupt and lacking context. If you’re a point person, story people will seem meandering and lost to you. (Hint: If you didn’t even read the whole example of story people above, you’re a point person!)
There’s nothing inherently better about either of these speaking styles. Consider, though, that the higher you move up in an organization, the more likely it is that you’ll interact with more point people. If you think about it, this makes a lot of sense: A board would never get anything done if their conversations were all about how things got to be this way or that way and not about the options and decisive actions that need to be taken. If you’re a story person, this might mean more work on your part to tailor your default communication style.
Bringing This Exercise to Your Meeting Table
Of course, the story people vs. point people example isn’t the only way to distinguish communication style, but it’s something you can practice right away.
- First, identify whether you’re a point person or a story person in your daily communications.
- Then take note of which style you think is used by the key people with whom you regularly interact.
- Regardless of your personal preference, practice speaking to others in their preferred style and see if your connection with these colleagues begins to improve.
This exercise can be especially helpful for getting on the same wavelength as a team member or peer that you find difficult to talk to; it’s likely that you have opposing styles.
One word of caution for story people: Practicing point communication doesn’t mean being so cryptic that no one knows what you’re talking about or being so brief as to seem dismissive or curt.
We’d love to hear your feedback on this exercise! You can share it below or contact us here.