I’ve founded multiple tech startups, written in various publications and been featured in dozens of interviews and podcasts. I blend commentary, research and perspective on business strategies, leadership, enterprise communication, digital marketing trends and, at times, just my two cents.
Verbal communication is essential, especially in business. It’s crucial for executives to communicate effectively. And being the heads of business, CEOs must communicate exceptionally well.
There’s a lot more to good communication than you’d think. I’ve put together a list of criteria designed to sharpen a CEO’s communication skills:
1. Have good posture. Posture can affect your voice. Slouching in a chair, hunching over, leaning on something or otherwise reclining can weaken your voice’s power. As CEO, you want your voice to inspire and command. Poor posture can hinder this.
2. Pace your speech. People listen slower than they think. According to an infographic by Get In Front Communications, people listen at a much lower rate (125-250 words per minute) than they think (1,000-3,000 words per minute). Rushing not only leads to jumbled words, slurring and even omitted points, but can cause your listener to forget what you say. Pace yourself.
3. Get to the point. According to the aforementioned infographic, the short-term memory processes words. But short-term memory retains about seven bits of information at a time. Getting to your point quickly ensures more people retain the information. Flesh out your thoughts quickly and clearly, but just not at the expense of your point.
4. Watch your pitch and tone. According to a study from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, pitch has been linked to business success. Male CEOs with low-pitched voices have more success. Though researchers are still exploring the connection, pitch and tone have a clear effect on verbal communication.
5. Inject personality. It’s your job to engage your listeners. However, people are different, which can make connecting challenging. People don’t want a well-rehearsed, scripted speech. They want you to cater to them. Extend yourself and inject personality into your communication style to connect better.
6. Practice. Communication can be learned. While many may be “bad” at verbal communication, there are a number of techniques to build this skill. Remember that communication methods should not be standardized; they’re always growing and changing.
7. Offer prompts, not questions. Turning declarative prompts into questions is the gateway to miscommunication. TV reporter and author Karen Friedman’s No. 1 communication rule is: “It is absolutely critical to be as direct, to the point and concise as possible.” Friedman goes onto to say, “Bosses often say, ‘Can you have that report to me? It’s really important, and I’d really like to have it.’ A more effective way to deliver that message: ‘Can you please get that report to me? I’d like it on my desk by 5 p.m. Friday.'”
CEOs should use a steady tone, and issue specific prompts instead of vague, general questions.
8. Don’t be too casual. It can kill your authority. Maintaining a stern tone is important, but it can be overbearing. And tone that’s too casual or passive can weaken sincerity and communication. CEOs need to engage employees individually.
9. Encourage feedback. Allow time for employees to share their opinions, and reward their insights. If you give individuals a platform, they may be more receptive to your message. If you reward sound feedback, employees may interact and partake in conversations more.
10. Get others involved. We all interpret things differently, which is why it’s hard for people to clearly remember information. CEOs should get staff involved firsthand to drive home their message.
It’s important for leaders to look for new ways to communicate clearly. Though this is often easier said than done, it’s worth the effort.