Interacting with executives can be nerve-wracking. After all, why would they want to listen to you?
As I’ve learned after decades of executive coaching globally, you don’t have to be liked to be credible. Part of an executive’s job is to poke holes in solutions to make the best decisions for his or her organization. While it’s natural to feel nervous in front of senior leaders, it’s not personal when they push back; it’s about the idea, the product, the solution, the pullback, or the push forward that is in play — so relax.
Instead, capture the attention of executives by focusing on your objective and linking it to theirs. Different stakeholders have a variety of (sometimes competing) interests. So first, you must think through what you need to achieve from the meeting and what is most important to them — this is the red thread.
Think through: What is the purpose of the meeting? Do you need a decision? Do you need a budget? Is it about headcount? Is it about a solution?
Currently, I’m working with a leader at a large tech company who was to present an innovative product solution to the CEO. He originally had one hour, which was reduced to 23 minutes, with the CEO.
Additionally, the CEO’s chief of staff, the vice president of sales, and the company strategist, and a direct report were in the room. Twenty-three minutes to convince them that the proposed solution was the best method of deploying this new product across five different regions.
When he came to me for guidance, I had three suggestions for him. Regardless of your circumstances, these can work for you, too, when dealing with power players:
1. Do your homework.
Before you walk into the room, think through who will be at the table. The usual players are the risk mitigator who is focused on data for proof; the person who holds the purse with the pen for approval; the skeptic who says, “It will never work;” the sun-shiner who sees the possibilities; and the silent-but-deadly type who says nothing but at the end gives a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.
Know the meeting attendees in advance of the meeting. Prepare for their pushback and questions. A great way to research these players is to ask your colleagues about their experiences with them. What are their triggers and what do they most care about? LinkedIn is another good resource for researching them.
Remember, the loudest person in the room may not be the most powerful. In my experience, it’s the quietest person whose reactions you need to tune into most.
2. Know your main point.
People are busy, and most have the attention span of a gnat. This is the same for executives. Knowing this, focus only on what matters most: your objective, your request, and your need.
Early in my career at Microsoft, when giving a strategic presentation, I was so nervous that I was speaking at 200 words per minute (average conversational speech is between 150 and 185.) I sounded like a vinyl record on high speed.
I spewed so much information on why the solution was important to the company that I lost my audience. I remember when the vice president of human resources put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Slow down. We don’t need to know everything.”
Concentrate only on the main point, and your supporting point will follow naturally.
3. Tell them what you want from them.
What’s the first thing you say to important people? Tell them what you want — succinctly. Solution, approval, signature, etc. This often feels counterintuitive.
After all, why would you start with the solution first when you have not shared the data on why that is the best solution?
Tell them what you want from them so they are anchored in your agenda.
If you’re one of the 74 percent of people who fears public speaking, rambling can derail your impact. Stop it.
Instead, make direct statements that are clear and precise. Being upfront lets them know what you want. They will listen if you keep on the topic and answer succinctly.
When you understand your audience, know your objective, and can clearly articulate it at the start, it will be easier to align audience members’ needs and interests with yours and get what you want.
You can view the original article on Inc. here.