Virgil Scudder, media trainer and CEO coach, entertained and educated his SF PRRT audience on January 22 with warmth and wit, providing tales from the trenches and offering his wisdom on effective communication.
“Communication is not what the speaker knows—to a large extent, it’s not even what he or she says. Communication is what the listener takes away and what happens as a result of that takeaway,” says Scudder in his book World Class Communication.
During his presentation, Scudder talked about how he helps CEOs move from being good communicators to great ones. He emphasized the need for careful strategy, preparation and planning. No executive should ever be in a situation where he or she receives a question for which the answer hasn’t been anticipated and rehearsed.
When coaching top executives, Scudder works with what he terms the Scudder Method, the 4 Cs that are critical to success. Every message must be:
- Delivered with Confidence
The approach sounds simple, but the execution rarely is. Without significant practice and preparation, few executives become the great communicators they could be.
Scudder’s 10 Tips for Becoming a More Engaging Communicator and Effective Executive
- Straight talk: Use language that everyone in the room can understand and avoid using business or industry buzzwords. When necessary, explain those that you need to use but may be unclear to your audience. Choose your words carefully. (If you’ve done your planning you’ll avoid using the wrong ones.) Use short sentences.
- Projection: Always project a leadership quality and executive presence. This is hard to define but the audience can tell when they see it—or don’t.
- Strong speaking skills: Practice, practice, practice. Develop speaking skills that project leadership and confidence.
- Listening & learning: The best executive communicators take time out to listen to their stakeholders in the places where they hang out to learn what is important to them.
- Use PR and Communications professionals to the best advantage: The head of PR/Communications should report directly to the CEO and have a close interactive relationship in order to help develop the strongest corporate brand.
- Speak visually: People love stories. Using examples (word pictures) to illustrate your presentation makes your points memorable.
- Understanding and being ready for a crisis: Bad news should always come from the company first, especially when public health or safety is involved.
- Step up when the heat is on: Staying visible during a crisis helps mitigate damage.
- Ability to motivate employees: Employees who feel a connection with their top executives will perform better and remain more loyal. Taking time out to meet with employees face-to-face goes a long way toward motivating them.
- Show humility: You gain more credibility when you are willing to take blame as well as share the credit when it is deserved.