Persuading the CEO

I recently read an article by Kevin D. Wilde (VP and Chief Learning Officer at General Mills) about the shortness of time that managers get when they need to persuade their CEO’s of the value of proposed initiatives.  Wilde suggests that, when you have just a few minutes to win over the CEO, it is crucial to make your message “executive crisp”.Wilde makes excellent recommendations for advance preparation before speaking with upper management: (1) boil the message down to its essence, (2) communicate that the need is real and that the solution is practical, and (3) make a logical connection between the need and the proposed solution, etc.  While very useful, these strategies fail to address two key ingredients in the art of persuasive speaking:  visual and vocal impact.According to a Harvard Business School study, only seven percent of the success of business speaking is based upon content.  A full ninety-three percent of the impact that business speakers make is based on their visual and vocal impact:   how they deliver their message to build belief within the listener.In this blog, I will offer a few visual strategies that will  help increase your persuasive power with upper management, no matter what department you work in, and no matter how little time your are given to make your case.   In my next blog, I will address the vocal strategies that will help. Be sure that your visual performance projects poise and passion.  Whether you are seated or standing, imagine that your legs are tree trunks and that your feet are the roots of a tree extending deep into the ground.  Stand away from furniture and resist any temptation to lean for support.  If you are seated, sit tall, leaning forward slightly from the waist up (to help convey interest and enthusiasm).  Make eye contact throughout your talk, and maintain a smile that is varied in accordance with your content, moment to moment.  Gesture with both arms/hands whenever possible, rather than one.No matter how many minutes upper management can spare, your best content will have persuasive power only when your visual and vocal performance convey your own conviction, poise, and passion.    Stay tuned for my next blog, to read about vocal strategies that will give you real persuasive power.

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