This morning as I was getting my thoughts together to write this blog post, I received a Google Alert that included an article on this exact topic, called “Preparing Executives for Speeches and Presentations.”
At first I was a bit concerned about being labeled a “copy cat,” but I quickly realized that the article was written from the point of view of a speechwriter and focused almost exclusively on developing the content of the presentation.
The information in the article, while excellent, wasn’t exactly what I wanted to cover today.
Instead, I want to focus on the stuff they never tell you in speechwriting class: how to brief an executive about the event and get them in the right mindset to focus on the content of their speech.
Chances are that your executive doesn’t even want to give this speech – he may be doing it as a personal favor to another executive, so you are already dealing with a cranky client.
So it’s up to you to set a positive, professional tone for that initial session. One way of doing so is to “set the stage” for your executive before you begin to talk about specific content. Here’s what you want to tell him:
- The purpose of the meeting (sales rally, recognition event, product launch, operational meeting, etc.)
- Who will attend (employees from a specific division or companywide, shareholders, vendors, customers, industry leaders, local business people, etc.)
- Who else is speaking and what they will be speaking about
- Whether one of your competitor’s executives is on the agenda
- Where your executive’s presentation falls within the agenda, especially and who will precede and follow your executive
- Whether the host organization has requested a specific topic or theme
- The physical layout of the room (standard ballroom, in the round, teleprompter, etc.)
The other benefit of this preliminary briefing is that it allows the executive to make a mental transition from the meeting he just left and focus his full attention on the discussion of his presentation. That way you aren’t dealing with a “budget meeting hangover” for the first 20 minutes of your session with the executive.
One more tip: I recommend that you develop a standard one-page brief to give your executive’s admin so he/she is in the loop, too. In addition to the info above, you should include the address of the venue and at least two onsite points of contact (including phone numbers) in case of last-minute changes.
Once this logistic work is out of the way, you can focus on exploring your inner Peggy Noonan and writing a speech that will win the confidence and respect of your executive.