CEOs give speeches all the time, to many different audiences, for many different reasons. And a lot rides on those speeches — their prestige, their ability to command people’s attention and support, the success of a project or even of their organization.
Because they are busy and lack the time to prepare a speech for each event, CEOs frequently speak from “talking points.” They may have jotted down those talking points themselves or, more commonly, their communications director or administrative assistant may have prepared them.
Talking points are a short list of statements that sum up a person’s position on a particular issue or an explanation of an important matter.
Politicians and political campaigns use talking points all the time. They serve a purpose: they keep candidates (and their representatives) on topic.
But talking points don’t make a speech. Not an effective one. Not for CEOs.
A speech is more like a story than a dissertation.
- A speech begins by catching your attention, and it builds its case both logically and emotionally. It does make summary statements. (It’s main point and sub points are all, in a way, “talking points.”) But it also provides the right blend and balance of evidence (facts and figures, definitions, citations) and illustrations (images, metaphors, anecdotes, quotations).
- A speech pays special attention to transition points, because how the pieces of a speech hold together — how one idea leads to the next — is as important as the pieces (the ideas) themselves.
- A speech is personal. It expresses the CEO’s own vision and passion and in the CEO’s unique voice.
- A speech is well worded. It uses the most powerful words and phrases to clarify, drive home, and make memorable its message.
CEOs give speeches all the time. They’re too busy to prepare a new speech for every event. But they shouldn’t rely on talking points. So what should they do? I suggest that they take the time to develop three basic speeches which they can give again and again with slide modifications. (That’s the topic of my workshop, “Three Speeches Every Leader Needs,” which I’ll be writing about more in later posts.)
What do you think? Are you a fan of talking point? If so, why? If not, why not? What do you suggest as an alternative.