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10 facts every CEO should know about verbal communication

5 min read


As an Internet/tech entrepreneur since 2005, I’ve founded multiple tech startups, written on various publications, and featured in dozens of interviews and podcasts. My writings blend commentary, research, and perspective on business strategies, leadership, enterprise communication, digital marketing trends and, at times, just my two cents as founder of multiple startups.

Verbal communication is absolutely essential, especially in a business environment. It’s crucial that executives are able to communicate effectively. CEOs, being the head of business, must be able to communicate exceptionally well. There’s actually a lot more to it than you’d think. As such, I’ve put together a list of key criteria designed to sharpen a CEO’s communicative skills.

  1. Posture can affect your speaking voice: Slouching in a chair, hunching over, leaning on something or otherwise reclining can weaken the power of your voice. As CEO, you want to be able to inspire and command with your voice. Poor posture can greatly hinder this.
  2. Pace your words, people listen slower than they think: According to an infographic composed by Get In Front Communications, people listen at a much lower rate (125-250 words per minute) than they think (1,000-3,000 words per minute). Rushing cannot only lead to jumbled words, slurring, and even omitted points, but it’s likely your listener won’t retain most of what you say, too. Therefore, be sure to pace yourself and take your time when you speak.
  3. Words are processed by short-term memory, so get to the point. According to the aforementioned infographic, words are processed by our short-term memories — where individuals retain about seven bits of information at a time. You want to flesh out your thoughts quickly and clearly, but not at the expense of your point. Getting to your point quickly ensures that more people are retaining the information you’re putting forth.
  4. Male CEOs with low-pitched voices have more success. According to a study conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, a biological trait like pitch has been linked to one’s success in business. Though the connection is still being explored, it’s clear that pitch and tone have an effect on verbal communication.
  5. Inject personality to ground your words. It’s your job to engage the listener the best you can. However, people are different, which can make connecting all the more challenging. People don’t want a well-rehearsed, scripted speech. They want to be catered to. Extending yourself and injecting your personality into your communicative style can help you to better connect.
  6. Communication is a skill one can learn. While many may be “bad” with verbal communications, there are a number of practices available to help build this skill. Keep in mind that communication methods should not be standardized; they’re always growing and changing. Individuals can grow and change to effectively communicate, too.
  7. When it’s your turn to talk, offer prompts, not questions. Turning declarative prompts into questions is the gateway to the art of miscommunication. TV reporter and author Karen Friedman’s No. 1 rule regarding communication is: “It is absolutely critical to be as direct, to the point and concise as possible.” Friedman goes onto to say, “Bosses often say, ‘Can you have that report to me? It’s really important, and I’d really like to have it.’ A more effective way to deliver that message: ‘Can you please get that report to me? I’d like it on my desk by 5 p.m. Friday.’” That being said, CEOs would do well to use a steady tone and issue specific and direct prompts, as opposed to vague and general questions.
  8. Casual tone can kill your authority. Maintaining a stern tone is important, but it can also become a little overbearing. As such, CEOs may be tempted a more casual and relaxed; however, too casual and/or passive of a tone can weaken your sincerity — which could make your communications all the weaker. CEOs need to engage individuals on a singular basis.
  9. Build feedback structures into conversations to motivate. Allow time for employees to input their opinions, and reward their insights. If you give individuals a platform to be heard, they may be more receptive towards whatever it is you’re trying to relay. Furthermore, if you reward sound feedback, individuals may be more motivated to interact and get more involved in conversations.
  10. Get others involved to have them learn firsthand: Interpretation changes from speaker to listener, which is why it’s hard for people to clearly remember information the first time they’re exposed to it. As such, CEOs would do well to open up communications to get others. In doing so, people are also learning from firsthand interaction. Get people involved with your point and drive it more clearly.

It’s important for leaders to look for new ways to communicate more clearly. Though this often is easier said than done, it’s definitely worth the effort.

Reuben Yonatan is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP.

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