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  • Writer's pictureJim M. Morgan

Executive Communications: Three Keys to Authenticity

During the past two decades, I have worked closely with dozens of executives to help them craft speeches, presentations, op-eds and other messaging. While these executives were all very different – men and women across multiple industries and geographies – what they had in common was the need to inform and influence their audiences. In the course of working with them, I have been reminded often of three keys to authentic messaging.


1) Stick to the truth.


When crafting a message, one of the best things you can do is share an example for illustration purposes. On the other hand, one of the worst things you can do is fib to your audience. For starters, it seldom works. Unless one is a trained actor, it’s typically impossible to fool the audience into believing a made-up story is real. And once an audience senses dishonesty, it’s over; they will look askance at everything that follows. For another thing, relying on phony examples is an extremely slippery slope. One started, where does one stop? What begins with minor embellishments can quickly lead to full-on lies. Without a doubt, the best approach is to rely solely on real world, true examples. If you have no example to illustrate your point, perhaps the point you are trying to make isn’t that important after all.


2) Use comfortable words.


Some executives believe that the key to messaging success is to use fancy words and, when possible, industry jargon. They believe this sets them apart as an expert. In actuality, a true expert knows how to adapt their message to the audience in question. This often means foregoing a fancy word (ergonomic) when a more obvious one (comfortable) will do just as well. It also means avoiding jargon altogether. “The index illustrates that our market share continues to incline,” is better as, “We are still growing.” Once a speech is drafted, it’s always a good idea to read the speech aloud. Doing so does two things: you quickly discover which words or phrases might be problematic (due to pronunciation or other factors), and you get a sense of pace and timing (so you know if what is written can be delivered in the time allotted).


3) Sit with the audience.


Whether a speech or a written report, the content is being crafted for a specific audience. Maybe this audience is defined by geography, or age, or some other demographic, or perhaps by industry or profession. Regardless, when assembling a message, sit with the audience, metaphorically speaking. Put yourself in their place. What are their concerns, and how will your message help address them? What will confuse them, amuse them, or enthuse them? Clearly identifying these things will help ensure your message lands on open ears.



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