How Can CIOs Command The Room During A Speech?

It's not enough to just give a speech, you have to command the room
It’s not enough to just give a speech, you have to command the room

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One of the joys (?) of being the person with the CIO job is that you often get asked to make speeches where you can talk about the importance of information technology. Everyone thinks that you know what is going to happen in the future and they are hoping that if they can get you to deliver a speech, you just might let a hint of the future slip out. These are great career opportunities; however, in order to make the most of them you need to know how to command the room during your speech.

It’s All About Persuasion

All too often people in the CIO position, who are technical people by their very nature, show up when it’s time to give a presentation and attempt to communicate everything that they know about a topic with their audience. Another word for this type of presentation is “dumping”. The problem with this is that once your speech is over, nobody will be able to remember what you said.

A much better way to organize your speech is by starting out your speech by discussing the problem that has to be solved. No matter if you are talking about mobile products in the workplace or a new ERP solution, everything in IT is designed to solve a problem and you should start by talking about that problem.

The goal of any CIO speech should be to get your audience to either do something differently or think about something differently. You are going to want to structure your speech so that you can persuade your audience to change. Make sure that you deliver your information in a way that makes sense to your audience.

Does Anyone Have A Question?

As good of a speaker as you are, there will always be questions about what you are saying from your audience. In order to maximize the impact of your speech, you are going to want to provide your audience with an opportunity to ask you questions.

The traditional way to go about doing this is to leave time at the end of your speech to permit your audience to ask questions. However, it turns out that this might not be the best way to go about doing this. The reason is because studies have shown that adults have an attention span of about 20 minutes. This means that your 45-60 minute speech is going to cover at least two adult attention spans.

A much better way to deal with questions is to stop at about 20 minutes and 40 minutes into your speech and ask if there are any questions. This shakes things up, grabs people’s attention, and keeps their interest. It also allows you to control how your speech ends. You don’t have to take questions at the end and you can finish on a high note, not a bad or awkward question.

Beware Of The Slide Trap

I love PowerPoint, you love PowerPoint, we all love PowerPoint. All too often we are in a rush when we’ve been asked to give a speech and we end up throwing our slides together at the last minute. When we do this, we’re often not quite sure what we are planning on saying.

When we find ourselves in this situation, we stop looking at our audience during our presentation and we start to look at the screen where our slides are being displayed. We have to do this because we’re not sure what comes next. However, by doing this we lose contact with our audience.

One additional downside to looking at our slides while we talk is that our hand gestures are made towards the screen. Studies have shown that your audience will only be interested in motions made towards them. When you direct your motions towards the screen, you are giving them permission to start to ignore you.

What All Of This Means For You

One of the most important skills that a CIO must have is the ability to communicate well. This skill becomes critical when we are called upon to deliver a speech. Anyone can give a speech, only the best CIOs can command the room while they do it.

In order to command the room, first you need to make sure that you find ways to persuade your audience. Don’t try to overwhelm them with too much information. Questions are always an important part of any CIO speech. Provide your audience with an opportunity to ask questions during your speech. Finally, make sure that you use PowerPoint slides effectively and don’t let the slides use you.

When it comes to clearly communicating information to a group of people, giving a speech is the most effective way to accomplish this. However, as with so many things in life there is a right way and a wrong way to go about doing this. Use these suggestions to command the room the next time you are asked to give a speech.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What’s the best way to determine if you have been able to persuade your audience?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As the person with the CIO job one of your greatest challenges is to find ways to keep your department’s spending under control on top of the everyday challenge of letting the rest of the company know about the importance of information technology. One of the biggest drains on your budget can be travel expenses. What you need to do is to find a way to keep your travel expenses under control without appearing to come across as an overbearing boss.