According to a new study on chief executive officers’ impromptu speaking skills, CEOs are not the strong communicators that they frequently think that they are. The study, entitled It’s More Than Just Talk: Patterns of CEO Impromptu Communication, was undertaken by speak coaching firm Executive Speaking, Inc.
The study analyzed video interviews of 40 CEOs and focused on their responses to two questions: “What are your strengths as a communicator?” and “What are your weaknesses as a communicator?”
“We discovered some pretty significant gaps between how they perceived themselves as speakers versus how they actually were,” Executive Speaking founder Anett Grant said. “CEOs just aren’t as self-aware as they may think, at least with regard to their speaking skills.”
Grant’s team analyzed responses in terms of two criteria: delivery and content. Many CEOs who claimed they had strong delivery skills actually had a high degree of filler words like “ah” and “er,” and many who claimed they had strong content skills were lacking in the signs of quality content that have been identified by communications scholars.
“CEOs need to realize that they can’t just say whatever comes into their heads. They need to learn skills that give them thinking time while they speak, so that they can edit their thoughts without hesitating — and project positive energy at the same time,” Grant said.
But it’s not just about faux pas. The “always-on” nature of the business world means CEOs must be prepared to give smart comments immediately.
“It’s not enough to know your stuff and rely on scripted speeches,” Grant said. “Whether it’s a discussion with the board, a town hall, or a media interview, it is absolutely essential for CEOs to master key skills to excel at impromptu speaking.”