Mary Civiello is president of Civiello Communications Group, a presentation and media coaching consulting firm that works with top executives. She’s the author, with Arlene Matthews, of Communication Counts: Business Presentations for Busy People.
Civiello, who has advised some Fortune editors and writers on presentation skills, notes that today’s leaders need to think and speak differently. Her tips? 1.)
Your message is for the world, not just for the room.
The proliferation of smartphones (with cameras) and video websites means speeches and interviews live on forever, and will be seen by broader audiences. 2.)
Think about the show,
not just your role. If you have seen or heard something that is memorable, work it into your presentation. You don’t want to appear like you were airlifted in for your part. 3) Get comfortable with bullets vs. the polished script. What you lose in precise, well-crafted words you’ll more than make up for in authenticity.
At Fortune’s request, Civiello reviewed presentations and speeches of our
Fortune Fantasy Sports Executive League
roster and for a second year has fielded an expert team based on leaders’ communications skills. She shared her methodology and her picks with editor Stephanie N. Mehta.
Mary Civeillo: To develop my roster, I considered what’s changed in terms of best practices, along with what has always been important; the visual, vocal, and verbal aspects of public speaking. I chose only executives who can be found online, on YouTube, CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, etc.– places where leaders of public companies should be. I also tried to avoid commenting on those I’d selected last year to keep it fresh!
Carlos Brito of Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) is my CEO pick: He is a Brazilian heading up a beer business from the American heartland but his message and style speak to audiences around the world. He talks not just about a business having a vision but gets to the WIIFM — what’s in it for me — the importance of people/employees sharing that vision. It’s a great message to live on in our YouTube world. Brito moves strategically to add impact to what he says. His gestures illustrate what he’s saying vs. the rehearsed chopping, and he gets out from behind that podium and walks, not aimlessly like too many, but strategically for impact, either between points, or to open and close. (Ginni Rometti of IBM and Indra Nooyi of Pepsico have both received kudos from me in the past)
Rosalind Brewer of Sam’s Club (A unit of WMT) is my COO pick: She exemplifies what I mean when I say leaders have to think about the show, and share what the audience is seeing and feeling. When she got up to accept an award from the YWCA this year, Rosalind first talked from the heart about the accomplishments of the three young girls who’d been honored before she got up to speak. No one scripted it for her. Too many leaders miss opportunities to show they are human too.
(Steve Burke of NBC Universal is a close second to Rosalind. He too thinks about the show/the audience. More than a few executives who do on stage interviews talk only to the interviewer. In an All Things Digital interview you will see Steve listening to the question but then answering to the audience. I tell clients to devote 1/4 of your eye contact to the interviewer and the rest to the audience — all parts of the audience.)
Kevin Plank of Under Armour (UA) is my pick for Entrepreneur in Residence. He is a former athlete who has the coach’s gift of getting people fired up. But motivating the team is part of every leader’s job and to truly inspire, you can’t do it from a script where the audience doesn’t know if they are your words or thoughts. Kevin speaks from bullets, elaborating on each in a conversational way. It’s not always perfect, but it is authentic.
Antonio Lucio (UA) is my pick for CMO. A top Pepsi exec before becoming VISA’s CMO, Antonio demonstrates his enthusiasm. He moves, gestures naturally and importantly he talks with–not to–the audience. In a presentation to the Columbia Business school he asks questions real and rhetorical to keep the audience engaged, and he looks at the next ppt slide briefly then turns to explain the top takeaway vs. the usual verbatim read along that the WSJ dubbed “corporate karaoke!”
Safra Catz of Oracle (ORCL) is my choice for CFO. CFO’s are often challenged with speaking like a real person about and to real people because their lives revolve around numbers. Safra is an exception. She is conversational, relatively jargon free, and enthusiastic about how their products help people.
Todd Pierce of SalesForce.com (CRM) is my top pick for CIO. Todd is an animated speaker. When seated he leans forward when he gets to a big point the way we do when we are fired up, and he is great at breaking complex information into the magical 3s: Three points provide a verbal agenda, making it easy for everyone to follow and remember.
Yves Behar is my Designer/Engineer selection. Speaking in a TED talk, Yves uses stories about his childhood to add context and clarity to his design approach. Stories from childhood also are fertile ground for humor even when you aren’t a natural comedian. Clients ask me about the wisdom of telling jokes. I always say tell a story, that’s better and safer.
Gideon Yu, President San Francisco 49ers is my pick for utility player. Gideon speaks with focus and energy that makes you believe that he can do anything or will give it his all. That kind of enthusiasm is infectious. I always tell clients that if you aren’t enthusiastic, no one will be. Gideon conveys it not with rapid-fire talk but with his posture, gestures, and eyes. Studies show that the visual aspects of style are what add most credibility to your speaking — they show you believe what you are saying.
Finally, I pick A.G. Lafley for non-executive chairman. It’s no wonder P&G (PG) brought him back. He has gravitas and projects confidence without airs or using fancy words. In an interview on stage talking to the McCombs School of Business, he was opinionated on everything from diversity to executive compensation. He emphasized important words — no monotone — and he broke up his thoughts with the powerful pause that allows us to digest and remember his thoughts.