Have you ever had a colleague pitch an idea successfully even though your (better) idea is ignored? Here's a hard truth:

The way you say something is sometimes even more important than the idea itself.

Ouch.

I work with a lot of super-smart women. They work hard, think strategically, and have great ideas. Yet they are often underappreciated or don't feel valued and heard in their roles.

Sometimes, this can be the environment, and sometimes, we can do something to help ourselves.

Today, I'm going to focus on the latter.

Because it's one thing to have great ideas. It's quite another to relay those ideas in a way that most C-suite executives want to receive them.

And since there's no handbook on how to present to your C-suite boss (or your boss' C-suite boss), many fall short here.

The good news is that with some awareness, intention, and practice, you can do a 180 in this department. I did. And it comes down to one thing: your communication style.

If you're someone who's struggling to be seen as the leader you want to be, this is for you.

Once you master framing, you will see a massive difference in how people perceive you, I promise.

So, let's get right into it. The easiest way to remember how to frame your ideas well is to use the 3C's. You want to be:

Clear, Concise, and Compelling.

Sounds simple enough, right?

Often, simple doesn't mean easy. I work closely with my clients to master this framework, and it can take months. I'll give an overview here, but what I want you to take away is that reading this newsletter and understanding the framework is one thing, but it's the regular implementation of this that will create the change.

Clarity

There's more to being clear than just pronouncing your words properly. You need to remember that executives see things from a 30,000-foot view while you work in the day-to-day. That means you often have to present ideas with a different perspective.

Here are two rules of thumb to consider for clearer communication:

  • Apply the Feynman razor
  • Organize your information

Feynman's razor states that if you truly understand something, you can explain it to a 5-year-old. Or your grandma. Or someone with no background in what you do.

This means using simple terms instead of technical jargon and leaving out the acronyms or overly complex terminology. The truth is, the smartest people I've ever met have something in common – they have the ability to explain things so that anyone can understand them.

Ever heard someone talk about clear > clever? Yep, that's this.

The second important element is how you organize information. Effectively organizing your information will make it easier to understand and process, and less overwhelming for the listener.

Organizing information using known strategies and frameworks is powerful because it gives you instant credibility and ties the information you're presenting to something familiar.

For example, if you're selling a brand-new disruptive technology, it probably makes sense to reference the Technology Adoption Lifecycle.

Another way to organize your information effectively is to start with the punchline. This concept is beautifully illustrated by the Minto Pyramid, developed by Barbara Minto at McKinsey, which states that you should start with the answer, then give the main supporting facts followed by the details.

I always tell my clients, “DON'T work up to the punchline, start with it!” This is especially important when communicating with leaders because if you present your data the other way around, your boss (and their boss) may be left wondering where you are going with your story. This is never a good thing.

Conciseness

The great thing about clarity and conciseness is that working on one will also improve the other. My two tips for being more concise are:

  • Skip extraneous details and filler words
  • Use numbered lists where possible

These don't require a ton of explanation, but that doesn't mean this point isn't important. I can't tell you how often I review a slide or document, and my first piece of feedback is, “Too many words!”

Leave out the details until you're asked for them (but ensure you know them in case you're asked), and don't underestimate the power of providing facts or details using numbered lists. It comes across as organized and well thought out and communicates to the listener that you understand the most important points to share vs. sharing a laundry list of your thoughts.

Trust me when I say there is magic in sharing information in sets of 3!

Compelling

When it comes to being more compelling, one of the best things you can do is use the ‘so what' filter. Take whatever your idea, ask, or pitch is and then ask, so what? The answer to ‘so what' is the reason this should matter to your boss or your boss' boss.

Ie. can you demonstrate how this idea will:

  • Tie back to ROI or
  • Relate back to company strategic initiatives

And do you have the numbers to back it up?

Often, with executives, being compelling is all about quantifying things and tying them back to the company's ROI (return on investment). I had a former boss who would not give any idea I brought forward a second look unless I had numbers, even if they were based on assumptions (which I had to clearly lay out).

For example, if you're asking to spend money, what is the company getting in return? Less staff turnover? More revenue? New customers?

Initially, this one was super tough for me to get the hang of, but once I did, it became easier, and I was seen as a much more strategic team member. If you're working towards your next promotion, this one will really help!

The last point is similar but a little different: Consider the impact on the company as a whole, the high-level strategic goals, or the bigger picture. This often allows you to look at things from a different perspective that is much more in line with the executive you're speaking to.

Finally, when it comes to being compelling, consider the language you are using. The words and phrases we use can either make us come across as confident leaders or as someone who hasn't put much thought into an idea.

If you didn't grab it last week, be sure to grab my 10 language reframes here.

Okay, where to start?

The next time you present an idea to the executive team, ask yourself if it meets the three Cs: Clear, Concise, and Compelling.

If not, how can you re-organize your data/slides in order to do so?

This may require more prep than you're used to doing, but it will also increase the probability that your presentation or conversation is successful.

The more you practice this, the easier it gets.

Until next time friends… ✌️💜

Katy