Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations (Enhanced Edition)

Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations (Enhanced Edition)

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by Frederick Gilbert

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If you are in middle management, to get anything done you must present your ideas to decision makers, and those presentations can be brutal. The stakes are high—one presentation can make or break a career—but the rules are utterly unclear. Tactics and techniques that work well with peers, subordinates, and immediate supervisors can actually work against…  See more details below


If you are in middle management, to get anything done you must present your ideas to decision makers, and those presentations can be brutal. The stakes are high—one presentation can make or break a career—but the rules are utterly unclear. Tactics and techniques that work well with peers, subordinates, and immediate supervisors can actually work against you when presenting up the chain.

Speaking Up is an indispensable resource for anyone who needs to know how to present to those at the highest levels. Psychologist and coach Frederick Gilbert offers revelatory insights into the minds of the men and women at the top—information that is crucial to understanding what they’re looking for from presenters. Based on ten years of research and hundreds of interviews, Speaking Up features extensive comments from executives explaining exactly what they want and don’t want in a presentation.

This Enhanced Edition has 48 minutes of video footage excerpted from the Speaking Up Virtual Workshop, an elite online training course that typically costs $395. The videos in this book show real-life CEOs (not actors) heckling or otherwise impeding hapless presenters. The simulated experience of presenting to the C-Suite and encountering common problems is invaluable. It will help any presenter who needs to know what to expect—and how to prepare—for their next C-level presentation.

"There are two times when you are alone in this life: one is when you die, and the other is when you present to senior management."—Rick Wallace, CEO, KLA-Tencor
You can cut years off your leadership learning curve by applying these skills."--from the foreword by Scott McNealy, Founder band former CEO of Sun Microsystems and Chairman of Wayin

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Product Details

Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
BK Business
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Barnes & Noble
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346 MB
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Read an Excerpt

I started PowerSpeaking, Inc. in 1985 to teach people how to make winning, career-building business presentations with confidence. Because the demand for these skills is huge, our company has been very successful. Our trainings provide excellent tools for people who present to their own departments, to subordinates, and to peers. By the early 2000s, however, I started hearing horror stories from mid-level managers about the terror they felt when presenting to senior-level management. Top-level meetings clearly require a different approach. One of our clients learned this lesson the hard way when he had a complete meltdown at a C-level meeting.
No Stories! Fire Gilbert!
Matt was a PowerSpeaking® graduate and a vice president of IT at a $3 billion Silicon Valley company. Preparing for a presentation to the founders and top officers of his company, he came to me for one-on-one presentation coaching. I drilled him on the importance of using stories to connect with his audience and to create long term retention of his core message. The research is crystal clear that stories are more powerful than data in this regard.1
In his own departmental meetings, Matt had used storytelling successfully. A major problem occurred, though, when, following my advice, he tried the same approach in his quarterly presentation to the executive staff. A few minutes into Matt’s story to illustrate one of his key points, the COO bellowed, “Where the hell are you going with this? Get to the point!”
Matt’s response reverted to childhood and made matters worse. Looking plaintively at the COO, he stammered, “Well, Rick Gilbert, the presentation coach you sent me to, told me to use stories.” Matt seemed to be looking for approval from a stern father. But instead of approval, the COO yelled, “Well, fire Gilbert and get on with it.” It was a bad day for Matt and a bad day for me.
As the speech coach who had just been fired, I called the COO to find out what had gone wrong. I told him about the research showing that stories move people more than data, and that stories aid in retention. I will never forget his blunt response, “We don’t have time for stories, and I don’t care about retention. We have to get the next agenda item on the table, make a decision, then move on.”
Suddenly a light bulb went on above my head. It was instantly clear that what works in most presentation situations can cost you your job in higher-level meetings. That conversation with the COO literally changed our business from that day to this.
Different Rules at the Top
Since that eye-opening exchange with Matt’s COO, we have been studying the dynamics of senior-level meetings. Like cultural anthropologists, we set out to explore the unique set of rules in this strange land referred to as “the C-suite.” We asked questions, such as: How can major projects and successful careers fall apart in a matter of moments at a senior meeting? Conversely, how does one become a corporate hero in the C-level meeting room?
To find the answers, we conducted in-depth, video-based interviews with 22 C-level executives. They shared priceless insights about how to survive and even thrive in the often brutal life at the top levels of corporate America. What they revealed, although not exactly secret, is generally unknown in the lower ranks. This explains why so many mid-level managers fail when presenting to C-level executives.
OneID CEO Steve Kirsch being interviewed
In short, the insights these high-ranking executives shared will help you avoid presentation pitfalls and boost your professional standing in the process. Now let’s meet our senior executives.

Greg Ballard
SVP, Warner Brothers
Ned Barnholt
Chairman, KLA-Tencor
Steve Blank
Founder, Former CEO, Epiphany
Robert Drolet
Brig. General (Retired), Former Defense Industry Executive
Dan Eilers
General Partner, Vanguard Ventures, Former CEO, Claris Corporation
Doris Engibous
Board Member, Natus Corporation, Former CEO, Hemosphere, Inc.
Anna Eshoo
Member, U.S. Congress California’s 14th District
Harold Fethe
VP, Anacor Pharmaceuticals
Ginger Graham
Board Member, Walgreens, Former CEO, Amylin Pharmaceuticals
Vern Kelley
SVP, Intersil Corporation
Steve Kirsch
John Kispert
CEO, Spansion, Inc.
Bryan Lamkin
CEO, Clover Network, Former SVP, Yahoo, Inc.
Mark Leslie
Founder, Former CEO, Veritas Software
Mike Lyons
Venture Partner, Paladin Group, Associate Professor, Stanford University
Audrey MacLean
Co-Founder, NET, Former CEO, Adaptive, Associate Professor, Stanford University
Felicia Marcus
Western Director, Natural Resources Defense Council, Former Regional Administrator, EPA

Corinne Nevinny
General Partner, LMNVC
Brenda Rhodes
Chairman and CEO, InTouch Communications
Jane Shaw
Chairman, Intel
Rick Wallace
CEO, KLA-Tencor
Dan Warmenhoven
Executive Chairman, NetApp
Knowing what the expectations are at the top can mean the difference between a successful career and a new job search. Unfortunately, these lessons aren’t taught in business schools, but are often learned via real life fiascos. Throughout this book, you will hear directly from these C-level executives. They will tell you the best ways to present to them. Their advice can literally save your career, get your project funded, or even help your company pull ahead of the competition. In the following pages, you will get all the information you need to survive the rough and tumble of a senior-level meeting.
Speaking Up®: Surviving Executive Presentations is divided into four parts. Each part explores a different element of engaging with top-level decision makers. Whether you work in a corporate setting or a nonprofit environment, the communication issues you face are the same.
In Part I, we look in depth at who the C-levels really are. In Part II, we review the major problems—the “Seven Deadly Challenges”—that can derail your well-prepared presentations. You will follow the plights of six mid-level executives as they learn some hard lessons on the playing fields of “Mahogany Row.” In Part III, we provide a presentation plan that will keep your executives paying attention to you instead of their smartphones. In Part IV, the executives let you into their world on a personal level. The greater your understanding of who they really are, the quicker you will be able to create a collaborative relationship with them when you step up to the table and say, “Good morning.” Finally, on pages 189–192 there is a glossary of terms used throughout this book.

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Meet the Author

Frederick “Rick” Gilbert is founder and chairman of PowerSpeaking, Inc. He has personally coached more than 200 senior-level leaders. Before opening his firm, he held management positions with Hewlett-Packard and Amdahl Corporation in Silicon Valley.

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Speaking Up: Surviving Executive Presentations 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous 10 months ago
I'm really identified with almost those situations mentioned on this book. I want to put in practice what I learn from now. I truly recommend this book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey! Go to Divergent please i really wanna tlk to u if u dont mind? Ill be Carmen there k :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I get bullied a lot, for many reasons. I am the shortest person in my grade, I have glasses, and everyone thinks that my sense of fashion is utterly horrible. Just today, a girl that I don't even know walked up to me and said," Nice clothes, shorty." After that she snorted, and all of her followers laughed with her. Luckily, my 2 friends are always beside me, to cheer me up. They know what it feels like to be bullied, because one is very, very tall, and the other is a little overweight. <p> To all: Dont go too hard on yourselfs.- Teagan (( Post this pretty please!))
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well its not about me; its just abour my friend. So here it gose. My best friend brad always got picked on he had braces and glasses. Noone would like go out with him, he cuts that made scars and committed suciside twice ive tried to stop him but couldnt; so he went to a mental hositpal; and he got out a year later; he almost did it again by A FIGHT? BUT THE THIRD TIME ME AND AUSTIN FINALLY STOPPED HIM!!!!!!!!!! WE WERE SO HAPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HIS SCARS WERE GONE, AND WE STAND UP WITH HIM TOGETHER AS FRIENDS; IT WAS GOOD THERE WAS NOMORE PICKING ON INVOLVED IN OUR GROUP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My close friend Alice was nice to everyone. She was on the swim team wore cute clothes, and was a freshman in high school. But she also got bullied... A LOT! People told her se was ugly, stupid, and that she should just go kill herself. So she did. We were told that she hung herself last night, and she was only 15... r.i.p. Alice Schmitt 4-11-14
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One time my friend tried to commit suicide because he was bullied but i stopped him.