How to Hold Your Own at the C-Suite Table

The Public Speaker shares 4 tips for exerting influence to get your ideas heard.  

Lisa B. Marshall,
May 9, 2014
Episode #250

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Show Up, Sit Down, and Speak Up!

If you’ve been invited to the table, act as if you belong there.  Be an active participant, not a visitor.  Choose your seat wisely.  Are you presenting? Then sit at the front of the room.  Are you leading? Then sit at the head of the table across from the entrance so you can see others as they enter.  Are you playing devil’s advocate? Sit directly across from the leader.  Are you supporting the leader?  Sit next to him or her.  Want to be a neutral facilitator? Sit in the middle.  However, never sit on the outside (not at the table) or in the corners, if you want to be heard.

Actively and assuredly state your opinions and ideas using the language of leadership, which is precise, clear, crisp, diplomatically direct, and emotionally neutral.  Hostile, negative, or emotionally charged words will only serve to sabotage your efforts. In addition, you don’t want to look or sound timid (e.g. “Could we discuss X?”) or defeated (e.g. “They’ll never take me seriously…”). Always use powerful, deliberate gestures and confident language without any hostility or defensiveness particularly when sitting at the C-suite table.

Repetition and Interruptions

In order to exert power and influence in meetings, it is important to understand the importance of repetition.   If you feel like your ideas are being ignored or discounted, do not respond emotionally. Instead, simply repeat your idea again in a slightly different way, “Let’s look at it another way…" or "Here’s something else to consider…” The point is to remain in the game by repeating your thoughts and ideas in language that you know will click with the decision-makers.

When at the C-suite table, it is particularly important to back up your ideas with thoughtful analysis. Be prepared to support your point of view with facts and figures. Come prepared with well-researched evidence.  The idea is to state your point of view backed-up by a variety of sources.  Even better if you can predict possible objections and present additional data that addresses those concerns. 

Finally, be mindful of interruptions.  Although the research is not crystal clear, there is some evidence that men interrupt more than women and, specifically, they interrupt to take over control of the meeting more than women.  Among men, that behavior is typically considered normal. However, for women, interrupting is perceived as negative or rude.  So it’s important to balance how/when to interrupt. Don’t wait for long pauses to jump into the conversation. As soon as someone has finished speaking, jump in and make your point clearly and concisely using your full voice and direct eye contact. 

This is Lisa B. Marshall, helping you maximize sales, manage perceptions, and enhance leadership through keynotes, workshops, books, and online courses. Passionate about communication; your success is my business.

Do you struggle with difficult conversations? Do you procrastinate when it comes to delivering feedback?  Do you know how to effectively persuade and influence others?  Learn this and more in my book Smart Talk. Radio personality, Maureen Anderson called it “The owner’s manual for your mouth!”  Visit smarttalksuccess.com to get your personally signed copy.

Meeting, woman executive, and woman speaking images courtesy of Shutterstock.


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