. Working with C-Level Executives | Meetings & Conventions

Working with C-Level Executives

How to communicate effectively with top management

Bonus Tips
Addressing small comforts for senior executives on the road will result in lower stress levels for everyone. If you have a health-conscious executive, put a small juicer with fresh fruits and veggies in the hotel room. For java enthusiasts, have a coffeemaker, premium coffee and a personalized mug delivered.

Senior executives appreciate positive feedback as much as anyone. Be sure to express your gratitude to them for taking time to meet with you or to attend your event.

Working with high-level execs can be a great opportunity to increase your visibility, education and professional skills. At the same time, it can be stressful: You have to balance the intuition of a psychic with the skill of a diplomat and a talent for stepping out of your own ego when dealing with top management.

Meet the Leader Every communication you have with top brass is important, and knowing how to present your ideas, values and skills is essential. Senior executives are extremely busy, so if you are able to secure time with them, make the most of it.

Prior to an appointment with the senior leader, it's good practice to send him or her a brief agenda.

During the meeting, keep the conversation brief, concise and to the point.

After your appointment, follow up with a written recap of the discussion to confirm decisions made and outline your understanding of next steps required. Keeping a written record of important conversations has saved me on innumerable occasions when busy execs have forgotten details of decisions made weeks or even months earlier.

Be Realistic Don't overpromise unrealistic results. Executives always will recall promises that go unfulfilled. Don't be pushed into unrealistic time frames. Instead, try to break the task up into manageable segments and provide a timeline with specific deliverable dates.

Never ask for the minimum time, resources or attention you believe is required for the project at hand. Always build in some kind of cushion in case of unexpected events or expenses.

Be the Expert You are the subject matter expert when it comes to meetings. If top brass makes a request that you think is unwise, it's up to you to explain why. There is always a way to make something happen, but there might also be unintended consequences (e.g., extra costs, personnel).

Be sure to speak up and point out the potential pitfalls clearly and succinctly. Better yet, make an alternative recommendation that will make both of you look good.

Because so much of what we do as planners is behind the scenes, senior managers might not be aware of how long a task should take or appreciate the domino effect of a specific request. Don't expect them to understand; your job is to fulfill the request in the most efficient, timely and budget-conscious manner possible.

Make a Friend
Busy execs move quickly from one task to the next and generally are impatient if you have to ask follow-up questions. Once they've imparted information to you, they consider the matter off their plate.

Therefore, it's a good idea to cultivate a relationship with the executive's administrative assistant. This individual already knows how to read the exec's mind and might be able to guide you to a better understanding of how to interpret instructions.

Assistants also can provide helpful insights to the exec's management style, communication preferences and hot buttons. And they can get you on the calendar when you do need to meet with top brass.