All the successful executives I know have this in common: when they speak, people listen.

And it’s not just because of their rank (although that certainly helps!), but because they sound authoritative, strategic and in control. They’re articulate and speak in a way that commands respect.

Better opportunities come your way when you know how to sound like an executive

Whether you’re representing yourself, your unit or organization, stakeholders are more likely to take you seriously when you sound like an executive. This can make the difference between winning a promotion, successfully negotiating for resources and landing new client business – or not.

So whether you’ve recently been promoted to senior management or aspire to join the executive ranks someday, now is a great time to develop the ability to sound like an executive.

It takes time and practice to get it right so don’t wait

To sound like the senior executive you aspire to be, these are three areas you need to focus on:

  • How you speak
  • What you say
  • Your content choice

How you speak determines whether you’re heard

How easy is it to listen to you and understand what you’re saying? In particular, pay attention to the volume, pace and tone of voice when you speak.

First and foremost, make sure you’re speaking loudly enough for people to hear you, even at the far side of the room. If you regularly get asked to speak up or repeat what you’ve just said, it’s a sign that you need to raise the volume.

Second, adopt a measured pace – neither too fast nor too slow. This makes you sound calm and in control. It’s especially important to focus on pace when you’re nervous since that’s when people tend to speak faster without realizing it.

Finally, make sure your tone is energized. While a monotone voice puts people to sleep, an energized one will keep people’s attention. And when you’re engaged and interested in what you’re saying, others will be too.

This brings us to the second area.

What you say reveals your confidence

What words and phrases do you use most often at work, and what do they say about you?

Executives tend to use language that’s powerful and conveys confidence and self-belief. But what counts as powerful language depends on your organization and its culture.

For example, “win the business” and “dominate the market” might be typical in one context while “earn their trust” and “demonstrate value” would be the norm in another. So don’t feel like you have to adopt words that would sound strange or feel inauthentic. Adapt them to your setting instead.

You also want to use assertive phrases – the opposite of “apology language” or anything that makes you sound tentative when you know what you’re talking about. For example, there’s a huge difference in impact between saying, “I’m not sure about this, but maybe we could consider XYZ” versus “I believe XYZ is the best way forward”.

To give yourself the confidence of knowing exactly what to say in your next meeting to sound like an executive, download the free cheatsheet of 37 Things to Say and Ask in Meetings to Sound Strategic.

Perhaps most importantly, learn to be concise and succinct. When someone rambles and repeats themselves, listeners tune out. So make your points in a way that’s easy to follow and demonstrates your confidence in what you’re proposing.

And now for the third area.

Your content choice shows you’re thoughtful and strategic

When it comes to content choice, sounding like an executive starts with being selective about what you decide to bring up with different audiences.

For example, the company-wide Town Hall meeting probably isn’t the time to ask a question about compensation for your team. But a question about opportunities on the horizon or the impact of regulatory changes would convey your strategic mindset.

By tailoring your message to the specific audience you’re speaking to, you’ll show you’re thoughtful and strategic about how you communicate. Like using relevant examples and analogies or choosing which aspects to emphasize.

It’s also about framing your content in a way that helps people follow and understand your points. For example, “I’m going to talk about the three biggest trends in our market and what it means for our unit,” which gives your listener a roadmap so they don’t need to wonder where you’re heading.

Executives are made not born

It takes time to get it right and you’re never going to be perfect, so start experimenting today. Pick one area of sounding like an executive and focus on an aspect of it in a meeting, presentation or conversation.

You could focus on slowing down your speaking pace when presenting your ideas, removing “apology language” from your vocabulary for the day, or preparing your three concise key points for your next meeting.

Set yourself up for success by focusing and making sustainable habits for yourself.

When it comes to sounding like an executive, remember to focus on these three areas:

  • How you speak
  • What you say
  • Your content choice

Which area of sounding like an executive would most move the needle for you and your executive presence? What experiment will you try this week?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Recommended Resource

How to Think, Act, and Sound Like an Executive

When you’re able to think, act and sound like you belong at the next level – like an executive – it’s easier for people to see that you can perform at that higher level, and this greatly increases your chances of getting promoted.

In this Career Mastery workshop, you’ll discover how to develop the strategic mindset and perspective that executives have, conduct yourself with the self-assurance of a senior leader, and communicate in the powerful way that’s expected at the executive level.

You'll discover:

  • What it means to come across as an executive and why it matters
  • The qualities and activities expected from an executive
  • How to make sure your thinking, activities and communications support your career advancement, and not hurt it
  • Common mistakes that can hold you back if you’re not aware
  • The most important area for you to work on to develop your executive presence
  • And much more

Get instant access to this Career Mastery workshop