The Do’s and Don’t of Talking to Top Executives

There are several challenges to getting the attention of top executives.  When you do, it is important to remember that this is your opportunity to impress and to present your case.  And a raw data dump usually will not work; nor will a long, number-filled report without an executive summary.  You need to know how to present arguments to CEOs and other C-suite people so as to maximize your chances of being heard.

In order to help you make the most of your talk with your top executives, consider these dos and don’ts:


  • Frame your message in terms of how it will reduce risk, improve the bottom line or affect the organization’s future.
  • Remember the CEO’s main interest is optimizing the business’s resources, and your proposal should show him/her how you can help meet that goal.
  • Speak the language of the CEO by using appropriate terms like ROI, operating profit, operating expenses, cash flow, and the like.  You know the great buzz words.


  • Get stuck in the present. The CEO is about big picture thinking and where the business will be in three months, six months, and five years. If you come in talking about the fire you are putting out today, you will risk appearing trivial.
  • Overload your message with detail. Yes, you have occasion where you must think about step-by-step processes. But do not bring that level of detail to the C-suite table. A top executive’s attitude: You are paid to take care of the nitty-gritty.
  • Beat around the bush. Talking to the CEO is like nothing you can imagine. This executive is juggling multiple priorities and must see immediate value in what you’re bringing to him/her. Otherwise, they will tune you out in the blink of an eye.

Remember it is your time to shine.  Do not blow it!  Do you agree or agree?  Any advice you would like to share?

photo credit


About Patricia Knight
Hello and welcome. My name is Patricia Knight. Thank you for taking the time to view my blog. I’m a Human Resources professional who is currently pursing an MBA at the University of Nevada-Reno. I am an analytical, detail-oriented professional who believes that collaboration and negotiation are critical for successful employee relations between leadership and employees.

4 Responses to The Do’s and Don’t of Talking to Top Executives

  1. sharonmarkovsky says:

    I love this! Great advice. I would also add:
    DO: Incorporate related bigger picture items. It shows the CEO that you understand how things are connected.


  2. Ian McIntyre says:

    Hello Patricia,

    Good advice. I don’t know how many times I have seen people go into a long preamble with a CEO, thinking that it is necessary to put the issue in context, and then have about 30 seconds to present the actual message because the CEO needs to get on with the next issue. You have to be direct. If the CEO wants more detail or background content, he or she will ask for it.

    By the way, I really liked your by-line about your “purpose is to learn, teach and share ways to help leaders become adept at the art of building powerful, successful work relationships with their employees”. I could not agree more and your focus on collaboration as a way to acheive it is bang on. In fact, we believe it is the only way to achieve true success. If you bring everyone with you on the journey, they will provide the necessary support the whole way. No need to look back, just forward. They will be right behind you.



    • Thanks Ian for your great comment and appreciate your kind words. It is just a shame seeing people have their chance to come and talk to the CEO and just blow it by not understanding their mindset. Your wisdom of being direct is so right on target.

      Take care,

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