logo main chapter

Communicating Up - Sharing Insight Up the Food Chain


Tuesday, September 18, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Loyola University Maryland, Timonium Graduate Center, 2034 Greenspring Drive, Timonium, MD 21093

This event/activity qualifies for 8.00 PDUs.

Presented by Carl Pritchard, PMP, PMI-RMP


All too often, we establish communications styles and processes that seem to be "one size fits all". Nothing could be further from the truth. In dealing with management, steering committees and other critical project stakeholders, while the messages must be consistent, the approaches we use, the data sets we share, and the styles we deploy need to be adaptive in terms of the audiences and stakeholders addressed. In this hands-on day, you'll get the opportunity to learn how to distill your message down to its core elements, create a common vision, and engage an audience quickly and effectively.

The course will touch briefly on the fundamentals of communications, moving quickly into the notions of creating community, expending communications capital, and establishing the crucial 30-second "elevator speech" moment. Carl Pritchard will share 10 tactics to create a higher level of audience engagement and the criticality of closing the deal. He'll also highlight five ways to commit suicide by PowerPoint and graphics strategies that keep the message clean and clear.

Time and Location Information

Check-in 7:30 - 7:50 Class: 8:00am - 4:00pm Loyola Graduate Center Timonium, Md.


Promises for the Day Ahead: The class opens with a list of promises, highlighting the importance of expectancy in establishing a positive flow for communication.

Communications Review: Stakeholder Identification. This is the fundamentals of communication with an emphasis on Mehrabian's notion that only 7% of all communications is pure words.

Communications Community:The concept of community is crucial to higher-level communication. If you are perceived as an outsider, the communication channels are much more likely to be muddied.

Tactic 1: Language - Language is the single most common societal thread. Hooks, catchphrases, business buzz...they all have the capacity to make you part of (or isolated from) the community. Those who can create or redefine language have the ability to create or redefine communities, with themselves as critical members. The tactic? Leverage language and become the lexicographer. Noah Webster did not work himself into the collective American psyche by will.

Tactic 2: Familiarity - Communications flow more freely and effectively when there is a degree of consistency involved. Consider the timing of the message. Always at meetings? Always in the hall? Always....? The key is to ensure that management is familiar with how you fit into the organization's setting. That also means they will consider the colleagues they see you with and the simple little messengers...like your tie, haircut or heels. Gene Kranz of Apollo 13 fame built his gruff, get-it-done image by placing himself iconically in a crewcut, vest and tie. Some people generate familiarity with a regular compliment. Some do it by looks, by actions or by location. Any of those can work, if management is comfortable with the environment you've created and you've made it someplace that either overlaps with their environment or they find inviting.

Tactic 3: Virtual Group Photos - So much of our culture is now dispersed. Parts of teams are in Pittsburgh, Nashville, Syracuse, and Pune. Team members are often voices on the phone. Rather than allow that to continue, put faces to names. In fact, since it's relatively easy now, include images of team members when reporting on them and images of yourself when providing information about yourself. And make that photo like an on-line avatar, used consistently to convey who you are. (Note: The images need to be "light" in Internet weight. They don't need to be 3Mb TIFFs to convey the right messages) More folks on the project? More images. It provides a further sense of connectedness.

Message age Creation: This section goes to how to craft messages to management and the Shakespearean contention that "brevity is the soul of wit". The discussion centers on getting to the point and avoiding information that can be gathered, provided and generated in other ways. It ties into the notion that management doesn't need a verbal status update when they're getting the information through regular status reports. Having a critical, brief, succinct, clear message that management can know, grasp and ACT ON in 30-60 seconds is a major accomplishment.

Frank Luntz and "Simple Truths" - Simplifying your core message : Frank Luntz is a political media consultant who believes that messages can be boiled down to "simple truths." Simple truths are core messages that either win hearts or spur people to action. In either case, it's all about getting beyond the large visions and historical detail and cutting to the actionable truths for which you're meeting with management.

Tactic 4: What they're walking out saying : One of the basic premises of building a good elevator speech is to ask "When I walk out of the room (or they do), what do I want them to say or think?" If we can envision that, we can better ascertain what statement or truths would drive them in that direction. While you'll often have much more than 30 seconds, the stage should be set in the first thirty seconds for the audience to know their role in the communication and in what way you're winning their heart or spurring them to action.

Tactic 5: Sounding like you : This is actually one of the hardest things for many people. They want to memorize a stilted speech or prepare some crafted remark. If it doesn't sound like it comes from the heart....your heart...the message will be seen as the hollow, teleprompter-ready platitude that it may be. You want to sound like you sound. If you are high energy? Be high energy. If you are low energy? Take advantage of your gravitas. Do not attempt to be someone else.

Tactic 6: The hook: I'll have set my hook in the opening 30 seconds of the class, and will reiterate it here. Whether it's a promise, a quote, a story, a metaphor or a vision of the future, it's important that you be able to set the hook and get concurrence that it is a future they can envision. Some hooks work by sheer repetition. Some work because the receivers have a clear stake in the message. Some work because they connect with a need within the receiver. The key is to ensure that the hook is there, set and will be remembered.

Communications Costs and Capital : This section examines the importance of knowing the political cost of any meeting, gathering, session or one-on-one. Every time we open our mouths or send an e-mail, there's a cost. The key is to add value and increase capital at each encounter, rather than burning through political capital.

The Price of Understatement - The Cost of Planning (and the Savings!) : All too often, communicating up is seen as an opportunity to be humble about our accomplishments and to accept any accolades with quiet dignity and grace. It's also amazing how many folks will be so humble as to miss the opportunity to tout accomplishments and create a compelling vision for the future. Humble is, unfortunately, often one step away from dull. The other point here is that you have a limited time communicating up. As such, that means we need to spend time quickly, wisely and honestly in laying out what's been done and where it's taking us.

Tactic 7: Staging messages (and cutting the chaff) - Short and to the point. For many communications with upper management, the best approach is to prepare your last 2 minutes first and then use that to open.

Five Recipes for "Death by PowerPoint" - A few words of warning about how to kill an audience with slides.

Tactic 8: Staging forms and formats : If you're going to use supporting information, clean crisp lines and easy-to-follow documentation will invariably win the day. In this component, we talk about leveraging both pre-existing BNYMellon forms to best advantage

Tactic 9: Staging technology : Webex? Sametime? E-mail? PowerPoint? Microphones? Lecterns? Flip Charts? No matter the technology, it can fail. No matter the technology, we need a fallback. Identifying some of those fallbacks (including a few cheap instructor tricks) is a crucial survival strategy in communicating up.

Wearing Your Own Suit - As we discussed earlier in the course, just as your language is important, you need to seem comfortable in your environment.

Going for the Close - This is a basic premise of sales. If you don't ask for what you want in clear, certain terms, you will not get what you want. Period.

What you want them to do - Each communication should end with a call to action, or the action will be dumped back on you, fourfold.

What you will do - If you close a communication asking for executive action without letting management know what you'll be doing with their approval/action/inaction, you have the potential to come off as a freeloader. Part of our role is to clarify just what you're going to do if the climate has been well-established.

Tactic 10: Timing and Promises - The last tactic is to close with an affirmation that time promises were kept, other promises made, and they, too, will be kept.

Download this event to your calendar.

Return to previous page


Premiere Sponsors