PodiumWise | Tips for advanced presentation skills

I once observed the CEO of a newly merged company speak to over a thousand employees at a research facility that had a questionable future in the new corporation.  Would it be closed?  Downsized?

Just a modicum of common sense and empathy would tell you these employees were packed into the auditorium in the hope of learning what their future held.  They had one, big question on their mind: “What’s going to happen to us?”

I listened in disbelief as the CEO totally avoided the issue and spoke at length about the great strategic marriage the merger represented.  He was delivering a talk that had been prepared for Wall Street analysts.

The tension in the room was so thick I thought the furniture was going to levitate.  But on and on he went about product-line synergies and distribution efficiencies. 

He knew what was going on.  I think.  I hope.  Undoubtedly it had been decided that this was neither the place nor time to be revealing plans for the site, so he was avoiding the topic.

But this was a case in which the issue was way too big to avoid.  It was the proverbial 800 pound gorilla in the room.  By avoiding it he was damaging his credibility, his leadership, and the morale of the people.

In the end, the employees refused to let him get away with it.  The topic took center stage in a tense Q&A period.

Even if he couldn’t make any announcements, he needed to acknowledge their concerns early in his talk and give any assurances he could credibly give.  Because he didn’t, his message fell on deaf ears, and I’m sure the only thing anybody remembered was the Q&A drama.

It didn’t surprise me that his tenure was short.

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