Lessons when communicating to senior managers: Don’t assume

One of the most important steps in preparing for any type of communication is understanding the motivations and burning issues for your audience. We call this “Treasure your Audience” and it’s step 2 in the 8 step journey of  The One Minute Presenter.

Two words that should be burned into your memory when it comes to communication is “don’t assume”.

Don’t assume that the audience has the same motivations this week as last week. Regular meetings can get into a rut – most people don’t bother to prepare in advance for them –  and if you don’t check what is top-of-mind for your senior manager this week, you may be missing opportunities to align your message with his interests. Or you may annoy or irritate him by focusing on the wrong topics. Ask checking questions before your presentation.


“I am planning to cover A, B and C. Which area would you like me to cover in most depth?”

“Has anything changed from the last time we spoke? Would you like me to focus on any particular area first?”

Don’t assume that you know the motivation behind a question. Have the confidence to check-back and narrow the focus of a question.This will prevent you from answering the wrong question (from your manager’s perspective) and help you to only answer the question with the appropriate level of detail.  Don’t attempt to download everything you know on the topic of the question. Give shorter answers and allow your manager to make a follow up question.


“Thank you for your question. Could I just clarify whether you would like me to go into A or B in more depth?”

“That could be covered from different perspectives. Which perspective would you like me to address first? X or Y”

Don’t assume that every audience can be handled in the same way. In many regards, every time you speak is an unique occasion. Even if you are speaking to the same audience at regular periodic meetings, they are in a different state of mind. They have different things on their mind, different current pressures and different immediate motivations.


“We covered this issue in great detail last time, what extra insight would we like to cover this time?”

“What is your most burnign question at this moment in time.”

Always keep these two words close at hand when you are presenting and communicating. Assumptions are the root of most misunderstandings. The most confident communicators can push-back and check what exactly their manager or audience would like to get from the presentation.

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