Executive Communication and Sports Journalism
We’ve all been in meetings where someone is talking with no clear direction, an inappropriate level of detail, and a lack of flavor. We as listeners must spend a lot of energy trying to understand and track the multiple points and different directions the speaker is sharing. But with excellent leaders, you don’t have to work so hard to listen.
One strategy I share with leaders in my work as an executive advisor is to take a journalistic approach. Specifically, sports journalism. Before you worry that the sports approach may not be intellectual enough for you here (I thought about that too,) I would argue that sports journalists may be doing some of the best journalism today. They do a great job highlighting the key elements of competition without losing the point with too much or too little detail.
They tend to follow these guidelines that are applicable for all executives.
- Provide a clear main idea. There is no mystery in a sports headline. It gets right to the point and the content that follows supports that point entirely. Locals win… Thrilling Overtime… Blowout Loss for Packers. Make your main idea stand out.
- Incorporate the right level of detail. Sports journalists don’t get pulled into the weeds of describing every single play. Instead, they capture the essence of the game by focusing on the most impactful ones. You don’t need to describe every detail to get your point across. Organize your thoughts and hit on the necessary highlights.
- Make it interesting. Captivating, inspiring, and exciting are all terms that could describe a sports journalists’ description of at least a portion of any event. I’ve written about this before, but there are two cardinal sins when communicating: being inaccurate and being boring. You will be forgiven for inaccuracy if you don’t intentionally mislead, but you won’t be forgiven for being boring. Connect with your audience using descriptive language. Identify the nugget that is worth digging into because it represents something others may not catch.
The next time you speak up in a meeting or address your team, think about how you can up your communications game by adopting some principles from sports journalism.