The Articulate Executive in Action

by Granville N. Toogood

This book is about the importance of communication skills in business, with a particular emphasis on meetings and presentations.  “If you’re not competent with language, you’re not likely to connect, no matter how smart you are.” The main theme is what Toogood calls communication value added (CVA), of which there are seven principles: “Never bore. Give value. Rule your PowerPoint—don’t let it rule you. Talk from experience. Know whom you’re talking to. Tell stories. And be ready.”

“No senior person wants to wait to hear your point… Your best bet is always to begin with your ending. Start with the bottom line. In that way, if you are interrupted or run out of time, you’re still covered… The great presentation always sounds more like a conversation.”

Presenters should keep in mind the 8-second rule and the 18-minute wall. “Audiences will decide within 8 seconds whether you are worth listening to in the first place. This is why opening amenities are opening inanities…  Years of experience tell us that most people tune out after 18 minutes.”

Toogood recommends five elements for presentations: strong start, one theme, good examples to support the theme, ordinary language, and strong ending. Or if you prefer mnemonics, POWER stands for punch, one theme, window, ear, and retention.  Additionally, he offers these three tips:

  1. Always begin and end the presentation without slides.
  2. Get rid of most word slides (but keep the digital document or hard copy). If you choose to use slides, make sure that they are all charts, tables, graphs, schematics, sketches, or photos and that the connect to the theme.
  3. Introduce the next slide while the previous slide is still up.

The author abhors “people going out of their way to sound corporate.” He says leaders speak simply, choosing specific language over vague terms. He also notes the importance of “business likeability.”  People do business with people they like, respect, and admire. “Talking only to the intellect can be a waste of time.”

Toogood says that good executives are good listeners and he encourages asking questions.  “Questions build teamwork by unlocking talent and ideas. Questions make us all think harder and deeper. Questions help us learn… The best way to unleash creative thinking is to ask questions.”

Since this book was published the author has written an updated book called The New Articulate Executive: Look, Act and Sound Like a Leader.

Toogood, Granville N. The Articulate Executive in Action: How the Best Leaders Get Things Done. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005. Buy from