3 ways to effectively communicate to different types of decision makers

Nancy Duarte

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Nancy Duarte

When preparing to communicate data to a specific type of decision-maker, you need to think through who will be involved in its approval and tailor your approach to appeal to each of them.

Consider carefully what different audiences need to hear, and how they want to hear it. Whenever your audience changes, so should the language and approach you use.

The higher their level of authority, the more structured and brief your approach should be. Groups on your level will expect a more familiar tone.

Decision-makers are your toughest customers, and the ones people are generally the most intent to learn how to appeal to. Once you know the best approaches for persuading them, you can easily draw upon these elements for recommendations you make to anyone.

Your decision-maker might be a colleague, shareholder, customer or executive. The concepts outlined here support how to communicate with each of them effectively and, in a way, they will be the most responsive to.

Persuade peers

Tip: Speak shorthand

Use familiar language. To get your own team or peers on board, you need to speak your geek.

You probably already have common goals and a common language. The people closest to you organizationally may already understand why you’re making the recommendation, and some of them may have helped you craft it and already be on board.

It’s okay to use the visual and verbal shorthand your team uses on a day-to-day basis. Acronyms, departmental verbiage, and complex charts are all okay, just as long as they are familiar to all involved.

Persuade managers

Tip: Prove your point

Be exhaustive in your research. Managers must be confident that recommendations are well-informed and defensible.

If they’re going to take action on them, their reputations should not be on the line. They’re not going to risk taking a hit for a poorly constructed idea. You need to show that you’ve done your homework, and present your thinking clearly.

Keep your recommendation crisp, but for your boss, attach a comprehensive appendix that includes your research and any other supporting evidence. If you do a good job, your boss may even sponsor your idea by having you present it to the executive team.

Persuade executives

Tip: Get to the point

Write brief, logical, rigorous recommendations. We’re all busy, but still, it’s hard to comprehend just how busy executives are. You must craft a recommendation for them with a tight structure that is brief and easily skimmable.


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If you are presenting to them and have been given 30 minutes, take 15 so they can ask questions. Be extremely clear, and prepare to be grilled.

Also, tailor the way you communicate to a style they prefer. They all have particular preferences. Your approach should match their communication style, not yours.

Different types of decision-makers have different needs in how they want to receive recommendations. To communicate effectively to them, it’s important to understand these preferences.

Some people read every last word of a thick report, others may want brief summaries with the important bits flagged. Being able to adapt quickly and recognize the requirements of the decision-makers you are in front of will show them just how valuable you can be.



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