Craft great visuals for executive communication

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© Tweeter Linder 2018 – All rights reserved. Photo by iStock.

Executives today face a variety of external communication situations. Where marketing and communications teams play a key role in preparing material. This blog post focuses on how you can craft visual support your executives will love. In a way where you can repeat success once you have a model is in place.

Executive communication situations

Executives play a crucial role in positioning your company. Facing a variety of communication situations such as:

  • Executive customer interactions – one-hour conversations opening doors for new opportunities.
  • Conference speeches – 10-30 minutes as a keynote, a slot on a panel or question and answer sessions.
  • Financial analysts and business press – 20-30 minutes of fire chats. Focused on 3-5 hot industry/company questions at a time.
  • Industry analysts and trade press interviews – 30-60 minutes going deeper. Sharing insights about market, customer and offering developments.

A solid storyline with 15-20 visuals for use across all 4 scenarios is a suitable starting point. Where visuals remain stable and the spoken word change based on the situation.

Smiling woman with brain sketch

Executives style of visuals

Visuals for executive communication can serve two different purposes. Either as an attractive backdrop. Leveraging visual identity frameworks for pictures, fonts, and icons. Or visuals covering the flagship message and supporting key messages.

This is a good recipe for executive visuals:

  • A succinct message already in the headline
  • Limited text, 2-4 words framing points rather than articulating complete sentences
  • Pictures, graphs, and icons reinforcing the message
  • Leaving out excitement trigging facts and one-liners for verbal communicated by the speaker.

All with a balanced tone of voice between marketing/selling and confidence building. With the latter growing in importance.


Headlines in executive presentations play a big role in conveying a message. On most executive slides the headline is the only full sentence. Spend energy on crafting headlines well.

Examples of great headlines to consider are:

  • Responses to vital questions. Avoid the question itself as a headline.
  • Articulation of new insights. Adding a new angle or fact to a known area.
  • Bring excitement to a known subject. Where the choice of words to trigger feelings is central

Avoid generic headlines describing what you talk about but without a succinct message. As using “Market trends” and “Customer challenges”, “Business case” etc. as headlines. Such headlines are a wasted opportunity to get your message across.

Visual templates supporting the message delivery

Executive communication focuses on a few themes presented often. Such as:

  1. Customer situation and needs
  2. Opportunities for customers to take actions
  3. Customer business cases for cost reductions and investments in new areas
  4. Your portfolio and value proposition
  5. Reporting of own performance

A portfolio of templates for your most common visuals pays off well. Templates designed around a few key ingredients:

  • Brief bullets with text and numbers in a larger font
  • Pictures supporting your stories
  • Graphs outlining major developments
  • Icons as a complement to pictures

Brief bullets

Executives communication build around brief bullets. Bullets put on slides and memorized by executives. Not telling the whole story but keeping the audience focused on the topic and what the speaker says.

A great bullet for executive communication is:

  • 2-4 words long
  • Include a number
  • Work as a cliffhanger

Avoid bullets your audience can read instead of listening to you. And use two variants of your visual, if you want longer sentences. Suitable for visuals shared sharing beyond physical attendees.

Facts and one-liners as notes

Visuals cannot and should not tell the whole story. We want executives to stand out for their insights. Where facts and one-liners are key ingredients.

To make the job with creating an executive visual complete you need to

  • Find 2-4 facts to back up your key messages
  • Articulate 1-2 one-liners making your key messages stick. Think what anyone listening to the session would tweet to the outside world.

This foundation supports your executives, without limiting the room to lay out the text. All this preparation work serves the purpose support your executive speaker. To secure consistent success in a world with zero acceptance for errors and poor deliveries

Good questions for you and your team

  1. Which style of visuals do our executives like – reverse engineer these into templates.
  2. Which visual building blocks do we have access to – look for pictures and icons matching topics.
  3. Which topics should we always have ready – find and define your table-stakes!
  4. Which expressions and numbers are central in our storytelling – aim to be consistent.
  5. What are the logical flows to build the baseline around – for different purposes.
  6. Who should be in the go-to team for last minute additions – plan for it as it always happens.

Additional reading suggestions

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