With this post, we begin a new feature of the blog: every month or so we’ll profile top executives who use the spoken word effectively as part of their corporate communication strategy.
Kevin Reynolds serves as president of Cardinal Bank and as a member of the executive management committee of Cardinal Financial Corporation, one of the largest financial institutions in Virginia. He says he had the good fortune to learn about the importance of public speaking long before he became a business executive. “My dad had thousands of people working for him, and he knew that leadership communication was extremely important to his job,” Reynolds says. “I learned a lot from watching him in action.”
In particular, “My dad believed strongly that you should always prepare carefully, focusing on the outcome you want from a speech right from the start.” His father also worked hard to convey to each audience the importance of what he was saying, and to leave his listeners with a clear call to action.
These lessons were reinforced when Reynolds went to college. “Some of the best classes I took at William and Mary were speech and debate,” he recalls. “And when I worked as a waiter at Colonial Williamsburg, I had to learn a new ‘script’ every day and deliver it persuasively.”
As Cardinal’s President, Reynolds speaks often to both internal and external audiences. “My goal when I speak to our team members is to motivate them, and especially to leave them with the feeling they are on the front line of our company, and the most important connection to our customers.”
In preparing a speech, “I am an outline person,” Reynolds says. Several weeks before he is to give a presentation, he starts to develop his key messages. Then he puts together a detailed outline highlighting the messages. “Where I can, I also like to lace my speeches with some humor,” he adds,” and if possible I try to relate a personal story to the topic.”
Once the outline is complete, he memorizes it, so that when he’s at a podium he doesn’t have to depend on a script or even notes.
While presentations are now a vital part of his job, he admits that in his early days as an executive, he was “pretty nervous” when he had to speak in front of a group. But, with experience, he has relaxed. And now, “I find public speaking uplifting and exhilarating, which I hope energizes the audience, too.”