Gary Genard's

Speak for Success!

"Be a voice not an echo." - Albert Einstein

How to Come Across as a Leader when You Speak in Public

how to come across as a leader when you speak in public

Do you think knowledge alone makes you come across as a leader? When you speak in public, there's more to it! Here's what you need to do.

When it comes to public speaking, you can be the smartest person around in your area of expertise. (Okay, let's just admit it: you are.) Along with the correct fare, that will get you on the subway.

The card-reading machine, that is, won't be overly impressed by your credentials. Public speaking audiences, too, require more from you than sheer knowledge. Like any audiences, they require an honest-to-goodness skilled performance.

Imagine the nerve of those people!

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As I like to say, leadership is a performance art. And nowhere is that truer, of course, than in public speaking. Below are two ways you can let public speaking audiences know from Word One that you're the real deal in terms of leadership while on stage. 

In leadership, you have to stake your ground and defend it zealously.

Stake Out Your Ground and Defend It Zealously

I recently coached a client for whom the ability to establish leadership while speaking was of career-defining importance. He was a high-level officer in his organization, about to face the leadership team regarding a promotion. Like the other candidates at his level, he had decades of experience. There was no question that he knew every technical and operational detail necessary to assume a position at the next level.

In a situation like that, you need to stay focused above all else! Find out how in my Free cheat sheet, "Leadership Skills: 10 Focusing Techniques for Public Speaking."

The problem was that, the way he planned to present himself emphasized only that technical know-how. There was a dimension missing—not lacking, you understand; just not showing up. I recognized it the first time he ran through his talking points (which mostly involved responding to a crisis situation). Interestingly, he was well aware of this deficit—he just didn't know how to overcome it in terms of his spoken performance.

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I told him he needed to "stake out his ground" immediately, before he got into any operational details. He needed to demonstrate command thinking and then explain how that would set any response in motion. The committee wasn't going to be impressed by his knowledge of the steps that all of the candidates would take. He had to show he had the right stuff; and from there, all the appropriate actions would emerge. Interestingly, he came up with some beautiful language on his own to emphasize the level of crisis decision-making that was needed in this case. 

how to own the room when you speak in public

Own the Speech and Your Performance of It

It's one thing to plant your flag, of course. After that, you have to defend it.

Public speaking is a unique form of performance as it relates to your job—what I call "the oral arena." The knowledge and skills that have helped you climb the professional ladder won't necessary help you in this situation. Speeches are about the here-and-now. When the curtain goes up, there's no place to hide. But, oh, what a beautiful moment it is!

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Think about it: now is your chance to influence a maximum number of people concerning the topic you're passionate about. It's your chance to change people's lives for the better, even if it's just giving them information that they need. Therefore, we need to perform at our best!

Just getting into that mindset, that a presentation isn't a recital of information but a moment of connecting with others, will nudge you toward being a more effective speaker. Now take your speech the rest of the way and own your performance. When you get right down to it, isn't the speech you performing the material? We need you not only to convey, but to contextualize the data . . . and most important, to tell us why it matters to us.

Your job is to humanize your talk. Or, as the Rev. Jana Childers says, to turn the ink back into blood. For a fascinating look at a great speaker who excelled at this, listen to Winston Churchill with the text of his speech in front of you. You'll hear how he broke up the manuscript into ideas and images that the listener could capture. You needn't follow his lead of actually writing in the places where he said the wrong, er, stumbled and caught himself. No kidding; he actually wrote realistic hesitations and verbal "mistakes" into his manuscript. Now there's someone who knew the value of live performance!

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Dr. Gary Genard's free resource for speaking for leadership: High-Impact Speaking - The Leader's Guide.

Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching  and corporate group training worldwide. In 2021 for the eighth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication ProfessionalsHe is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speakingwas named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His latest book is The Online Meetings Handbook, now available at The Genard Method and at Amazon. To know more about TGM's services, Contact Gary here  


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