Leading an organization is one thing. Delivering an inspiring speech is another. Here's how to make audiences have faith in you as a leader.
There are leaders in every profession who excel until they get up on a stage to speak. And conversely, there are people, quietly good at their jobs, who open everyone's eyes when they deliver an important speech.
That's because the everyday world of being good at one's job is a very different place from the oral arena of public speaking. If stakeholders have faith in you in that environment, it's because you're tapping into a different set of rules. Those are, of course, the rules of spoken performance in front of an audience.
To be good there, you really need to know how to rock a stage.
Once you're ready, be sure you know what to say, and what to avoid saying! Find out more in my free cheat sheet, "25 Words or Phrases to Avoid in Speeches and Presentations."
The Case of the Knowledgeable Young Executive
Recently, I coached a young business executive who was clearly brilliant and at the top of the knowledge game. He said the right things, had crafted his speech beautifully . . . and looked completely uncomfortable and out of place rehearsing for the stage.
He was placid enough. Actually, that was the problem. Like professionals everywhere, he was focused on getting his information across. After all, isn't that what a presentation involves: standing in one place and talking while referring to handouts or PowerPoint slides?
If you view your role as a conveyor of information, that will fill the bill. But if you want to be seen as a leader, playing safe will leave you unscarred and unmemorable in equal measure.
If you want instead to give a dynamic public speaking performance, taking charge is the name of the game.
Show the Audience that You're In Control
There's a saying in the theater that experienced actors use props, while inexperienced actors let props use them. You can always tell a pro, that is, by how he or she employs a cigarette, a drink, an element of a costume, or the room itself to reveal something about his or her character. Callow actors usually pay too much attention to the prop, giving it too much focus.
They're not in control. Similarly, you can give a perfectly good speech or presentation that doesn't particularly engage anyone, and doesn't make anyone think of you as a leader. Interestingly, that can apply even if you are legitimately a leader in your profession. (See above concerning functioning on the job versus on the public speaking stage.)
Leaders, on the other hand, control their environment—and it's no different in public speaking than anywhere else. Think of it this way: a speech can just be an invitation to speak; or it can be an opportunity to perform. Opportunity? No—it's really a mandate to do so. Why else are you on a stage (conference room, hotel ballroom, convention stage or whatever form it may take) giving your performance for an audience?
Remember: the information you're delivering could just as easily be conveyed in an email, report, or journal article. As audience members, we're here to buy you. So you need to be selling yourself!
Learn the Art of Spoken Performance
All of this is to say, you need to learn to love the public speaking stage. That's when you begin to have fun, and take us with you. You have to be daring enough to take this performance exactly where you want it to go. And that means understanding why great speaking is about performance over content.
That means gesturing strongly and naturally, and moving around on stage. It also means timing, or taking your speech at exactly the pace that's comfortable for you and helpful for us. It includes pausing at the right moments, because silence helps us absorb important information and adds drama and power to your talk.
But more than anything else, it means having a relationship with us, your listeners. That was what I tried most to get across to my young executive client. Can you imagine a leader who has no relationship at all with those she's trying to lead? Of course it's absurd, yet speakers proceed along this path all the time.
Talk to us. Consider how everything you say relates to our lives and our needs—or why are you telling it to us? Find the stories that get it all across to us in human terms. Let us see in your gaze and hear in your voice that you're really here to share all of this with us. What a sense of control you'll convey to us. What a performance you'll give!
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Want to transform your speaking abilities? Ready to command your presentation, pitch, keynote, or media appearance? The Genard Method trains leaders, spokespersons, and brand ambassadors worldwide in speaking for leadership.