Ready to tap into your natural talents to activate stakeholders? Now that you're the CEO, how do you speak like one? Keep reading!
Leadership is performance. Leaders speak, and speakers lead.
The middle statement above is the one that CEOs often have trouble with. They understand that whenever they speak—whether it's in a presentation, a media interview, or just an everyday conversation in the office—they have the starring role. And many times they're not as comfortable at it as they are with something more in their line, like running a company.
That's when they connect with a speech coach, preferably one whose expertise is in performance.
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What Does It Mean to Speak as a Leader?
That's because nowhere is the statement that ‘leadership is performance,’ more true than when it comes to public speaking. So if you’re a leader in your organization—or you aspire to become one—this is an area you should pay attention to.
Speaking of that starring role: the most successful leaders have an intuitive sense of theater-based techniques that help executives succeed in business. They perform many roles, even as they convince others to play their parts. But if you're a CEO, your performance abilities don’t only matter when you’re giving a speech! Whenever you interact with others, you’re in the spotlight. People make judgments about you based on the way you speak, sound, move, and interact with the world.
So, are you ready to speak for leadership?
Speaking as a leader will transform the most important component of your organizational success: effective communication. In a survey conducted by the presentation software company Prezi, 70 percent of working Americans agreed that presentation skills are critical to their career success. And a Harvard Business Review survey showed that communication and presentation skills are among the C-suite level competencies that companies prize most. Another HBR article said it all in the title: “Leadership Is a Conversation.” No wonder "speaking as a leader" assumes such importance!
The Good News for Leaders Who Speak
The good news is that when it comes to knowing how to embody leadership qualities when you speak, your most powerful strategy is a simple one: tapping into your natural talents. Public speaking, that is, reflects who you are. Should any role be easier for you?
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An idea that can send you down the wrong path, on the other hand, is thinking that giving a speech is something special. I mean seeing it as an out-of-the-ordinary event, a moment of high drama in which you need to surpass yourself. But the truth is, you’re always performing in ways that go beyond your content—not only in your professional, but in your personal life as well. It's where the phrase, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" comes from. It's a human trait to adapt to fit into the circumstances.
The sooner you realize that even a high-profile speaking event is just one more performance, the more readily you’ll let yourself be yourself. That’s important because audiences just want the real you. Any attempt to look and sound “excellent” will advertise itself as just that. Listeners truly want to know and to connect with you. More good news: knowing how to make that happen is part of my Free Guide, "The 6 Rules of Effective Public Speaking."
Still, if you’re speaking for leadership you’ll probably have to recalibrate, to raise the bar on your performance to reach your personal “next level.” So here's another way to grab a winning ticket in the Public Speaking Memorability Sweepstakes.
What’s Your Leadership ‘Size’?
You can elevate your performances in speaking for leadership by learning an actor's secrets for great business presentations—by ‘taking a page from the stage.’ Stage actors (as opposed to movie and TV actors) need the ability to project their persona across a considerable amount of physical space. Consider: the distance from the front of the stage to the last row of the orchestra in a Broadway house may be 150 feet or more. Okay, you’re not acting a role, and you’ll often have a microphone if you’re speaking on a large stage. But acting and executive-level performance share this important need: to communicate with your audience, you must cultivate the ability to reach all the members of a large group.
So what’s your leadership ‘size’? Looking and moving confidently in front of audiences is a clear mandate of executive speaking. Whatever the content of your message, your physical presence needs to match your material in terms of impact. (To learn how this is done, get my Free White Paper, "The Body Language Rules: 12 Ways Be a More Powerful Speaker.") Start making your movement, gestures, and overall energy exactly large enough to reach the person farthest from you. You’ll create just the right ‘size’ for your speech in terms of the audience and venue.
Whether it’s gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, or your use of the stage, you must become comfortable in the art of presenting not just information, but yourself. You need to become slightly larger than life! By doing so, you’ll embrace all of the listeners in the speaking venue. Clearly, there's more involved than just great platform skills. But the ideas above will help you get a start on this critical aspect of leading for success.
 Carmine Gallo, “New Survey: 70% Say Presentation Skills Are Critical for Career Success,” Forbes, September 25, 2014.
 Boris Groysberg, “The Seven Skills You Need to Thrive in the C-Suite,” Harvard Business Review, March 18, 2014.
 Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind, “Leadership Is a Conversation,” Harvard Business Review, June 2012.
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