Do your public speaking skills enable you to inspire, motivate and influence others?
Many leaders in the corporate world are nervous of public speaking. Some even outright avoid it. According to Forbes magazine, 20 per cent of business leaders say they would do anything to avoid giving a presentation. Despite this, 70 per cent agree that presentation skills are critical for career success.
History is full of examples of how delivering outstanding public presentations has elevated individuals to success or power, uniting people in times of change or struggle.
When American civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr delivered his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech on August 28, 1963, he famously called for an end to racism. Delivered to an audience of over 250,000, the speech was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Following his speech King was named Man of the Year by TIME Magazine for 1963. In 1964, he became the youngest person ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Like King, leaders in business have the opportunity to grow their influence, authority and career prospects by understanding the mechanics of public speaking.
Here are five reasons why learning, practising and continually developing your public speaking skills is essential to be an effective business leader:
Are you confident that people within your organisation recognise you, and see you with authority?
Writing in The Telegraph in 2010, Duncan Bannatyne passionately argued the importance of a company having a recognisable leader. He said, “In my view, it is vital for the top man or woman to be visible internally and externally. It is much more rewarding for staff to work for someone they know personally, rather than for a faceless organisation.”
As people become familiar with seeing you standing in front of them, your visibility and authority steadily increase. A person that is willing to put themselves forward to speak in front of 10, 50 or 500 people will quickly begin to appear as the spokesperson or leader within that community. And because of your increased visibility, your name will come up frequently when others are looking for people to take forward new opportunities and projects.
If you represent your organisation well when speaking publicly, you will also be seen as trustworthy and able to perform well under pressure. New, perhaps lucrative, opportunities will come your way as a result. Positioning yourself at the forefront of your organisation, in combination with powerful public speaking skills, will make you a leader that people want to follow.
What are the most desired qualities for leaders in business? Do your skills match what your workforce expects of you?
A 2016 survey of professionals in Scotland by Regus found that communication skills are seen as the most important for leaders. Commitment, honesty, confidence and the ability to motivate people all scored more highly than other traditional leadership qualities such as technical knowledge, innovative thinking and financial competence. Ruthlessness was seen as the least attractive.
People respond best to leaders they can connect with on a human level; people ‘get’ other people.
Learning how to be passionate and vulnerable at the right moments also enables others to relate to you more as a human being.
Among the most quoted lines of King’s defining speech is: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” King knew that sharing his own personal stories would result in him gaining empathy, resulting in warmth and trust.
Sharing a little bit about who you are can go a long way towards connecting you with your audience and encouraging others to follow your ideas.
Inspiring speakers, like Steve Jobs, know exactly what message they want to achieve through their communications.
He said, ”That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Laying a firm foundation for your presentation will help you achieve a clear message, like Jobs. And learning how to filter a topic for your audience will enable you to deliver a narrative that focuses your communication.
The power of King’s message came from his ‘dream’ narrative. He referenced the power of dreams during his speech while also invoking important documents in American history, including the Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution. This message proved so powerful that it is still widely empathised with, and talked about, around the world some 50 years later.
What would you like to change about the culture of your organisation? Do you want to improve productivity?
A 2015 survey of 1,400 North American CEOs found that 90% agreed culture was important at their firms. 92% said they believed improving their firm’s corporate culture would improve the value of the company. Yet only 15% said their firm’s corporate culture was where it needed to be.
The more people you can connect with, the more change you can implement. In the words of Margaret Thatcher, “Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you.”
People are more likely to be influenced by a person speaking in front of them than by an email.
So imagine the change you can drive with powerful public speaking skills when all those people gather together in a single audience.
Lastly, the public nature of presenting means that all eyes are on you, the speaker, in a way that doesn’t happen often.
Every product launch, internal restructure or political election starts with a public speech from a leader.
Bill Gates once said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
Public speaking is your opportunity to win hearts and minds.
A good public speech can successfully launch a revolutionary scientific breakthrough. It can inspire people to break down the barriers of what was previously thought possible. It can help find new ways to save money and make processes more efficient.
A good public speech is also great way to throw down the gauntlet to the assembled people to find new solutions to difficult problems.
Every business leader has the power to influence their colleagues, industry or sector – and further enhance their own career prospects – through having the public speaking skills to deliver powerful presentations.
Seth Godin, bestselling author, entrepreneur, marketer and public speaker says, “The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.”
Make people follow you. Bring them closer to your objectives. Become a more effective communicator. Do that, or risk being left behind.
First, download our free ebook to start your journey towards becoming a Powerful Presenter.
You’ll learn our 5-step process for transforming dull, forgettable and un-engaging presentations into your most Powerful Presentations yet: inspirational, memorable and persuasive.
It’s full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:
Download your free copy of our Five Steps to Improve your Leadership Talks ebook now.
Every day, we help leaders and aspiring leaders to become better communicators by improving their public speaking skills.
We have transformed anxious, un-engaging and uninspiring leaders into effective speakers within just a few days of training. With ongoing training, we help our clients develop into world-class orators.
We cover the end-to-end process of talks, presentations and speeches including: preparing, structuring, and crafting a narrative; using language, stories and visual aids effectively; connecting with an audience and delivering with impact.
Each of our trainers has over 10 years’ experience working with CEOs and senior executives at blue-chip clients in the UK and internationally.
Our clients include Microsoft, HSBC, The Prince’s Trust and many small organisations, too. They recommend us highly – 80% of our new business comes from referrals.
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