Leaders have many opportunities to speak with groups large and small and, with that, to build their leadership brand and credibility. Too often leaders improperly prepare or fail to prepare at all, losing the opportunity. Here are three areas of focus that enable public speaking to serve you well.
Assure clarity of the message: This is simple but frequently overlooked. Before you prepare or speak, answer this powerful question: "What is the single most important thing for my audience to believe, know and/or be prepared to act on because of my talk?" Open with a well-planned, concise statement of purpose and be sure your content supports and fleshes out that purpose. Close with a memorable call for the action you want your audience to take.
Address audience expectations: Pay careful attention to the fears, hopes and dreams of the audience. Whatever the subject, you likely have gathered more data and have a deeper understanding of the subject than your audience has. Never assume they know what you know or understand it from your vantage point. Always assume some of what they know is based on rumor, conjecture, or outdated or incomplete information.
Engage and entertain: Even if it's a small group, stand when you speak. It allows you to project your voice, positions you to be seen, not just heard, and enables you to use your body to reinforce your message. Don't plan gestures. Let them be a natural extension of your words. Tell a story, call on people by name, ask open questions and create a dialogue.
If you use visuals, be sure slides are clear, readable and free of errors or extraneous information. Present data pictorially — rows and columns of numbers demonstrate depth of data, but pie charts and bar graphs tell a story.
Prepare a few bullet points to keep you on track rather than scripting your talk. You will hold your audience better if you're speaking, not reading.
Bacilek is an executive and leadership development coach in Rochester. Contact her at (585) 227-0308 or firstname.lastname@example.org.