The effect of a successful leadership speaker is pretty much instant. The audience can tell the state of mind of a speaker as soon as they get on stage, before they have even opened their mouth to speak. A good leadership speaker will have prepared not only what they are about to say, but how they say it, how to use the stage as they say it and how they want the audience to feel about what they are saying.
Preparation is key when you are delivering your message to a room full of people. Fear of public speaking is something many of us share. The best public speakers are not immune to this, it’s just that they spend time preparing their emotional state as well as what they want to say. Influential speakers are influential not because of their content, but because of their ability to in order to influence the emotional state of their audience.
An easy place to look for inspiration is the raft of TED talks online. You will notice that despite what they talk about, they are all extremely engaging – for example, Malcolm Gladwell speaks for 20 minutes on tomato sauce and still manages to have the audience in his palm.
The top skills of leadership speakers
A good hook – To win an audience over, you need a really good concept or idea that may not have occurred to them before. This alone will keep you eager, alert and excited to share the theory with those assembled. The TED talks are a great example of how this works in practice. Those that appear on stage are not, as a whole, professional speakers. They are just very passionate about the subject that they’ve prepared to talk about to a room full of strangers.
The mirror neuron – the role of the mirror neurone comes in to play hugely in public speaking. Unless you as the speaker can manage your emotional state during a talk, you run the risk of losing your audience as they shift uncomfortably and lose sight of the message you are attempting to convey. If you struggle to manage your anxiety, the audience will feel awkward and embarrassed and you in turn pick up on that negative emotion, creating a downwards spiral.
No ego – back to TED briefly, you will notice that these speakers are not on the stage promoting themselves. They are there because they have a really good idea or concept that they want to share because they believe it will be of benefit to others. While your presentation may be about a product or service you have created, the audience wants to know how that will improve their lives not how great you are to come up with it!
Delivery – Deliver your message with ease. Memorise the first minute or two of the start of your talk so you are confident that you won’t fluff your introduction. Then relax and allow your message to flow. It is important to be measured with your time – breathe evenly, pause at the right times, allow people the time to take it in. It is a good idea to record yourself beforehand and listen back to check the pace of your delivery so that you can alter it accordingly.
Eye contact – an oldie, but a goodie. Eye contact is vital in good leadership speaking. Apart from showing that you are confident and helping to engage your audience, it has also been shown that it helps you to relax and better read your audience..
Influence – Pepper your speech with a mixture of statistics and information and as well as story telling. Give facts for the left brainers, and then use stories and sensory-specific language in order to engage the right-brainers as well. Stories are very powerful as people imagine themselves in the story and get their own insights as to how it applies to them.