Public speaking excellence is a necessary skill if you are a leader. It has always been so. Yet today what you say may be heard by millions worldwide. Your ability to be fully, extraordinarily present in your speeches and presentations is therefore essential.
Of course the higher your profile and influence, the more numerous and compelling are the sources of beckoning distraction. (For more on the skills of being a dynamic performer as a speaker, check out our ( “Elements of an effective speech.”)
Below are 10 suggestions we use at Traindrill, all of them with roots in the theater, for helping leaders stay fully focused and present for their audiences. They range from nonverbal communication to storytelling to breathing for speech. Each tip is simple. Together they are a recipe for presentation excellence on a level commensurate with speaking for true leadership.
Ten Public Speaking Techniques for Leadership
- Ground yourself. Feel your feet gripping the floor. Imagine your feet have roots that go deep into the earth. The earth gives you energy and stability. You are steadfast and powerful!
- Stand or sit with good posture. Visually, it’s important. Overall, it makes a difference in how strongly you and your ideas are accepted. You will feel like you have more authority if you look like you should.
- Breathe diaphragmatically. That means slowly, deeply, and calmly. “Belly breathe” by taking fuller breaths, and learn how to control your exhalation so you support the sound to the ends of phrases (where the most important words usually reside). Be aware of each delicious nourishing breath.
- Dive into your audience. Your audience is a pool. Submerge yourself in their energy and humanity. Relish the sheer reality of their presence and yours, together. You will excite yourself and them.
- Take your time. High-profile speaking can make you speak too rapidly because of adrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormone. Take your time to cherish this opportunity, which is only here now and in a moment will be gone forever.
- Pay attention with all of your senses. Take in sensually everything that’s going on around you. Hear with your eyes, feel the audience’s reactions as if it were tactile, taste the ideas in your mouth, etc. Respond with all your being!
- Aim your energy outward. Your audience matters, not you! Lose yourself in your message and how it is being received. Since you are a leader who isn’t used to hearing this, I will repeat it: you don’t matter. Send the best of you to the people who do matter.
- Make eye contact as you tell the story. The story is what the audience is here for. Whatever you’re talking about, it’s a story, a narrative. In that sense you’re always involved in storytelling. Tell people about it.
- Trust silence. Silence is one of the most powerful tools in your public speaking toolbox. It helps you pace your presentation. It gives audiences time to fully grasp what you’re saying. It also tells audiences, “I’m confident.”
- Move! If you move while you speak, it will help you think and keep you in the moment. Strong, clean gestures amplify and bring your content to life. The body is an essential tool of human communication, and ignoring it can turn you into a block of wood. If you’re seated, simply use your arms, hands, upper body, and face. But give physical expression to the important things you say. If you don’t, we’ll miss the person behind the ideas.
There is one thing that will keep you from employing these techniques: listening to your own self-talk that frays your concentration when you need it most. But if you practice the skills named above, do you think you’ll have time to listen?
A last point: Don’t practice all of these techniques at once. Try one or two at a time, especially in low-risk speaking situations. Gradually, you’ll build up dynamism and focus that any speaker would envy. When you do, let us all know where we can hear you speak.
By Amanambu Amobi