How to speak like a leader
By Michael Landrum, ATMB
| Public Speaking |
Impromptu Speech |
Ice Breaking ( first) Speech|
generously. Emerson said: “First seek to understand, then to be
understood.” How do you listen to an audience? Do your research. Find out
who they are, what they need and want, and what they expect from you. When
you step to the lectern, pause and listen. Are they ready to hear you?
During your speech, keep listening. Pay attention to them. Are they leaning
forward, backward or on each other? Be willing to depart from your prepared
remarks to recover your rapport with them. Ask questions. Even something as
simple as “Is that clear?” can reestablish contact.
* Say what you mean and mean what you say. Aren’t these two phrases
the same? No indeed: “Say what you mean” is about telling the truth, “Mean
what you say” is about making a commitment, keeping your promise, honoring
your word. Have something meaningful to say. Step to the lectern with the
intention of making a difference to your audience.
* Use the fewest words with the fewest syllables. I run afoul of this
one all the time. It’s the main reason I rewrite so often, looking for big,
two-dollar words I can swap for a single 10-cent syllable. Delete therefore,
insert so. That’s real economy in writing. Remember that the basic unit of
communication is not the word but the idea.
* Align with your audience. We may consider it our task to speak to
the audience, but it is sometimes more important to speak for them. Express
those thoughts and feelings that you share with them. Even if you think they
are wrong and you are the advocate of sweeping change, you must first
understand and articulate their feelings. Great leaders know that leadership
begins with the pronoun we.
* Be specific. Use stories, anecdotes, parables and examples rather
than generalities and abstractions. This is a tough one for some people.
They love to wander through a topic in the abstract, scattering generalities
as they go. The great teachers and speakers pepper their talks with vivid,
detailed examples. “He seemed upset as he left” is general. “He blew his
nose, kicked the dog and slammed the door” is specific.
* Suit the action to the word, the word to the action. Don’t say “I’m
glad to be here” while looking at your wristwatch. Be aware of your
non-verbal communication. Your gestures, posture, facial expressions,
energy, tone of voice, and a thousand other tiny, unuttered elements
actually carry the true and specific meaning of your communication. We can
understand the words “I love you” well enough. But their true importance,
their actual meaning, is all wrapped up in how they are spoken, and by whom.
* Structure your speech. One valuable way to make your talk memorable
is to speak to a structure and make your listeners aware of it. Share with
them the form of your thoughts as well as the content and they will be able
to follow more complex ideas. It will be easier for you to remember, too.
People appreciate the scenery more with a glance at the road map every now
* Speak to be understood. Have the courtesy to develop your voice so
that all may hear you. You groom your appearance, so why not cultivate your
voice? With a little effort it can be strong, crisp, clear and various in
texture, color and range. It’s sad when speakers expend their energy to
create a vivid, well-constructed talk and then whisper, mutter or mumble.
* Speak for the benefit of others. Serve your audience well by
keeping their interests foremost in your mind. This is the golden rule of
speaking. As an audience member you can easily tell when a speaker is
self-serving. Nothing communicates more clearly than intention.
* Speak from your highest self. The highest self is where hope
resides. To lead effectively requires a courageous, positive, optimistic
view. As any astronaut will tell you, if you get high enough you will be in
perpetual sunshine. There must be a caveat attached to this rule, however:
Beware of elevating yourself with a high horse. Be humble. Having an opinion
is a meager accomplishment. On most occasions a modest demeanor improves