Public speaking is an essential skill for CEOs who aspire to be real leaders. Effective communication is paramount when addressing investors, the media, board members, employees, or a large audience.
1. Overcome Nervousness: Focus on Content, Not Audience Size
One common concern among speakers is feeling more nervous when addressing a small group than a large crowd. This anxiety often stems from a heightened sense of personal connection in smaller gatherings. However, it's essential to shift your focus from the audience size to the content of your message. Remember that even if you connect with just one person, it's a win. The way you perceive yourself during a speech is not necessarily how the audience sees you. Trust your message and let the content speak for itself, regardless of the audience's size.
2. Lessons from Queen Elizabeth II: Curiosity and Gratitude
Queen Elizabeth II's communication style offers valuable insights for effective public speaking. Her genuine curiosity about others and gratitude for their actions set the stage for meaningful connections. Emulate her approach by showing interest in your audience and acknowledging their contributions. These two qualities can enhance your ability to connect with your listeners.
3. Crafting a Great Speech: The Architectural Approach
Structuring a speech is akin to designing a building. Start with a strong foundation—clarify why you're addressing the chosen theme. Next, outline the main points that support your theme, acting as the building's floors. Conclude your speech with a compelling statement that ties everything together.
4. Inspire Action Through Storytelling
To move people to action, incorporate inspirational stories into your speeches. Highlight individuals who have successfully tackled similar challenges, demonstrating that change is possible. People resonate with stories of heroes and find courage in them. Additionally, don't shy away from presenting the problem accurately and factually—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's heroic leadership sets a powerful example. Lead by showing how you've made sacrifices and taken action, inspiring others to follow suit.
5. Embrace Public Speaking as a Leader
Being an effective leader necessitates strong communication skills. While introverted leaders may prefer alternative methods, like broadcasting, recording messages, or writing, it's essential to overcome the self-focused nature of introversion. Shed any communication handicaps and recognize that your voice is indispensable in leadership. Effective communication is vital, as evident in instances like the CEO of Boeing's struggles during a crisis, emphasizing the need for leaders to communicate effectively.
6. Avoid Common Speaker Mistakes
Lastly, be mindful of common speaker pitfalls:
Speaking too long: Keep speeches within a reasonable time frame, generally around 21 minutes, to maintain audience engagement.
Avoid excessive self-promotion: Steer clear of grandiosity and the use of the first-person singular. Focus on "we" and "our team" to foster connection.
Skip audience questions: Avoid calling for questions after your speech, as it can distract from your message. Instead, engage with the audience separately to maintain control over your narrative.
Reading vs. Speaking Candidly: Finding the Right Balance
Deciding between reading from a prepared script and speaking candidly depends on the context and audience. While scripted speeches are suitable for formal events or when a written record is essential, spontaneous speaking can create a more responsive and engaging atmosphere. Consider a hybrid approach—prepare an outline with key points to maintain structure while allowing for natural delivery.
In conclusion, mastering the art of public speaking is crucial for CEOs and leaders aiming to make a lasting impact.