Public Speaking: the Key Component of Leadership
One of the qualities of Leadership is being able to communicate effectively to groups and inspire them to take action. Delivering a speech or conducting a staff meeting is a powerful means of communicating information that can persuade people and contributes to the formation of opinions. Opinions are influenced by events. A speech, a workshop and a staff meeting can be considered events.
Carefully prepared, skillfully arranged and professionally delivered presentations are vital for helping any leader or organization to achieve their fundamental strategic business objectives. By doing presentations you are establishing yourself as an opinion leader in your market and in your community. An opinion leader is someone to whom others go to for advice. It is a strategy that can be used by all businesses to further the achievement of their goals. You must see public speaking as one pillar of your overall strategic plan.
What are some ways you can use public speaking as a strategic tool?
1. Sales Presentations-Lots of sales presentations have to be delivered to various groups of people. When you are doing a presentation on your product or service to a company you often find 10 to 12 people in the room. Most big companies like to do group decision-making. One of my first sales presentations was to a group of 12 people. Knowing how to organize and arrange a sales presentation and how to improvise is the difference between success and failure. One of our clients delivering a sales presentation (a typical PowerPoint presentation) realized it was not going well. He stopped his presentation, asked the audience what they were really interested in hearing about concerning project management, improvised and ended up closing 20 out of 30 attendees. You must know how to read the group and be flexible.
2. Speaking at local groups such as the Kiwanis Club and/or Chamber of Commerce can make a big difference in being well-known and well thought of in your community. I recently did a presentation for the Chamber of Commerce in Cheliablinsk, Russia and have been asked to submit articles for their magazine. This is very good method for making myself known and being an opinion leader as well as method to reach others and help them.
3. Speaking at various industry conventions can be a strategic move to help you get new customers, as well as to position your company as the leader in that industry. I regularly speak at the Government Technology Conference and the International Health Club Association which is a good method for getting new business and re-connecting with industry leaders.
4. Staff Meetings (which most people think are a waste of time) don’t have to be. If properly prepared, a good presenter will get everyone involved and will accomplish the objectives of the meeting.
5. When you become an opinion leader you may be asked to sit on panel discussions or as several of our clients have been asked to do so, speak at congressional hearings on the trends within their industry.
6. In-house Education Programs are another avenue to utilize your public speaking skills. Delivering workshops as a method of educating your customers/patients is one of the best ways to generate new business. In the Chiropractic field, an In-House education program is the best way to get referrals from patients. Within the Health Club Industry it is also one of the best methods for retention of existing members.
7. In-Service Training in the Housekeeping Industry has proved useful for the training of staff in the policies and procedures which is critical to their success. Based on recent surveys a person who actually knows 70% of their jobs is considered “leading edge.” There is lots of room for improvement here! The answer isn’t hiring more staff. The answer is training the staff you have to fully know their jobs. Train-the-trainer programs like the one we are doing at Taylor Guitars results in increased productivity and job satisfaction.
8. Conducting “User Groups” is another effective way to find out how your product is perceived by your customers and what changes can be made to improve those products. You can even get ideas for possible new products.
9. Briefing the Company on changes, mergers and acquisitions requires public speaking skills. When the company has just been restructured you need the expertise to effectively communicate the new structure to 300 employees. What is the most effective way to do it? There is a sure-fire and exciting way to present that information.
All of the above scenarios should be thought of as part of your overall strategic plan. Many people in The Art of Public Speaking Workshop which we offer, have reported not taking promotions because they knew that they would have to speak in front of groups. If the fear of public speaking prevents you from taking those opportunities, it makes you the victim of groups. To be a leader requires that you can confront, communicate and control groups. Business is a group activity!
No matter what the occasion is, a public speaker that can deliver a message, is respected and can influence the opinions of others.
Here are some tips to help you create powerful messages:
1. In short presentations try not to give more than 3 major messages.
2. Repeat these messages three times during your talk.
3. Back up the messages with a story, or an example so that the audience can identify with it.
4. Back up your messages with statistics or some graphics to drive the point home.
5. Quote other people who are also authorities on the subject thereby giving you more credibility.
6. Make sure your message meets the self-interest of the audience.
7. Make sure you prepare and practice your presentation.
Whether you are doing a speech, conducting a staff meeting, or delivering a workshop make sure you produce your intended results with that audience. You will only be successful if you prepare and know what messages you want to communicate and the best method for delivering that message. Winging it won’t work. There is a lot more to public speaking then meets the eye. It can be learned. It is not something that some people have and others don’t. I learned it and you can learn it. Just like any other skill you want to practice it and hone that skill so that you are a professional. A leader knows how to use public speaking as a strategic communication tool to achieve their objectives.
By Klaus P. Hilgers
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