Business Advice Blog

Tips to be a Better Public Speaker

public speaking tipsIn addition to countless other responsibilities, many CEOs and business owners serve as the face of their brand. There may be no better opportunity to fulfill this exacting duty than by appearing before audiences as a public speaker. It’s a powerful way to showcase your business and communicate the depth of your industry expertise.

But the art of public speaking doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Even those who are adept in this field always look for ways to improve their performance. If you regularly receive invitations to address a public forum—or if you’re just starting out—here are tips for becoming a more compelling (and sought-after) public speaker:

View your material through the eyes (and ears) of your audience. Some speakers forget that the people they’re addressing don’t know as much as they do about a given topic. They fall into the habit of speaking “over” their audience—using jargon or technical language, rushing through complex material without offering sufficient explanation, and so on.

One way to overcome this trait is by breaking down your subject matter and finding ways to explain material in brief, easy-to-understand sections. Make sure people understand the first idea you want to convey before moving on to other topics. Use simple language as much as possible, to increase the likelihood your audience follows as you progress through your presentation.

Enhance your communications skills. Eye contact and clear enunciation are two of the most valuable skills a public speaker can possess. Rather than reading from a prepared speech, practice looking up at your audience and making eye contact with people in the back of the venue, in the middle and up front. This helps you connect with the audience and enhances their willingness to trust what you have to say.

When speakers get nervous, they often speak faster and lose people due to poor enunciation. Practice speaking slowly and making sure you pronounce clearly (and loud enough for those in the back to hear). This approach will lend greater impact to what you want to convey.

Vary speech patterns and use more body language. No one will pay attention for long if you simply stand before the lectern and deliver your speech in a monotone. Carefully review the content of your presentation beforehand and look for places to modulate your delivery, adding emphasis to key parts and vary the way you talk.

Equally important, adapt gestures and other body language to accompany your speech. “Make sure your gestures and words are synonymous,” advises business communications expert Jill Schiefelbein. If you itemize a series of key points, “make sure the numbers you’re saying match the number of fingers you’re holding up.” Also, walk around on-stage and “move to transition between points or stories or characters.”

Practice, practice, practice. Every public speaking expert says the same thing: Practice until you’ve got your presentation down cold. Rehearse before a small group of friends, colleagues or family members, and invite their feedback and suggestions. Rehearse in front of a mirror. Make a video of your presentation, then watch it with both the sound turned on and off. This will make you more conscious of how your body language syncs up with your words.

Practicing is an effective way “to combat your nerves when the time comes,” says serial entrepreneur Jennifer Spencer. “Muscle memory takes over your brain, and you begin to deliver your message without flaw.” It’s essential to “steady your nerves at kickoff time.”

Delivering an informative and engaging presentation will boost awareness of your brand and your status as an influential thought leader. That’s more than enough ROI to justify the time and effort needed to become a great public speaker.

Want to learn more about high-level communications? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!

 

3 High-Level Communication Tips for CEOs and Business Owners

ceo and business owner communication

CEOs and business owner must possess a wide range of talents to lead their organizations. Being able to communicate clearly and across a spectrum of audiences might be one of the most important to cultivate.

Unfortunately, in the hectic rush of daily operations and other “putting out fires” activities, honing one’s communications skills sometimes gets overlooked. This can lead to internal confusion, cultural dysfunction and other undesirable business outcomes.

To build and maintain your abilities to clearly communicate, keep these high-level tips in mind:

Know your audience. In the course of a day or week, CEOs come in contact with different teams of employees, different departments, customers, and other key stakeholders. Don’t make the mistake of adopting a “one-message-fits-all” approach.

Always be mindful of adjusting your language, depending on the audience you’re addressing. Avoid specialized jargon that no one in a particular audience can understand. This doesn’t mean talking down to people, only that communication gets hindered when the speaker fails to use wording that’s coherent and understandable to the people being addressed.

Take time to rehearse important speaking engagements. CEOs often speak before groups of employees and/or fellow CEOs or at industry events. Regardless of how strong a public speaker you consider yourself, it never hurts to rehearse your speech (or informal remarks) in front of the mirror or before a small, select audience, like your spouse, perhaps.

Practice what you intend to say, then rehearse how you’re going to say it. Pay close attention to the speed with which you talk, the cadence of your voice and the ways in which your body language either reinforces your message or distracts from it. Yes, rehearsing and observing your speech patterns takes time and effort, but your various audiences will greatly appreciate better understanding what you have to tell them—and your leadership efforts will benefit, as wel

Speaking of public speaking, you can enhance your efforts through these venues:

  • Quarterly town hall meetings. Schedule events at which all or most of your employees can attend. Share as much as you reasonably can about the state of business operations—recent triumphs, setbacks, opportunities to come, etc. Leave time for an employee Q&A afterward and prepare yourself, as much as possible, to be thorough and honest in your responses.
  • Weekly status email updates. Consider sending a concise weekly message to employees throughout the company. The message can reference important ongoing initiatives or simply be a short statement of gratitude. Let people become accustomed to hearing from you on a regular basis.
  • Explore industry-related or trade show speaking opportunities. As owner or CEO, you’re the “face” of your company’s brand. Making clear, articulate presentations to audiences beyond your office walls helps build brand awareness and can lead to prospective client opportunities as well. As your experience grows, you’ll be invited to public events of greater dimension and significance, bolstering your communications skills while also enhancing the quality of your brand.

Work on your one-on-one skills. Some CEOs are more comfortable in a one-on-one conversation, while others avoid it at all costs. Not surprisingly, the need for “difficult conversations” (with clients, executives, etc.) comes up from time to time. Take such opportunities to strengthen your ability to handle conflict, discuss solutions to nagging issues and being as transparent as possible about what needs to be done in a given situation.

Becoming more adept at high-level communications will make any owner or CEO a more effective leader. People want to hear what you have to say. Saying it clearly, the right way, can inspire and motivate them to new heights of performance.

Want to learn more about the power of communications? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!