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I am asked by some of the largest corporate organizations to help their executives speak more effectively and influentially to the C-Suite. What’s the most common problem area I encounter? Most leaders who speak don’t adhere to the most important technique, which I call “piloting the plane.” They may take off successfully, but once they get off the ground they keep circling the runway until everyone in the audience is looking at their watches and becoming uncomfortably bored.
Here are some tips, starting with that most critical one, for owning your presentations for greater influence and success.
Cut. Distill. Simplify.
- Start strong, with a lean speech that has had all of the fluff and fat cut out of it. Outline your talk on paper. Then make a second draft but cut the number of words in half.
- Now you’ll have tight, powerful, highly polished sound bite messages that will be easy for people (including you!) to comprehend, digest, and remember. Reduce your main points to four or five bullet points that fit on index cards and you’ll be ready to start practicing your speech.
Posture and Preparation
- Lack of preparation will not just undermine the impact of your speech but it will undermine your overall executive presence. Study the presentation until you are comfortable enough to give it without having to read it. That way you speak from the heart, with genuine passion and conviction in your words.
- Do not forget that at least half of your executive presence and leadership communication comes across nonverbally. So stand up straight, use your gestures for emphasis (which will also keep you from fidgeting and looking nervous and unsure), and speak loudly and slowly. Now you’re going to feel your power – and so will your audience.
Give a Talk, Not a Slide Show
- Power points loaded with too much information put audiences to sleep. You can give them additional data in the form of a handout for extra reading. But while you’re in front of your audience you need to stick to the core points and main message.
- If you use audio visuals, let them illustrate what you are saying – but don’t allow the tail to wag the dog. In other words the most important information is what comes out of your mouth, not what is in your slide show or PPT.
- They say that the final act of any performance is what audiences remember the most. If you don’t wind up your talk and finish it before your audience loses their attention span, they may not recall a word you said.
- No matter who you are speaking to or what you have to say, as soon as you reach cruising altitude you must stay focused on making a smooth, prompt landing. Don’t ramble, don’t go off on a tangent, don’t try to fill the empty silence with meaningless words. Just deliver the goods and end it on a high note with a powerful call to action.
As a pioneering and visionary innovator, Sarah is a certified image master (CIM) and brand strategist, speaker, trainer and author. Her company, Illustra Consulting, provides leading-edge image and brand management strategies for top leaders and high achievers who wish to take their career to the next level. She also delivers innovative and inspiring corporate workshops to assist large organizations in strengthening their corporate brand.
Copyright © 2015, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIM, CPBS 1-800-267-3245, [email protected]
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