I’m excited to share a guest blog from Jeff Henderson, one of our speakers at our 2015 National Leadership Forum. Jeff is the founder of PRIMED, a company created to teach presenters how to be primed and ready for their next presentation. He has worked with leaders in both the for-profit and non-profit sectors to hone their communication skills in a variety of settings.
Today, Jeff will be discussing the responsibility of public speaking that inevitably comes with leadership. Take a look.
When I present to business people, I usually begin by asking one question that always generates laughter and raised hands:
How many of you have ever sat through a boring business presentation?
Every hand in the room goes up, and we all laugh. The next question, though, isn’t as funny:
Is it possible that the reason we’ve endured boring business presentations is because we have delivered one ourselves?
Silence in the room.
This isn’t surprising. Many people are afraid of public speaking. (It’s the second greatest fear in life behind death!) And for those who aren’t scared, the lack of fear doesn’t necessarily equate to a successful presentation. Often, many business presenters hide behind podiums and PowerPoints to get through their speech. And once it’s over, we go back to the “real work.”
This is a missed opportunity because leadership eventually comes with a microphone. You can have the best product, strategies and tactics, but if you can’t clearly and compellingly present the “why” behind the “what,” there will be confusion. And confusion is never good.
It’s why I’m passionate about helping people answer this question:
What is your system toward becoming a better communicator?
My experience is most people don’t have one. At some point, most leaders (if not all) will be called on to give a presentation. It could be in front of 50 people or five. It could be in an auditorium, classroom, locker room or a conference room. But if you’re a leader, the moment will inevitably arrive because at some point, leadership comes with a microphone.
To help prepare you for that moment, let me suggest two simple tips:
- Seek out more opportunities to speak. The challenge with many people is that they don’t do presentations very much. Think of trying to run a marathon on three weeks of training — that would not be a fun opportunity. Neither is presenting if you don’t do it that much. This is why you need to actively seek out speaking opportunities. Speak at schools, community organizations, or seek out other places to speak in your business or organization. It sounds simple, but most communicators simply need more practice.
- Create a 15-minute “stump” speech. Almost every politician has a stump speech: a well-rehearsed talk given over and over again. Every leader needs one of these. It could be a vision-casting speech, one you give to students at the beginning of the year, or something you believe in about the organization that everyone needs to know. It doesn’t have to be long. Fifteen minutes would be great. As you try this out, you will notice that not only will the speech get better and better, but so will you.
These two tips will require discipline to block out your calendar and invest time into this. Trust me, though: it will be a great investment. The reason I know this is because you’re a leader. And eventually, leadership comes with a microphone.
Join us as we wrestle with mastering clear, compelling communication with the next generation—in writing, social media, teaching, coaching, inspiring talks and vital conversations!
I hope to see you at the 2015 National Leadership Forum. Registration for Early Bird pricing ends this Saturday, February 28!