Words are only one element of communication.
Words matter, of course, but how they’re presented can make or break their effectiveness.
Communication is effective when there is trust between speaker and listener. If there’s no trust, the words won’t register. That’s why the most effective communicators know the value of eye contact, facial expression, the tone of voice, body language, and rate of speech to communicating effectively.
The best leadership speakers know this and realize the importance of establishing trust with an audience full of people they don’t even know. For leadership speakers to make the most impact, they need to bring several key elements to their presentation, including these five.
1. Passion for the Subject Matter
When someone is passionate about a “boring” topic, they can take it from dull to fascinating. Likewise, someone with little passion for a subject can turn even the most exciting topic tedious. Leadership speakers are often called upon to inspire an audience that faces a new and exciting challenge, or that is coping with a daunting setback. Without passion, the audience embarking on an exciting new project will gain little in the way of inspiration, and the audience trying to overcome adversity will likely stay mired there. Passion is essential to the strong leadership speech and is conveyed through word choice, tone, and body language.
2. Engagement with the Audience
Perhaps you have witnessed a speaker giving a speech, seemingly unaware of the audience before them. They may continue headlong into a complex topic, not noticing the confused looks on listeners’ faces, or plod along in a sleepy monotone despite people occasionally nodding off in their seats. Engagement doesn’t require props or special effects (though those can sometimes be appropriate) but requires leadership speakers to learn about their audience before the speech, to look at audience members during the speech to gauge their reaction, and often, to answer their questions immediately following the presentation.
The best speakers know how to make their narratives relevant to the audience in front of them.
A leadership presentation doesn’t have to be about the exact topic that binds the audience together, such as an industry practice. But it does have to be relevant to them in some way. It could be about overcoming obstacles similar to the ones the audience faces, or it could be about how a person or group of people brainstormed a creative and innovative way to meet a new goal. The audience members must feel like the speaker’s content has some relevance for them, personally, professionally, or both. Otherwise, it’s just a story that may or may not be remembered or learned from.
Not all leadership presentations stick with the audience forever, but they should make enough of an impression that audience members are still thinking about the presentation afterward, as they go back to their regular routine. Lessons learned should be communicated clearly, in terms that people can grasp and apply to their own situations. Passion and relevance should combine to strike an emotional chord in audience members since emotion is closely tied to the formation of new memories.
5. Great Storytelling
You don’t always notice great storytelling while it’s happening, but its effects last long after the event is over. The human brain is wired for extracting valuable information from stories. Facts presented in a dry list don’t “stick” nearly as well in people’s minds as those same facts presented in a compelling narrative. Great storytelling builds logically to a conclusion and helps the audience understand why that conclusion is important. It requires good flow, clear speaking, and appropriate body language as well as the information contained in the narrative itself.
Leadership coaches know that in order to reach people, they have to bring far more than just a slide deck to an event. More importantly, they must bring their passion for a topic, their ability to engage with people, and their skill at making information relevant to their audience. When inspiration is encompassed by a great story that’s delivered effectively, it makes an impact that lasts long after the event itself has concluded. If a leadership event is in your organization’s future, I invite you to check out my speaking availability. I would be delighted to hear from you.