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How to Find Great Leadership Speakers
Leadership speakers aim to improve morale and inspire audiences to action, even if that “action” is simply being a better person. If it’s your job to book leadership speakers, you know you have to make your choice carefully, or risk alienating the very people you want to reach. But contacting a speakers’ bureau isn’t enough to find leadership speakers worthy of your team. You have to dig deeper and find out more about the person you choose to address your audience. I suggest looking for the following qualities when choosing a leadership speaker.
Someone With a Clear, Consistent, Concise Message
Have you ever read or listened to a recitation of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address? If you haven’t, you should. It’s a shining example of distilling a message into its most important elements. Leadership speakers should have a captivating opening statement, and a strong “launch” that tells the audience where the journey will take them. Points should be backed up with evidence told through compelling narrative, and the conclusion should be memorable. Exceptional leadership speakers know how long their allotted time period is and craft their speeches accordingly to make the most of that time.
Someone Who Makes It About the Audience
Leadership speakers who make their speech all about themselves aren’t very inspiring. Even the outstanding leadership speaker who has overcome a tremendous life obstacle in an inspiring way ultimately makes his or her speech about the audience. This starts with learning about your organization in order to bring the people in the audience into the presentation. When you watch the best leadership speakers, you can see they are engaging hearts and minds and are there in service to the audience, whom they genuinely care about.
Someone Who Engages With the Audience
Caring about the audience means engaging with them. You can see this in body language, eye contact, and how speakers interact with audience members. Excellent leadership speakers stay around for questions and offer contact information for later follow-up by audience members who want to get in touch. When someone asks a question, the speaker repeats it, so everyone hears the question and to subtly validate what the audience member is asking. The leadership speaker lets the audience know through words, tone, and body language that he or she is happy and grateful to be there.
Someone With a Comfortable Speaking Cadence
Sure, there are speakers who blaze through the material and make it work perfectly. But with many leadership speakers it’s different. He or she leaves well-placed pauses for thought, as verbal punctuation. They may begin by taking a moment to look around the audience, and make eye contact, before commencing. Leadership speeches may be paced more leisurely than normal conversation, with breathing room, and time to interact with the audience. The speaker doesn’t try to cram everything into the time allotted, but makes the best use of the time with relevant information.
Someone Who Is Positive
Who wants to attend a leadership conference or assembly and watch a negative speaker? Excellent leadership speakers are positive, with the ability to look into the audience and identify sympathetic listeners, even in an apathetic crowd. By interacting with these people, leadership speakers bring the rest of the audience around as well. Well-placed, appropriate humor is also terrific for breaking the ice, enabling the audience to laugh and relax. A leadership speech should pack plenty of information, but “teaching” should be couched in storytelling that’s part of an overall inspiring narrative.
Someone Who Leaves the Audience With Relevant Takeaways
You don’t want audience members to think when it’s over, “Well, that was a great speech, but it doesn’t apply to me in any way.” Great leadership speakers ensure this doesn’t happen by leaving people on an inspiring note, with at least one concept or idea that each listener can apply to his or her own life. A successful leadership speech doesn’t just inspire, but offers something audience members can put into action immediately, whether it’s a listening technique or a new use for, say, the software they use each day. Everyone should take away something positive.
How do I know this? Believe me, I have sat through both good and bad leadership speeches, and I’ve given my share of leadership speeches as well–in fact over 2500 in my career, addressing leadership and human resources groups all over the world. I want to energize, inspire, and leave every audience member with something useful they can apply to their own lives.