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Leadership Speaking Definition, Process, Benefits & Strategies
In an age of soundbites and 140-character missives, is the art of oration relevant anymore? It may be more relevant than ever, actually. If anything can break through the background noise of convenient aphorisms and bumper-sticker politics, it’s a truly well-crafted, tub-thumper of a speech, whatever the topic. As cynicism and skepticism become almost baseline 21st-century emotions, there is tremendous power in having our world upended for half an hour while we look at a topic with a fresh perspective, guided by someone who knows both the subject matter and how to connect with an audience.
Most of us who have been around for a while have experienced the unique power of a beautifully delivered speech, appeal, sermon, or declaration, and it can be something we remember for the rest of our lives. There are times when an outstanding speech, delivered by someone who has honed the art for many years, can be just the right thing to jostle a business or other organization out of complacency and into action – or at least into a shifted perspective.
Truly useful, engaging information occupies a “sweet spot” at the intersection of culture, history, and technology-powered zeitgeist.
If you’re a business leader who may be interested in bringing in a leadership speaker for your organization, it’s important to understand what leadership speaking is and is not, what it can and cannot do, and what benefits result from a well-crafted speech, delivered with skill. Here’s what you should know about leadership speaking.
What Is Leadership Speaking?
It’s an oversimplification to think of leadership speaking as a learned individual delivering perfectly-turned phrases to a passive audience. Sure, that happens, but leadership speaking is about communication, and communication is a two-way street. In other words, the audience plays a critical role in successful leadership speaking. This represents a certain risk to the leadership speaker in that the audience may be responsive and engaged, or they may sit there passively, seemingly unable to be cajoled out of their passivity.
Expect your leadership speaker to engage your audience, helping them become invested in the content and delivery.
That’s why the outstanding leadership speaker has a well-stocked kit of tools meant to get the audience invested and engaged. In general, it’s not a skill set that can be learned through the underclassman introductory course in public speaking that so many of us were required to take at some point. In that scenario, there are right and wrong answers, and grades, and that alone is enough to squash the creativity and drive to engage of some people who would otherwise be quite competent at public speaking.
Outstanding speakers come from every background imaginable. They may or may not look like someone who belongs on a stage, and just about any accent may season their speaking. What they all have in common, however, is the ability to break through the passivity of an audience and help them discover that they are invested in a topic, if only temporarily. Leadership speaking also demonstrates leadership in a contained setting, imparting lessons, and inspiring those who take the time to listen. And with a great leadership speaker, everyone in earshot feels compelled to take the time to listen.
Who Uses It?
Ultimately, the “user” of a leadership speaking event is the individual in the audience, who may learn something, make a new cognitive or emotional connection, or otherwise be inspired to be a better person today than they were yesterday. But it’s usually someone in top leadership who brings in a leadership speaker in an attempt to engage, inspire, and renew commitment among their teams.
Any industry can benefit from the right leadership speaker, from healthcare to telecommunications to education to government. But the organizations that can expect to benefit from leadership speaking are those that want to do one or more of the following:
- Transform or reinvent their organization to support key business initiatives
- Strengthen leadership attitudes and skills of current or future leaders
- Build a stronger culture of leadership or talent to support operational goals
The more of these goals an organization recognizes, as you can see from the following Venn diagram, the more they’re likely to benefit from leadership speaking both short- and long-term.
Organizational goals are the main determinant of the benefit gained from leadership speaking.
One scenario in which a leadership speaker may be engaged is when an organization has experienced a setback. While it’s unrealistic to expect even the greatest leadership speaker to “fix” an organization beset by scandal or tragedy, there are times when the services of a leadership speaker can help get a discouraged or disheartened team back on track.
By contrast, another scenario in which an organization may bring in a leadership speaker is when something great has happened: a product has taken off, a major contract has been landed, or the organization has been recognized with a prestigious award. A skilled leadership speaker knows how to help harness all that positive energy and keep it moving forward, to take the organization to an even higher level of functioning. And, of course, leadership speakers will always be in demand for specific events, often as keynote speakers for conferences or other “milestone” organizational events.
What Are the Benefits of Leadership Speaking?
Let’s get this out of the way first: to the typical employee, a leadership speaker offers the benefit of breaking them out of their normal workday routine for a period of time, and many will be appreciative for this reason alone. This benefits the speaker as well, because the audience is already primed for “something different” than what they might otherwise be doing on an ordinary Tuesday morning.
But benefits of excellent leadership speaking go far beyond the brief joy of breaking out of routine for a while. For one thing, leadership speaking offers a fresh perspective. Often the outsider is the very person to help teams take a new, fresh look at things, and discover new ways of approaching problems and challenges. Experienced and in-demand leadership speakers are the ones who work with management beforehand to understand the organization’s goals for the event, what drives the organization, and what the organization values most. With their unique outsider’s perspective, the right leadership speaker can help communicate an organization’s goals in a new and fresh way, helping employees reconnect with company (and personal) values.
Exceptional leadership speakers know that audiences shouldn’t remain passive.
John Mattone has the experience to know that if he’s giving an opening keynote speech, he needs to instill an important message right from the start in such a way that people will continue talking about it throughout the meeting. If he is presenting a closing keynote speech, his goal is to release people back to their regular lives energized and poised to take action. Whatever the setting or reason for leadership speaking, John knows how to connect with the audience and keep them engaged with rich, varied content that may include exercises, case studies, and group discussion.
What Are John Mattone’s Leadership Strategies?
John Mattone offers fast-paced, high energy leadership speaking that is anchored with the gravitas that comes from over three decades in business leadership. The content has to be top notch, and it must be delivered with genuine passion. John is skilled at making an intellectual connection with the audience as well as an emotional connection, and researchers in the field of learning and education will tell you that people assimilate and retain information better when they make an emotional connection as well as an intellectual one. Though he spends the majority of the time on stage, or on a speaker’s platform, John is also known to leave the stage and interact directly and up close with the audience.
Ultimately, John delivers leadership lessons that are simple, practical, and that can be put to use. But he also ensures that the audience is invested and has a great time during his speaking engagements. Your audience will learn, they will laugh, and they will have their own “Eureka!” moments during his presentation. And he focuses on information that people can actually put to use in their daily activities, helping them improve not only professionally, but personally.
Does Leadership Speaking Work for Everyone?
Anyone who doubts the effect that outstanding speaking by a leader can have on an audience only needs to read Winston Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech, or Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” speech. Elizabeth I’s speech to the troops at Tilbury is largely credited with inspiring the defeat of the great Spanish Armada in 1588, and if you want to be immediately shaken out of complacency, you could hardly do better than Sojourner Truth’s famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech of 1851.
But you’ll notice that these outstanding speeches have something in common: they were delivered to a receptive if skeptical audience – an audience on the cusp of some major change, the consequences of which they could not yet envision. Leadership speaking has immense power, but only if it is used in the context of an organization that is receptive and committed to positive change. Unfortunately, some organizations break down under the weight of disaster or scandal to the point where nothing short of starting over from scratch could possibly bring it back to excellence. In these cases, even a great leadership speech can do little more than distract the audience for a time. In most typical business or organizational situations, however, an exceptional leadership speech can make an immediate and lasting difference.
How Do You See Results?
First of all, you have to be able to identify and articulate the results you want to see. Perhaps you want to kick off a technical conference with a keynote speech that will have everyone talking even at the closing session. Or maybe you want to fire up the inspiration in your sales team as you bring a new and exciting product to market. How do you want your people to feel when they leave the auditorium? If you can’t define what you want to accomplish with leadership speaking, then how will you know if you have succeeded?
Be able to articulate your goals before booking a leadership speaker.
Likewise, John Mattone goes into every leadership speaking engagement with clearly delineated goals and priorities. First of all, he wants the client to be the hero of the event, with audience members and top management pleased with their choice of leadership speaker. His job is to engage fully with his audience, and elevate each and every event to a higher level of excellence.
John is also equally passionate about making audience members laugh and learn – often at the same time. He wants them to come away from a speech with new tools they can use right away to improve their lives on both a personal and professional level. And he wants them to be invested enough in the event that they can forget their outside problems for a time, and feel genuinely changed afterward. Working with an experienced leadership speaker like John Mattone, an organization can clarify goals, articulate the outcomes they want, and work together toward fulfilling them. Additionally, his website contains a full suite of resources for the meeting planner to help the process along.
Is Certification Necessary for Excellence in Leadership Speaking?
Certifications exist for professional speakers, and someone who is new to planning organizational events may want to look for a leadership speaker who has some kind of professional certification, while taking the time to do enough research to understand what that certification actually means. More valuable to the typical organizational event planner than certification, however, is track record, and a leadership speaker worth booking will be happy to share testimonials and contact information for individuals in other organizations for which they have delivered leadership speeches. They should have online reviews readily accessible, with names and organizations attached so you can follow up if you want to.
Certification may be the cherry on top of the qualifications you desire for your event, but there’s no substitute for digging in and learning what a speaker’s qualifications are, who they have worked with in the past, and what past clients have to say about their events. John Mattone is happy to share reviews of his leadership speaking, reviews from clients as far-ranging as the Cleveland Clinic, Stellenbosch University in South Africa, and Al Hosn Gas in the United Arab Emirates.
Leadership speaking can be phenomenally powerful, and people who have never been part of an outstanding leadership speech don’t know what they’re missing. Sure, we live in a world of YouTube videos and social media posts, but there’s no substitute for the electricity and excitement in the air at a live speaking event featuring someone who really knows how to engage an audience. Leadership speaking can’t fix an organization that is irretrievably broken, but the organization that wants to improve morale, kick off a new phase of business, or celebrate an important milestone can gain momentum and inspiration from the right leadership speaker.
In his capacity as an executive coach and leadership speaker, John Mattone has worked with numerous clients across industries, including Coca-Cola, Amazon, and the late Steve Jobs. He has well-developed and well-received presentations on the topics of Intelligent Leadership, Talent Culture, Cultural Transformation, Success Mapping, Management Trends, and more. He works with each and every leadership speaking client to learn about their goals, their people, and their facilities, and to ensure the necessary audio-visual and staging elements are in place. As a result, every client can expect an energetic, fast-paced presentation, packed with outstanding content delivered in an entertaining and passionate manner. You should expect no less from any leadership speaker you trust your organization to.
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Glossary of Key Terms
Audience engagement – an environment where audiences feel empowered to interact with a presenter, due to outstanding presentation content and delivery, and a human-to-human connection the presenter makes with the audience
Cultural transformation – a dynamic process where a living culture, whether in an organization, a location, a profession, or societal niche, changes and adapts to internal and/or external forces. In a business context, this begins (but doesn’t end) with transformation in leadership.
Executive coaching – personalized training in leadership from a professional who understands both business leadership and principles of successful coaching. It is a prominent practice among C-level executives.
Keynote speaker – the public speaker invited to either start off or bring to a close an organizational event such as a trade show, technical conference, or celebratory event. An outstanding keynote speaker is able to energize an audience and leave them with plenty to think about as they return to their normal routine.
Leadership content – this is the “meat” of the leadership speech, the information that helps change people’s perspective, inspire them to new achievements, or impart critical knowledge or wisdom on a topic. Without good leadership content, leadership speaking can be dull or empty.
Leadership culture – the system of an organization’s norms at its top level of leadership. The leadership principles that make up leadership culture are shaped by top leaders, and sometimes by outsiders like leadership speakers or leadership coaches.
Milestone event – an organizational event that caps off a long and challenging process, or that kicks off a new operational phase. Examples of milestone events include receiving a prestigious organizational award, winning a lucrative contract, and opening a new branch location.