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The Voice of Leadership

There are three things that I tell people they need to do well to succeed, whether they are my clients or my college students. First, be good at whatever your job titles suggests you are an expert in. Second, be a good writer. Good writers are good thinkers. (Although, one can hire professional writers to help out.) Third, be a good public speaker.

In many situations, success requires leadership. All leaders must rally the troops. One of the most powerful leadership tools is your voice, not just in emails and memos. Speaking helps build and reinforce your personal platform. Here are few basic tips in becoming a better public speaker.

Outline Your Speech
A speech must have a structure. The structure may not be apparent to the audience, but without one, it will sound like rambling. Don’t just “wing it.” Only the most experienced public speakers can get away with that. Neither should you write out a word-by-word script. Reading a script lacks sincerity unless you are a practiced orator. (Using a teleprompter is an exception to this rule. However, using a teleprompter effectively requires practice.)

Your speech could be a series of stories or anecdotes. Even if it’s not, keep it interesting with fascinating details.

Rehearse Out Loud 
Many people make the mistake of rehearsing in a whisper. Rehearsal should be full-volume. This way, your throat develops the appropriate muscle memory, particularly if your speech includes technical jargon or foreign names or terms. Also, rehearsal may reveal reasons to revise your outline.

Understand the Audience Is on Your Side 
Some novice speakers fear their audience, feeling that they are being judged harshly. But honestly, rarely do they ever have a hostile audience. An audience is on your side out of self-interest. They don’t want to waste their own time, and therefore want you to be magnificent. And they will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Half of life is showing up. Half of leadership is speaking up.

J.R. Bale is an author, communications consultant and college professor. He also provides speaker coaching as one of the services offered by Balefire Communications LLC.