In the business world, whatever the size of your organisation, a leader’s ability to inspire through the spoken word has never been more highly valued. You may be rallying your team, presenting to customers, pitching for funding or taking part in a community event.
Given the importance of speaking to inspire what are the practical steps that you can take that will make a difference? Having learned through experience here are four steps that I recommend you take.
Focus on change
As human beings, we feel inspired ‘to’ something… to feel a certain way, to think a certain way and/or to behave in a certain way.
That ‘change’ is valuable.
It explains why effective speakers and leaders command the respect, recognition and fees that they do.
By contrast, the vast bulk of business presentations deliver little if any change at all! The focus is almost entirely on the content, with little if any thought being given to how that content might be applied by the audience members.
As a result, when the presentation ends, people leave, nothing really changes and the whole exercise has been a complete waste of time.
Ask yourself right at the outset of your preparation: What change do I want to achieve? In the room? In the minutes after they leave? Over the next few weeks? Months, if not years from now?
Build your key messages around that clarity of purpose.
By doing so, you’ll…
- Deliver better – and more authentically
- Focus your energy on the audience, rather than on yourself
- Feel less ‘nervous’
- Likely include less detail (which is good!)
- Leave people with something concrete to take away
- Differentiate yourself from the majority of other presenters
- Be more likely to inspire others… to change!
Clarify your underlying values & beliefs
Inspiration involves a transfer of belief. If you do not believe in your message, idea or proposal, then why should anyone else?
Values and beliefs underpin any powerful message – sometimes, they might even be the message. There is tremendous power in the clarity with which you hold them.
In relation to what you need to communicate…
What DO you believe?
What DO you hold dear?
Get clear on that; harness that!
For example, for my part, I absolutely believe that…
1 The ability to speak powerfully is a skill, not a gift.
2 That as human beings we consistently underestimate the true value of our own personal experience.
3 That words can speak louder than actions (!)
These simple beliefs absolutely underpin the work that I do – and that comes across in the way that I deliver. (In my experience, mental focus is far more important for delivery than pure ‘delivery technique’).
As a simple exercise, complete the following sentence:
“I absolutely believe…”
Keep it simple.
There is power in the single-mindedness of your answers.
Discover the ‘Critical Moments’ in the stories you tell
Storytelling is often cited as the key to inspirational impact – and with good reason. Personal experience exudes Certainty. After all, you’ve lived it. You were there. No-one can dispute the fact that you’ve had that experience (assuming of course it’s genuine – so, no lies!)
What is often underestimated is the importance of drilling down into the specific ‘Critical Moments’ within those stories, to unearth the precious gems that ignite the interest of listeners.
Critical Moments are the gold of storytelling. Just like gold in the natural world, they’re not just lying around. They have to be dug for, retrieved and refined…
Reflect for a moment on a story you’re fond of telling.
What was the Critical Moment of that story? The tipping point, if you like. The point at which things changed.
What precisely happened? Where were you? Who was there? What was said…?
Make the most of dialogue
Dialogue is a very effective tool for conveying the drama of a Critical Moment. Through the use of dialogue, your story enters into the present tense. Listeners hear the voice of the character (rather than you the speaker). Emotionally, this makes for a more intense – and so, potentially inspiring – experience.
Which of these two statements is the most dramatic and powerful?
A member of the Danish royal family was depressed and wondering whether or not to commit suicide.
To be or not to be.
Give your characters a voice. If it’s you, voice your own words as they were said at the time; you’ll achieve a deeper emotional connection as a result.
To become a more inspiring speaker you have four steps to try out. As we know to improve as a speaker you need to try out and practice. Which ONE step will you try first?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Simon Bucknall is from Toastmasters International and was the runner-up in the 2017 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.