Five Ways to Sound like a Leader in Your Next Presentation
It is no secret that an important part of being a leader is being able to clearly and efficiently communicate your ideas to a group of people.
However, an important and often overlooked aspect is this: It is also how you become a leader in the eyes of your peers.
Whether you like it or not, you are always being evaluated by your peers. In a study completed by Tim Pollard, which he details in the book The Compelling Communicator, 83 percent of respondents said that their perception of a person’s leadership ability is affected by that individual’s presentation skills. In addition, 74 percent of the group cited poor communication skills as having a notable negative impact on their perception of a leader’s critical thinking ability.
The way you communicate on a daily basis matters if you have aspirations of becoming a leader.
Now, I have no idea what your current level of public speaking is. However, because you’re reading this article, I do know that you have an ambition for improving your leadership skills.
Below are five things you can focus on to sound like a leader in your next presentation, and we’ll call them “The Fundamentals of Public Speaking.” These tips can be used regardless of your current abilities as a communicator and are the basis for all success. Mastery of these five concepts will have you sounding like the leader you’re capable of becoming.
- Slow down
A good rule of thumb here is to speak at 75 percent of your normal rate. When giving a presentation, we always know our material much better than the audience. This means we must slow down our rate of speech so that they can process what we are saying and understand it. We also naturally speak faster when we are nervous, so make an effort to go slow!
- Avoid monotony
In Dale Carnegie’s classic The Art of Public Speaking, he writes “Monotony is poverty, whether in speech or in life. Strive to increase the variety of your speech as the business man labors to augment his wealth.” Speaking in a monotone voice is the easiest way to lose the audience's attention. You must have pitch, volume and tempo changes throughout your speech to keep the listeners engaged. You can use strategic pausing and a slow tempo to emphasize your main points.
While the ability to speak spontaneously is a valuable skill, being able to speak from long-term memory will drastically increase your effectiveness. Rehearsal takes no skill at all — just discipline! This will also allow you to refine your overall speech to make it sound the best it possibly can. Many experts recommend doing at least 3-4 full run-throughs before the live presentation.
- Don’t rely on slides
This one is self-explanatory. Try to keep the words you put on slides to a minimum so the audience focuses on you and not what’s behind you. Having stated that, having visuals to incorporate with the words you're saying can be powerful and help make your ideas "stick."
- Practice the skill
Speaking is a skill that can be developed. At some point in time, every great communicator started out as a poor one. I’m sure you know what it takes to improve a skill: intentional practice. Former Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer realized that he needed to improve his speaking skills when he was a student in college. Because of this, he forced himself to speak in front of large audiences at a local church and he practiced fake speeches with co-workers in his free time. He recognized the importance of public speaking as it related to his aspirations to become a leader from an early age. I would say that worked out pretty well for him considering he went on to win three national championships and is known for being one of the best motivators of all time.
I would also recommend joining a Toastmasters Club if you want a safe environment to receive feedback from others. The main thing to know here is that you MUST practice if you want to get better; you can’t get better just by reading this article.
This list is by no means comprehensive, but it should serve as a guide for rapidly improving your speaking skills. All of the fundamentals above require no skill at all to at least pay some attention to before your next presentation.
One more thing to remember as I close: be yourself. Don’t think you have to try to be Tony Robbins or Eric Thomas to be an effective communicator. If you lean on these five fundamentals and just be yourself, you’ll be well on your way to sounding like a leader in your next presentation.
Pollard, T. (2017). Compelling Communicator: Mastering the Art and Science of Exceptional Presentation Design. Conder House Press.
Pollard, T. (2019). Mastering the moment: Perfecting the skills and processes of exceptional presentation delivery. Washington D.C.: Condor House Press.
Carnegie, D. (2019). ART OF PUBLIC SPEAKING. EMBASSY Books.
Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.