Interview: How To Speak With Presence
As many of us come to find out at a certain point in their career/life, public speaking is a skill, and – if you want to give convincing speeches – it is a skill that’s not acquired overnight.
According to John Baldoni, author of The Leader’s Guide To Speaking With Presence, it’s even an art: “Speech delivery, like playing an instrument, is an art that can be mastered; it simply requires a willingness to try and a commitment to speaking in public whenever you have the opportunity to do so”. Above all, one must possess self-confidence. Though the book intrigued me, I decided to do a Q&A with its writer (John Baldoni) and find out his “secret” to speaking with presence is.
Q: Why did you write The Leader’s Guide To Speaking With Presence? Are there still too many leaders out there that don’t know how to give a proper presentation?
“Public speaking remains a great challenge for many people and so this book is intended to help people understand what they need to do to become better at it. Anyone who manages or aspires to leadership must become more adept at public speaking. This book focuses on what leaders need to do to develop and deliver a winning presentation.“
Q: Which leader is your best example when it comes to “speaking with presence”? (The one who masters this best according to you.)
“The list is long. Bill Clinton is certainly among the very best of our times because he seeks to connect his message with what the audience expects. Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt are two giants of public speaking. Another great is John Kennedy. What is instructive about Kennedy is that he practiced the craft of speaking. He was an adept writer but he mastered the art of public speaking. Watch his early Congressional campaign speaking clips and you see a man not very certain of himself. Watch him as President and you see a man convinced of his abilities.“
Q: What is the worst thing a leader can do when they try to deliver an authentic message (to ruin it)?
“It is important to connect with your audience. You must speak to them, not at them. To ensure that you connect, you do your homework first. Learn what the audience expects and deliver it. That said, you most importantly speak to your message.“
Q: One can write a great guide, but some leaders will still lack talent to “speak with presence”. What would you tell them?
“Speaking with presence is a way of saying let people know who you are. You can learn from great speakers, but it does not mean you have to be them as a speaker. Learn their techniques but be yourself. The real you.“
Q: How did you yourself master to present a message and communicate effectively?
“Practice, practice, practice… I spoke widely to all kinds of audiences, often for no fee, simply to get the experience I needed. Commit your message and your delivery and you can succeed. And remember, most often the audience is on your side. They want you to succeed. And if you connect with them they don’t care if you fumble a word, or lose your place, as long as you act professional and respectful they will be with you.“
Some Final Tips (from the book):
- Context: When creating a presentation, it’s good to keep the big picture in mind: What is the purpose of giving this presentation? Focusing on the context sharpens the message.
- Segue: The presentation must flow evenly from slide to slide, so a presenter needs to develop links between slides, or a segue (transition) that gives the audience a reason to pay attention.
- Headlines: Every slide needs one. The words become what a presenter can punch up and deliver with emphasis.
- Specifics: Shrewd presenters learn to focus on a specific item in a slide, and tell a story about it. Make the words suit the picture.
- Delivery: Most presenters fall into the trap of reading the words on the slide; others ignore the copy and say whatever comes into their heads. Neither is good. Script the message beforehand so there is a fully developed speaking text.
John Baldoni serves as the chair of the leadership development practice at N2Growth. He is an internationally-recognized leadership educator, executive coach, speaker, and author. Baldoni has authored eleven books on leadership, with three of those books, Lead With Purpose (2011), Lead Your Boss (2009), and Lead By Example (2008) being selected as best leadership books in their respective years. Prior to joining N2Growth, Baldoni was the president of Baldoni Consulting, which he operated for twelve years.
In 2012, Baldoni was ranked #10 on the list of the world’s top leadership gurus. In 2010 he was named one of the world’s best 25 leadership experts by Top Leadership Gurus. He has written over 500 leadership columns for Forbes.com, Inc.com, HBR.org, and other outlets. For more information, visit www.johnbaldoni.com.