Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Your New Years’ Career Resolution… Improve Your Public Speaking Skills to Become a Leader or Stay a Leader


By Matt Eventoff
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is a time for self-evaluation, and asking yourself, “How can I improve?” or “What can I do to further my career?”
One area that almost always can be improved is presentation skills.  Effective presentation skills are crucial for leaders in the business world --- whether you are an executive already or are trying to move up in the ranks. Improving communication skills is an excellent way to increase productivity in the New Year.
Many communication tips seem basic, but remembering the basics and using them to your advantage is valuable in improving your skills.
Communicating effectively requires more than just having the right text or the right slide deck. You need to prepare and practice until you feel extremely comfortable.
There are brilliant, capable leaders who literally spend ten times longer preparing a presentation than practicing the delivery of the presentation.  Imagine an executive team that spends hundreds of hours putting together earnings reports, and less than one hour preparing for the call to talk about the report.   Imagine a corporate team leader who has a vision for the organization, but lacks the ability to communicate that vision effectively.  These scenarios occur more often than you realize, in businesses of all sizes --- by seasoned executives as well as aspiring executives.
A strong leader must exude confidence when he or she communicates. Confidence comes from practice and preparation.  Practice and preparation make the difference between a confident speaker and a speaker who is just muddling through.
Some of the basic lessons we’ve learned from great speakers of the past still apply in today’s corporate world. In his famous Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln’s used key tactics that are useful when addressing any group. Let’s look at three main techniques Lincoln used:
Be brief --- The entire address was less than 300 words and took less than three minutes. You don’t have to be long-winded to make your point. It means that when speaking or preparing your presentation, focus on what the audience really wants and needs to know, rather than just what you want to say.
Engage your listeners --- Focus on your message and engage your listeners by making it relevant to them, or at least interesting and easy to understand. Remember: You want to engage your audience, not try to impress them with the depth of your technical terminology or vocabulary. At the same time, you never want to “talk down” to your audience, either. Lincoln’s word choice was clear and effective --- and he quickly engaged his listeners.
Call to Action--- Keep in mind the purpose of your presentation or speech. Are you rallying your staff to action or modifying a behavior? Be clear on what you want them to do.  Keep your goal in mind. Lincoln’s goal was to bring together a nation torn by Civil War. 
So when you are preparing that big presentation to give in the boardroom --- or, to your staff or your boss --- remember to be brief, be engaging, and motivate your audience. 
And don’t forget to prepare and practice, practice, practice!  The more comfortable you are with the material before your presentation;the more relaxed and confident you will be when it is time to present.
Keep these basic public speaking tips in mind and you will be headed in the right direction for the New Year!
Matt Eventoff serves as a communication and messaging strategist for C-level executives in organizations ranging in size from startups to Fortune 100 firms, political leaders, nationally- recognized litigators, public figures and leaders from myriad other industries.  He has successfully prepared clients to appear before almost every audience and in multiple venues, including: the United States Senate and U.S. House of Representatives, State and Federal courts, corporate settings ranging in size from small board meetings to interviews on the floor of the NYSE and on nearly every network and major cable news program, including 60 Minutes, 20/20, Nightline, Dateline, Frontline, Hardball, and Good Morning America. To learn more about Mr. Eventoff, visit http://www.princetonpublicspeaking.com/.

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