25 tips for becoming a powerful and professional executive speaker Featured

1:39pm EDT October 11, 2011
25 tips for becoming a powerful and professional executive speaker

The key to evolving into a powerful and memorable executive speaker is to stay calm and in control. The tips below will support you in learning to reduce nervousness and deliver a powerful presentation that will move your audience.

Take each tip and mold it to your personality. Make it work for your voice and style.

10 tips for preparing your speech:

1. Begin with the end in mind

Start your writing with the ending in mind. What is the purpose of your message? Once you have this definitive point prepared and an objective, it should drive all else beneath it.

Note that:

  • Objectives are measurable.
  • They have a time frame.
  • They are attainable.

2. Hear; don't listen

As you write, think about how your words will sound – not how they read. Speaking is always more finite and simple than how a novel is done. Without this crucial fact, your speech ends up sounding monotonous.

3. Brainstorm your keys

Key points should flow out of your objective. Write these down, individually, on slips of paper and physically arrange them in order. Consider this order, and then possibly rearrange them to create natural links between each key. This task creates flow.

4. Repeat good keys

Key ideas should be repeated two or more times during your speech. These points back up and drive home your main objectives. This helps your audience completely understand the main message of your speech.

5. Stories add power and uniqueness

Everyone loves a good story. Some stories can be used for almost any audience, others are more specific. Tailor your story for your particular venue and add power and uniqueness to your speech.

6. Don't jumble with jargon

The easiest way to miss the boat with your audience is with “industry-speak.” Jargon is exactly that to anyone outside a specific bubble of knowledge. Keep your words simple and understandable to all. If you do use a word that could fall on deaf ears, explain it right after you state it.

7. Convey with humor

Make it funny. An audience always needs some comic relief at times – especially if you have a serious topic. Remember though, humor must flow naturally to work, so don't plan ahead too much. Too much planning with humor makes you appear stiff. Get it right and your audience loves you.

8. Use facts for support

Don't just tell listeners what you want them to know – tell them why they should believe it. Everything that you have to impart should be backed-up by facts.

9. Involve your audience

I mean really involve them . Grab a volunteer or ask a listener to answer a question. The rest of those watching will identify with that one person and each will feel as if they were called upon.

10. Cut the fat

Be ruthless with yourself at this point. As you edit your writing, look at each sentence and decide whether or not it supports your objective or key idea. If not – remove it. Consider that each venue as a speaker is like real estate. Every inch of space is accounted for and worth money.

Five audio visual tips:

Since most executive speakers use some form of audio visual these days, here are a few tips to keep this area professional and powerful.

1. Copy size does matter

Once you know what your audience size is and the room dimensions, tailor your visual copy to suit. Those at the back of the room should be able to read without straining. The best ways to test this is to take an early visit to your venue and physically check it out.

2. Fonts

Keep fonts to a minimum. Use two per slide at the most for readability. Avoid using all caps as this appears that you are shouting at the reader.

The advertising standard is sans serif for headings and serif for copy. These help the reader scan text and are easier on the eye.

3. Colors

Less is more in terms of color. Too many bold or primary colors are hard on the eye. Pair one strong choice with subtle undertones or those that are complementary.

4. Pictures instead of 1,000 words

If what you are saying can be illustrated with a picture, do it. Pictures jog the memory and incite imagination. Pictures add another, deeper dimension to the audience experience. Have them sprinkled throughout, either with or without copy.

5. Break it up

Jolt your viewers out of staring at your visuals by inserting a blank, black slide. All eyes will turn to you. This is the perfect time to tell a story and relate something essential.

10 on-stage tips:

1. Know your content

Have your key message points memorized or displayed visually. These points will keep your material flowing naturally and jog the less familiar statements out of you. If you happen to stumble, your next message is there to help.

2. Perfect means practice

Your first audience is always you – in the mirror, and on voice recorder. Watching and Listening to yourself as others will is important to gain confidence and spot weak points.

Your second audience is family and friends. Have them critique you on body language and clarity. No audience handy? Video record yourself for a similar effect.

Continue practicing and practicing. This will give you poise for any technical hitches or curve balls that the venue may present.

3. Scope out the venue

Set up an early visit to the location of your presentation. Get familiar with the room set up so  you can fine tune your audio visuals to suit. This will also reduce nervousness as you know what to expect out of the room.

4. Pave your introduction

Write an intro and provide it to your host in advance of the event. In this way you can control your lead-in and gain some credibility that appears to come from an outside source.

5. Mingle

Make time for schmoozing before you present. Be sure to factor in time spent on equipment set up, and also leave time for more 'meet and greets' afterward. Your listeners will want to get details or discuss questions.

6. Open with a bang

You have a limited time to make a first impression – merely seconds. So be sure to walk on stage with a smile and body language that is full of energy. You may also want to think of a quick fact or question that provokes thought and gets your audience interacting immediately.

7. No need for an apology

Think of the time you ate in an expensive restaurant and a server dropped a huge order on the floor then walked away as if nothing happened. That is exactly what they are trained to do, and you should do the same. Apologizing for a mistake only emphasizes it – most won't realize that you even made one.

8. Use effective pauses

Listen to your audience and follow their lead. Allow breaks for applause, laughter and natural responses. Never lead back in too early. They will feel as if they have been interrupted.

9. Make it about you, not me

Personalize the experience for those present. This is easily done by replacing me, myself and I with “you.”  Even a personal story resonates best when you ask: “How would you feel if...?”

10. Your final actions

When the end is near, ask for more. In any presentation, your task is to generate interest and, of course, push action. Asking your audience to take specific action creates results and builds your name.

Use these tips to enhance your speech writing, present your material professionally and deliver a powerful presentation. Make the most out of your executive speaking.

Your Turn:

What things have I missed? What would you add to these tips to make them even more powerful. Thoughts?

DeLores Pressley, Motivational Speaker and Personal Power Expert, is one of the most respected and sought-after experts on success, motivation, confidence and personal power. She is an international keynote speaker, author, life coach and the Founder of the Born Successful Institute and DeLores Pressley Worldwide. She helps individuals utilize personal power, increase confidence and live a life of significance. Her story has been touted in The Washington Post, Black Enterprise, First for Women, Essence, New York Daily News, Ebony and Marie Claire. She is a frequent media guest and has been interviewed on every major network: (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX) including America’s top rated shows; OPRAH and Entertainment Tonight.

She is the author of Oh Yes You Can, Clean Out the Closet of Your Life and Believe in the Power of You. To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email at info@delorespressley.com or visit her website at www.delorespressley.com.