The speeches you give as a leader should reflect and promote your leadership style and objectives.
Leadership speeches build on the four principles of great speaking as set forth by Demosthenes, the father of Greek oratory. (My book, Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint, is divided into four sections which develop these ideas in greater depth).
1. A Great Person
You don’t have to be president of the United States or even president of your own company. You do, however, have to be the best, most authentic you you can be. Everything about who you are — your character and reputation, your personality and style, your values and even your sense of humor — shapes the message your audience hears when you speak. Don’t hide off to the side of the stage in semi-darkness, hoping people will ignore you and look at your PowerPoint slides instead. Position yourself in such a way that you demand people’s attention. Speak from your experience without necessarily speaking about yourself. Tell your own story in such a way that it illustrates your audience’s experience and aspirations.
2. A Noteworthy Event
The event — the time and place, the room set up, the schedule, the audience, the occasion and its purpose — can either support and reinforce your message or sabotage it. So pay attention to every detail. Say no to invitations to speak at events that would reflect poorly on you or your organization. Don’t simply accept what’s being planned. As a leader you have the power and responsibility to make not just your speech, but the event a success.
3. A Compelling Idea
Content is king. When you’re finished speaking you don’t want people remembering or commenting on your delivery, your style, or — worse — your PowerPoint slides. You want them thinking about and discussing your ideas. A compelling idea is made up of three components:
Big Idea: Present one — and only one — big idea per speech. Make it clear, bold, and engaging.
Clear Structure: Build your speech on a strong outline, tying the pieces together in a simple, logical way. Remember — if you confuse people, they’ll stop listen to you and they’ll never do what you ask of them.
Telling Words: Build your speech around nouns and active verbs. When given the choice between longer, more impressive-sounding words and shorter, more concrete ones, choose the latter.
4. A Masterful Delivery
Delivery involves using your body and your voice to communicate your message. It’s not just technique. It’s about projecting your authentic self as powerfully as possible. Aim always to use your natural voice and gestures — only be bigger and louder.
You may be a leader or an aspiring leader. You may or may not have the title and position. But you can still use the principles that leaders use when they speak in order to influence and inspire your audiences.
If you’d like help developing leadership speeches, consider working with Chris Witt, an executive speech coach based in San Diego.