While there are hundreds of definitions of leadership, most would agree that one of the important characteristics of a great leader is the ability to inspire others to change.
Unfortunately, some leaders seem to lose sight of that objective when they have the opportunity to speak to an audience. Here's some simple yet impactful presentation skills advice from frequent Great Leadership guest blogger Paul Thornton that will help a leader inspire their audience to take action.
Some leaders miss the mark when presenting their message for the following reasons:
1. Providing too much detail.
Big ideas are buried in the presentation. Effective leaders make their big ideas stand out. They remove the clutter. They eliminate the things of little value to their message. Impactful speakers make their message concise—as long as necessary, as short as possible.
Suzanne Bates, author of Speak Like a CEO, Secrets for Commanding Attention and Getting Results (McGraw Hill 2005) states, “Every speech, presentation, or communication needs one big idea. Without big ideas, you’re just another speaker. A big idea has a life of its own.” Suzanne makes the point that a big idea doesn’t require a two-hour speech. It’s big because of its power to change and transform people and organizations.
What’s your big idea?
2. Not identifying actionable steps for people to take.
The best leaders describe one or more actionable steps people can take. If people are left with no specific actions to take, guess what, they keep doing what they have always done. It’s business as usual.
It’s said that Abraham Lincoln often slipped out of the White House on Wednesday evenings to listen to the sermons of Dr. Finnes Gurley at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. After one sermon, an aide asked President Lincoln for his evaluation of the sermon. The President thoughtfully replied, “The content was excellent; he delivered with elegance; he obviously put work into the message.” “Then you thought it was an excellent sermon?” questioned the aide. “No,” Lincoln answered. “Dr. Gurley forgot the most important ingredient. He forgot to ask us to do something great.”
What actions do you want the audience to take?
3. Not convincing people to take action.
Impactful leaders make the sale. They present the facts, arguments, and emotional appeals that convince people to take action. They explain what’s in it for the audience and why it’s important to take action now. In some cases the leader needs to explain the negative consequences of not taking action. The most effective presenters deliver their message with great passion and conviction which helps seal the deal.
Have you convinced the audience?
The challenge for all leaders is to:
Make their big ideas crystal clear
Identify actionable steps
Convince people it’s the right thing to do
About the author:
Paul B. Thornton is an author, speaker, and trainer. He teaches management and leadership courses at several colleges. His latest book, Leadership - Off the Wall, highlights the guiding principles some well-known CEOs and presidents keep on their desks or post on their office walls.