I write this on the eve of U.S. President Barack Obama's first State of the Union Address.
Style, often over substance, goes a long way in politics. The way politicians present their positions can define the outcome of a campaign. Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and now Obama have moved audiences to action through their engaging oratory, wit, enthusiasm, confidence and assertiveness. They sell themselves vocally and visually, in an effort to project strength and believability to the public.
Similarly, business leaders often climb the ranks of their organizations because of their ability to present and sell their ideas. They are not always the most talented, most intelligent nor the most strategic. They do often exude confidence and energy. When they speak, they command attention - The audience listens, believes and responds.
My underlying message here is simple. I can't overemphasize the importance of quality presentation skills. If you consider yourself a poor public speaker, seek help. If you're currently a good public speaker, don't settle! Strive to be great. If you think you're a great public speaker, become powerful. Train every year if possible.
I know senior executives that go through our presentation programs and/or private counseling every year. They want to stay sharp. They want to improve and make a stronger impact. They want to succeed in our ever changing, more competitive and more demanding business environments.
Granted, an annual training regime is not in everybody's budget. So here are a few tips I guarantee will improve your presentations in the future:
- Practice, preparation is the backbone of confidence
- Pause. Silence structures your ideas and improves your memory
- Gesture and maintain eye contact with your audience
- Feel your words. Project a belief in your message
A little over five years ago, a State Senator from Illinois delivered a speech that changed the course of his life.