Communication secrets of professional public speakers
Successful leadership and strong communication go hand in hand, you cannot have one without the other. The most successful business leaders of our time are also some of the most accomplished public speakers – that is no coincidence. Being able to convey your message clearly, concisely and in a way that motivates it a skill that needs honing like any other. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, even some of the world’s leading speakers have had to work hard to achieve and prefect their speaking prowess.
So what do world-class communicators do differently when it comes to public speaking?
1. Keep your message simple and concise
Remember this; nobody ever complains that a speech was too short. The best communicators keep their message brief, concise and on topic. They don’t try and address too many issues or even make too many points, but rather focus on sharing one critical idea clearly and simply. When preparing for your speech or presentation, ask yourself the following questions: What is the main point I want to communicate? How do I want people to feel when they leave this meeting? What is the one element I would like people to remember when the presentation is finished? Focus on those points and shed the excess baggage – you will deliver a much clearer message.
Read related articles in Business Review USA
- What should you look for in a mentor?
- 13 traits of successful businesswomen
- Six ways to conduct positive and proactive meetings
2. Connect with your audience
Story telling is one of the oldest forms of communication and has been uniting people for generations. Stories will engage your audience allowing you to connect with them on a far more personal level. When you tell someone a story, research suggests they are also more likely to get on board with your idea or agree with your point of view.
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has recently ignited a movement with her ‘Lean In’ campaign, encouraging women to go forth and conquer in the work environment. And the way she achieved this? Through story telling. Her leadership book, Lean In is packed with personal stories and encounters, and so too are her speeches. During one of her first presentations, she swapped cold hard facts for three personal anecdotes and inspired a crusade.
3. Show your passion for the topic
You cannot inspire others unless you inspire yourself and with that in mind, you need to have passion for the topic you are speaking about. You will stand a greater chance of engaging, inspiring and motivating your audience if you express a genuine connection to your subject matter. When you are preparing your presentation, think about what motivates you, what inspires you and what made you fall in love with your topic in the first place. You passion will shine through and that’s contagious.
4. Don’t rely on slides or presentations
Presentation slides can be useful but only if they have an actual purpose. Use them to show relevant imagery, graphs, charts or perhaps significant quotations. Don’t, what every you do, write your speech down sentence by sentence onto slides and present simply by scrolling from beginning to end. Presentation slides should add to the speech you are giving, not hamper its delivery or dilute its message. Instead, plan what it is you want to say and use visual cues to help explain what it is your want to communicate. What’s more, your delivery will be a lot more fluid if you are speaking from memory.
5. Stick to the 18 minute rule
TED Talks have revolutionized public speaking, giving the world’s top minds a platform to convey their message. TED talks have become the gold standard in public speaking, with more than two million people voluntarily listening to the presentations online every day. One of the things that makes TED talks so popular is their time frame – a strict 18 minutes – according to Carmine Gallo, writing for Forbes, “the ideal length of time to get your point across”. TED curator Chris Anderson provided an explanation for the 18 minute rule saying, “Its long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention.”
6. Practice, practice and practice some more
Practice makes perfect when it comes to giving a public address or presentation. Some of the greatest speakers of our time have admitted to relentlessly practicing speeches often up to 200 times so their key messages, the form and the structure are internalized. That way, when it comes to presenting for real, you know your speech inside out, you can deliver it without prompts and project it fluidly, as though speaking to a close friend or colleague.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.