Online Public Speaking

Training & Practice

Business - Part 3 of 4

When you ARE the leader, BE the leader

We once heard General Norman Schwarzkopf speak. He was a strong presenter, as one might expect. He made one point in particular that we’ll share with you now.

General Schwarzkopf said “When put in a position of leadership, lead.” He went on to explain that people who are supposed to lead often don’t. If your job is to lead, then do it.

This applies to public speaking. If you are in front of a group of people, lead the presentation. You have been given “the room”, so act like you deserve it. Practice and preparation will help you do this well over time, of course. But you should also consciously remind yourself to stay in control of the room.

For example, in some situations where there is interaction with the audience, one audience member may decide it’s his right to keep asking questions or to try and control the subject. You may have sent them this message by being too relaxed about questions, or by not being prepared with your information. Regardless of what got their engines going, a skilled presenter will be aware when someone is trying to take the floor from them for whatever reason and maintain control.

Here’s one great method to control the agitator. Tell him “You have a lot of great questions/comments. I’m going to give you some time after we’re done here for your questions.” You might really be thinking “You are a pain in the butt. I want you to be quiet now. I am establishing authority over this presentation by putting you in your place. People will respect me for that and pay attention to me instead of you.” Or, you might actually mean it (especially if you’re being genuine) when you say that they have great comments or questions. In either event, your job is to hold the floor. And by the way, try to never sound threatened about giving up the floor to the person. If the speaker becomes defensive and says “You’re really interrupting my meeting”, people will think the presenter lacks authority and control.

There are a lot of ways to keep an audience in line. One highly skilled motivational coach even tells his audience members when it’s time to stand up or sit down – a lot. He’ll say abruptly “Stand up!” Minutes later, he’ll say “Ok, sit down!” He says it again and again to train the audience to listen to him.  This in turn keeps him in control of the outcome, helps hold the audience’s attention, and keeps anyone from making any mistakes about who is charge.

Wow them and pay special attention to being a visionary

Business is almost always about painting a picture of a better future: Selling more products, gaining more customers, growing, gaining more market share, and so on. When you’re writing your next presentation use some extra “vision” if you can.

You should also look at every presentation as a way to grow your own “stock”. Spend extra time trying to come up with information, words, or ideas that will impress the audience.  Think of it as creating a fan base: you want people to want you to come back and talk to them over and over again.  You do not want to be the person they dread coming to hear.

This might sound obvious, right? It’s not in the business world. Business meetings are often led by people who seem bored and are just going through the motions.

Beware the “numbers” and use props wisely

Business meetings are often used to disseminate information to employees or as a means to interact with clients. But let’s face it, presentations full of numbers can become very  boring unless they’re the bonus figures for the last quarter. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes!  

As you write your presentation, balance providing information with sufficient details. 

Also, use props wisely. There’s nothing worse than looking at another pie chart. But it’s also very annoying to have someone trying to describe something to a room full of people for ten minutes that would only take 3 seconds to understand if they could just see a picture of it. If you’re not sure about using a prop, ask someone at work to give you an outside opinion.  Most businesses have specific elements that apply only to those enterprises, but saying something with a picture instead of a thousand words is appealing to everyone.