Public Speaking Success is Intentional

As my colleagues and I work with leaders at all levels in organizations today, it is clear that leaders are called upon to articulate their ideas in formal presentations as part of their normal  responsibilities more than ever before. Whether that means presenting a client proposal, introducing a new initiative, guiding their department or project team, training their staff or influencing an audience of professional colleagues or community constituents, leaders speak to audiences regularly. Many of them, including me, weren’t born with a particularly natural eloquence and public speaking can be incredibly upsetting to even the most sophisticated subject matter expert!

Much of the success of my best presentations has come from a good deal of upfront work or preparation–what I do long before standing in front of any audience.  Here are 15 of my best tips to help you improve that critical leadership skill called public speaking.

1. Prioritize the key messages of your presentation. Don’t try to cover everything about your topic. Your presentations will be full of useful, inspirational, actionable content so incorporating handouts, slides and stories to condense a complex topic into a succinct, memorable presentation will serve you best. And always, always, be sure to end with a specific Call to Action for the group. Your unique Call to Action is what you want your audience to do differently because of what you’ve presented. That may be different for each audience and indeed; may be the toughest part of your presentation!

2. Design activities and time into your presentation to facilitate discussion rather than lecture to your team, your staff, and your audience. Participants often surprise us with energy, excitement, questions we hadn’t considered,  We may even be met with even silence which will require you to be flexible with your prepared remarks. Allowing time on your agenda for interaction is