Rhetoric for Senior Managers – How to Become a Great Public Speaker

Stuttering, sweaty palms, jitters and shakes – even for senior managers, public speaking can be intimidating. Rhetorical skills are a key competency for executives. Who wouldn’t want to be composed, confident in every situation, and capable of finding the right tone for every tough conversation? Rather than boring one’s employees to death with dry lectures, why not try sharing your vision, inspiring them to feel the same? If these are skills that you haven’t yet mastered, never fear – rhetoric and public speaking are strengths that you can learn. We’ve compiled this list of tips to help you sharpen your speaking skills. Improve your capacity for communication, and secure your next executive position!

Rhetoric for Senior Managers - How to Become a Great Public Speaker

1. Give your lecture a clear structure.

A good structure can make or break your presentation. Explorers headed out without a map or compass can only blame themselves when they find themselves lost and without direction. It’s the same when delivering a speech. No one will listen if your speech sounds like a meaningless rant. First, establish a good opening concept. Ask yourself what you’re trying to communicate in this presentation. All arguments, every anecdote and each quote that you include in your speech should support your core argument. Consider whether your story about meeting David Beckham at the local Whole Foods is totally relevant.

Before you get started, it’s important to give your audience a quick overview about yourself and the topic of your lecture. This way, everyone will know immediately why this presentation is so important. But don’t get overwhelmed with providing background – an interesting beginning, and a solid ending are the most important parts of your presentation. When the listener drifts off and starts mentally preparing their grocery list during the first few minutes of your presentation, it’s difficult to win them back.

Instead, try to start it off with a pinch of originality – throw out some questions and let the audience answer. Explain short and personal anecdotes that fit the topic, and ensure the sympathy of the audience. Show a quick film clip, or begin with a provocative statement that will start a little controversy. Originality is never a bad idea, as long as you don’t over do it – or begin rambling. So start off with an interesting “warm-up,” then get straight to the facts.

2. Formulate clear messages.

Before you prepare your lecture, you should take a few minutes and really consider the key messages that you want to convey to your audience. What are the central arguments? What is your position? What goals have you defined – and how do you get there? All theses and messages should be supported with powerful arguments.

The best presentation is worthless if it’s not based entirely on strong facts. To visualize your messages and make them more meaningful to the audience, you should provide an example, or a comparison to a competitor. This can also keep the presentation from getting too try. Short but sweet – that’s the main goal. Concentrate on finding just a few good examples, rather than listing an entire repertoire of references. With the right amount of determination, you can demonstrate your qualifications as a senior manager.

3. Convince them with your words.

Have you ever wondered why the word “visionary” carries such a positive connotation? Simple – a visionary is able to address his audience or his colleagues on an emotional level, to bring pictures to mind, and to create a new worlds, all within the imagination. Good speakers can do the same. But they don’t just discuss hypotheticals and imaginary worlds, they are able to convince with defensible arguments.

For example, they can connect the emotional and the logical perspective in one speech: they create a vision through originality and visualization, through stimulating examples and expressive language – and support these with hard facts and figures. Metaphors and allegories are fine and good, but market research has a lot more influence.

It is important to note several things in your language – express yourself clearly, and precisely. You will not sound more intelligent by speaking in a more complicated fashion – rather, it’s quite the opposite. To bring ideas to a point is an art, and surely the best option in a lecture.

Avoid endless run-on sentences, and passive formulations. Executives who want to convey confidence and poise should also refrain from use of expletives. Pay attention to how often you say “hmm, well, like,” and “um” while presenting, and think about how a more confident speaker would avoid phrases like these. Try to speak freely and openly. Nothing is worse for an audience than sitting through an endless PowerPoint, listening to the speaker drone on and on without passion.

4. Audience Interaction

The value of interaction between a presenter and the audience is often underestimated, and can be used very effectively. You don’t necessarily have to start a dialogue with the listeners – although it doesn’t hurt when you show interest in those attending. Don’t stare blankly into space as you speak, but rather, make a concentrated eye contact with everyone in the audience. Give your listeners the feeling that you feel as though each person has something valuable to contribute, that each opinion is valuable to you.

And don’t forget to ask for these opinions at some point throughout the speech. Maybe your audience has a few interesting notes worth mentioning, and can provide you with meaningful feedback. Stay calm, even when faced with critical questions, and answer respectfully. Take these situations as opportunities to demonstrate your poise.

Now you know how to properly handle your next lecture. We hope that you can prove your rhetorical skills soon, and earn a name for yourself as a gifted public speaker, among your colleagues and your supervisors. We wish you success!

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