September 11th, 2014

Presentation Skills And The Effective Leader

5th In A Series: Lessons On Executive Leadership Styles And Behaviors.

guidoDid you know that the fear of public speaking is consistently ranked the top phobia in America? The fear of death comes in at number two.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld made an insightful and humorous observation based on these survey responses: “That means to the average person if you have to be at a funeral, you would rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

As someone who enjoys giving speeches, I never cease to be intrigued and amused by these findings. Jerry Seinfeld’s joke aside, the fear of public speaking is no laughing matter. Glossophobia, the clinical term for speech anxiety, can range from slight nervousness (what most of us experience) to mind bending, paralyzing panic.

The fear of public speaking prevents many people from achieving their full potential. This should be of particular concern for those aspiring to positions of  leadership, and doubly so for those who have already reached the leadership ranks yet suffer from speech anxiety, even in its mildest form.

‘At its core, leadership is about inspiring others. That’s fairly hard to do without effective communication skills…including the ability to give formal and informal speeches with confidence.’

Like strategic planning, diplomacy, and relationship building skills, just to name a few, an aptitude for public speaking is among the key talents necessary for effective leadership. For most organizations — especially those that are stakeholder and client centric — it is a basic requirement for any associate in a leadership position. Leadership team members who possess this coveted competency prove to be invaluable assets to their organization and industry, particularly those seeking to gain greater awareness, understanding, and support in the broader community for their cause or mission.

At its core, leadership is about inspiring others. That’s fairly hard to do without effective communication skills. Building influence with people requires a special skill set, including the ability to give formal and informal speeches with confidence.

‘Leadership team members who possess this coveted competency prove to be invaluable assets to their organization and industry, particularly those seeking to gain greater awareness, understanding, and support in the broader community for their cause or mission.’

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available to those wishing to improve their public speaking abilities. According to Wikipedia, self-help materials that address public speaking are among the best-selling self-help topics. And organizations like Toastmasters International offer training courses in public speaking designed to help reduce speech anxiety to manageable levels.

According to Natalie Sisson, a business consultant specializing in online tools, social media and outsourcing, “Every great speaker started out as a poor one. What made them a success was their willingness to take a chance, try again, and view every opportunity as a learning experience to becoming great.”

coffeeSisson, a contributor to Forbes, provides tips on public speaking and reducing speech anxiety in Five Reasons Why The Fear Of Public Speaking Is Good For You. (See link under “Sources for this post” below.)

“There are many benefits of public speaking as it’s a great way to gain exposure, self-confidence, and success,” says Sisson.

So don’t fret over a few butterflies in your stomach. Nervousness or anxiety in certain situations is normal, and public speaking is no exception. Don’t let the fear of public speaking prevent you from reaching your true potential.

From Organization Systems International*

Polaris Competency Model

Presentation Skills

Definition

Effective performers are able to organize and deliver public speeches that effectively inform or persuade audiences. They are adept at using current presentation technologies and media formats. They are able to comfortably and confidently field audience questions.

Effective performers…

  • present effectively to groups.
  • give formal and informal speeches with confidence.
  • show skill with presentation technologies.
  • persuade and inform audiences.
  • effectively field audience questions.

Tips for the current/aspiring ELT Member

  • Weigh content against image. Are you presenting or pontificating?
  • Practice, practice, practice!
  • Do your homework. Organize your materials, know your audience.

When evaluating performance, to what extent does this ELT member…

  • deliver an effective formal presentation?
  • make effective spontaneous presentations without time to prepare — think on their feet?

*Organization Systems International (OSI) is a San Diego based, global consultancy providing “talent solutions” in Leadership and Management to an international clientele. The company’s services include competency modeling, executive coaching, and competency based interviewing, just to name a few.

OSI’s Polaris Competency Model has been incorporated into this series on executive leadership styles and behaviors to illustrate core competencies ideally found among the members of highly functional leadership teams. The model, based on the disciplines of organizational psychology and organizational development, provides a mix of science and art for evaluating executive level talent. It is often used in the hiring and promotion process, as well as in executive succession planningTo learn more about OSI, click here.

Look for the next installment in this series on executive leadership styles and behaviors: Conflict Management And The Effective Leader.

Sources for this post:

Bates, Susan, Secrets Of Successful CEO’s Who Speak Well, Monster.com, April 30, 2014.

Ni, Preston, 5 Tips To Reduce The Fear Of Public Speaking, Psychology Today, November 6, 2013.

Goleman, Daniel, Primal Leadership: Harvard Business Review Press, 2013. 

booklook2Alford, Henry, Joining Toastmasters To Overcome A Fear Of Public Speaking, The New York Times, December 24, 2013.

Benton, D.A., Lions Don’t Need To Roar, Warner Books, 1992

Sisson, Natalie, Five Reasons Why The Fear Of Public Speaking Is Great For You, Forbes, October 9, 2012.

Previous posts in this series: 

Writing Skills And The Effective Leader

Positivity And The Effective Leader

Relationship Building And The Effective Leader

Leadership Team Key To Optimizing Organizational Performance

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