THE BLOG
03/20/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Speak Like a Leader

Giving a speech is an opportunity for you to get an audience to see their world differently. It's your chance to influence the way they think and get them to take action. These points are designed to help you be a more powerful and confident speaker.

1. Take a stand.

Make a provocative statement or ask challenging questions. Get their attention by presenting a strong point of view, thoughtful analysis, perspective and judgment. If it's the same old, same old they've heard before you'll lose them and never get them back. Don't waste their time by telling them how happy you are to be in Cleveland or saying something nice about the person who introduced you. Nobody cares.

2. Make it clear why this is in their interest to listen.

You must understand what they care about. What are their needs, fears, dreams and desires? How do you want your audience to think, feel or react? What action would you like them to take as a result of what you are telling them?

3. Be interesting.

A friend of ours is a minister and she came to me for advice on how she could improve her sermons. She thought about peppering her homilies with jokes. I reminded her that she's not a comedian and her flock does not come to church to be entertained. They are looking for meaning. Jokes are great if you're really funny. More than likely, you're not. Stick to what you know and what's important to them.

4. Tell meaningful stories and evoke real feelings.

Stories connect to our imagination. The audience can envision what you are talking about. The image the story lasts far longer than the words that they heard. Even better is emotionally moving your audience, getting them to feel in their hearts what your message is about. Do you remember how you felt the night Barack Obama was elected president? I don't recall a word he said to the crowd in Chicago, but I'll never forget the feeling I had.

5. Keep it short.

The Gettysburg Address is only 256 words. I'm not saying that your speech should be that brief but much longer than 20 minutes and you might start losing your crowd.

6. Don't read your speech word for word.

And don't try to memorize it either. Instead, be conversational with your audience. If you need three-by-five cards to remind you of the salient points, fine, but talk to them and don't lecture. Don't wing it. Practice it. A lot. Good preparation will go a long way in reducing your anxiety.

7. To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint.

If your presentation is informational, PowerPoint might be helpful. But if your speech is visionary, if you're trying to walk your audience through your idea of the future, then don't use PowerPoint. It will just be a distraction. If you are using PowerPoint, keep it tight.