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Defining Story®
Speaking & Storytelling for Business Success




Speaking Tips for Leaders
by Sally Strackbein

According to Wikipedia, one definition of leadership is, "The ability to affect human behavior so as to accomplish a mission." The ability to speak effectively is crucial to getting humans to change their behavior. A key to effective speaking is to craft an effective message. Whether you are talking to one person or speaking to thousands, what you say matters.

Here are some speaking tips to help you craft your message.

1. Know your purpose

Why are you speaking? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want to happen as the result?

Do you want your listeners to do something? Do you want them to think differently? Do you want them to feel something? Be clear about your purpose. When you know your purpose, your message will emerge.

2. Articulate your point

Articulate your main message in a phrase or two. Cut communication clutter. People are busy. Don't waste their time.

Take a lesson from newspapers. Look at a front page story. The headline tells you exactly what the story is about. The first paragraph gives you the essence of the story. The details follow.

How much detail do you need to deliver? Does everyone really need every detail? Keep your message on point.

3. Tell a story

Think of an example that illustrates the point you want to make. Scientific studies show that stories help us understand and remember concepts and facts. Human brains expect information to be delivered in stories. That's why fables and stories have stood the test of time. Parents tell the story of "The Boy who Cried Wolf" when they want their children to learn the importance of not lying or playing tricks.

What story can you tell make your point memorable?

4. What's in it for them?

Why should anyone listen to you? What difference does your message make to them? When your message is relevant to them, they will pay attention.

5. Make your call to action positive

Almost any request can be phrased in either a positive or a negative way. The positive version is more likely to get the desired results. "Remember to buy milk" gets a better result than "Don't forget to buy milk." 

You can say, "Don't be late. If you are late, the truck will not get loaded on time; the fish will spoil; the customer will be angry and will buy from our competitor next time." Or you can say, "Please get here at 7:00 am so we can get the fish loaded on time. The customer will be happy the fish is fresh and will order from us again. Then we'll all keep our jobs and be eligible for a bonus."

Be positive when you ask for what you want. See what a difference it makes.

6. Choose your words wisely

How you state your main point is critical when you want your audience to remember what you said. Think of, "I have a dream," or "Ask not what your country can do for you…" or "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" The words you choose will make your message either dull or powerful.

Words matter. Choose them wisely.

7. Be an effective speaker

Use these tips. When you use these tips, you will craft a message that people want to hear. You will be more confident when you speak. As an effective communicator, you will be more likely to accomplish your goals.

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copyright © Sally Strackbein.

Permission is granted to reprint this article in your newsletter or magazine with the following byline and clickable link:

Sally Strackbein is a consultant, speaker and author.
To find out more about her programs and services,
or call 703-262-0361.


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