How to lead when you speak – 5 tips to present with real impact

As I travel around the country and indeed the world I see a fascinating phenomenon going on in our industry; public speaking and presenting.

Leaders at all levels are calling us in to teach their teams how to present more effectively in business meetings yet many of those doing the ‘sending’ are dreadful speakers themselves.

Imagine this, 10 senior managers sitting around the elegant veneer boardroom table all facing the floor to ceiling projector screen. Each executive takes it in turn to operate the laptop whilst seated at the end of the table literally reading slide after slide. At the end of each slide show the executive answers questions making eye contact only with the most senior person in the room.

Sound old fashioned or exaggerated?

We see it every week in some of the biggest and best brands in the world.

Whether they like it or not people make judgements about a leader’s effectiveness based on how they speak.

These 5 tips can help you to significantly improve the way you present and speak in public.

1) Stand Up

When you are standing and everyone else is sitting you own the room, and that’s your first priority as a presenter. Standing gives you the freedom and authority to move around, gesture and engage with energy and presence. It allows you to more easily make contact with everyone in the room, to touch and own the screen and to use your whole body to animate your message.

When you stand you allow yourself greater vocal variety and you reduce the likelihood of people doodling, checking their phones or even talking to each other because you have command of the room.

When our clients are used to presenting in an environment where everyone sits we sometimes experience a little resistance to suggesting they stand because, ‘it’s not how things are done’.

Your job as a speaker is to inspire change and disrupt the status quo so start as you mean to go on and stand up.

2) Call on TED

Great speakers always make it their business to study other great speakers and I know of no better resource to facilitate that than TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a global set of conferences where speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.

All of the talks are available to watch online.

That means that in the comfort of your own home or office you can study speakers to notice what techniques they are using, what works well for them and what works not so well. You get to see how they use body language, their voices and even visuals. It really is a hugely valuable resource available to all speakers.

3) See the future

When I was young manager just finding my way on the ‘corporate ladder’ my boss gave me some advice I haven’t forgotten 30 years on:

‘The only people who need to be motivated are those people who can’t see a future’.

I realised way back then what he was trying to tell me was that is exactly what great leaders do, they help people to see the future and if I wanted to lead I would have to make that my prime role.

Highly effective leaders don’t use statistics and data to communicate their message they use vision. They paint a clear and compelling picture of what the future could look like.

4) Tell stories

Storytelling is at the heart of leadership success, it’s the executives that connect stories to the vision that inspire the emotional connection that drives sustainable success.

The purpose of business stories is to connect and engage not entertain. Every story you tell needs to be relevant to the outcome you want and it needs to be true.

It could be a story of success, failure, or learning but it has to be told from the heart and relived so that you can help your audience experience it as though they were there. When you are prepared to be a little vulnerable and share some of the real you with your audience you will very quickly establish rapport and trust.

5) Use your voice

Your job as a speaker is to create in your listener what it is you feel as a speaker and by far the greatest tool you have to achieve that is your voice. Have you ever noticed that when most business presenters stand up to speak it’s like they suddenly become someone else?

Moments before you may have been speaking with a lively, engaging and charismatic colleague and now you’re listening to the ‘corporate robot’. If you want your team to get excited about something you need to sound excited yourself, if you want to express empathy, passion or even outrage the gift to do so is your very own voice.

Practice stretching and challenging your voice in private and when the time comes to speak remember how you feel about what you have to say and remind your voice too.

Communication is every leader’s great tool; whether it’s speaking at a conference, in a meeting or at the water cooler make it your priority to get really good at it, after all connecting is everything.

Maurice De Castro is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s best loved brands. Maurice believes that the route to success in any organisation lies squarely in its ability to really connect with people. That’s why he left the boardroom to create a business helping leaders to do exactly that. Learn more at

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