There are many traits that set eunterprenors apart. Few of the most commonly mentioned ones include personal characteristics like a hard-working and goal-oriented personality, interpersonal skills, critical and creative thinking abilities, practical skills and shrewd knowledge. However, there is another key skill that is essential for the long-term success and growth of a CEO: public speaking. While at first glance, the public speaking skills might not sound as important as the other traits mentioned above, it is command over this ability that that turns a good leader into an excellent one.
As a CEO, whenever you speak—whether it’s during a presentation, media interview, in a conference, or just an everyday conversation in the office—you are the focus of everyone’s attention.
Not only are public speaking skills necessary to improve your leadership ability, but they are also vital to the growth and success of your company. A variety of factors like making it easier to persuade and attract people, helping build better networks, & motivating your workforce make it essential for CEOs to be well-versed in the art of public speaking. Skeptical about how being able to deliver a speech is directly proportional to your business interests?
Well, we’re here to convince you.
Common Public Speaking Mistakes CEO’s Make
1. Overestimating Your Abilities
This is the most common error that CEOs make while public speaking. They overestimate their abilities on the stage and to command the public. This is because most people are hesitant to criticize them, so a majority of the feedback that they receive tends to be highly filtered i.e positive. Also, since most CEOs require a certain level of confidence in their own abilities to get to where they are, they tend to transfer their confidence in their business abilities to public speaking i.e they automatically assume that they’re good at it.
2. They’re Too Stiff
More often than not, the biggest hurdle that holds back CEOs or other business persons from becoming effective public speakers is their stiff mannerism. They tend to speak mechanically, tightly hold on to the podium without fully exploring the benefits of an open stage, and lose all their natural energy. They think, “All I need to do is speak right and it will be alright.”
However, that is not the case! As we’ve mentioned down in the article below, there are many elements to public speaking beyond merely speaking!
3. They Read The Speech Off Of Paper
This is another common habit that most CEOs have. Trust me: there’s nothing worse than a speaker who delivers an entire speech off of a paper, without even making eye-contact with the audience for one second. There might be many reasons for this, however, the most common one–and we will touch on this next–is that someone else is writing their speech for them.
We understand that CEOs are probably too busy running the entire business to write a speech. However, trust me when I say that dedicating just a few minutes to memorizing might take your speech from too-boring-to-handle to that-was-a-great-speech.
4. They Don’t Write Their Own Speech
In the fast-paced life of the 21st Century, nobody has enough time. Especially CEO’s–after all, running a company, especially a start-up, is no joke. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes every ounce of energy that you have. That’s why most CEOs generally hire other people to wite their speeches.
While this is a great way to preserve your time and energy, it’s quite the opposite when you want to make your speech more personal and resonate with the audience. Combine it with reading off of paper, and you’re setting yourself up for a lost opportunity!
5. They Don’t Try To Make Themselves Seem Relatable
Another common mistake that CEOs make while delivering speeches is that they don’t try to relate to the audience they’re delivering their speech to, and neither do they take any conscious steps to make themselves appear more relatable to the audience. Their speeches are too often comprised of boring statistics, and facts, figures and other data.
They don’t tell stories. They don’t interject jokes in their stories. They don’t attempt to slip in anecdotes, their own failures and achievements, the “real life” stuff in their speeches.
6 Reasons Why CEO’s Need to Be Better Speakers
1. It Makes You And Your Business Attractive
A majority of the most successful CEOs in the world are excellent–if not downright outstanding–public speakers. At the cost of sounding cliched (we can’t help it), let us take Steve Jobs, for instance. Jobs turned what were once boring corporate presentations into full-fledged events, an innovation that is now used by a majority of major companies.
However, a lesser-known fact about him is that he wasn’t really a natural-born public speaker. It was years and years of practice to get him where he was: the picture-boy of a suave, funny, and confident CEO flawlessly rendering a seemingly-impromptu speech on stage.
And his flair with words and the way in which he delivered them is exactly him so alluring to people, and why so many of them still remember him after his death.
As CEO, you are the face of your businesses, and most people will consider your business to be synonymous with you. That is, if people are allured and impressed by you, then most likely, their admiration towards you will get transmuted into attraction towards your business.
For instance, think of your most favorite subject in school or college and ask yourself why was it that you liked it so much? Most likely, how good your teacher was played an important role in determining whether you liked a particular subject or not. That is, over time your admiration for the teacher was transformed into admiration for the subject itself.
Similarly, if people find the way you speak attractive, they will come to associate your positive qualities with your business.
2. It Motivates Your Workforce
A confident and outspoken leader who can aptly articulate his thoughts is more likely to command the respect of his workforce than a leader who is withdrawn, reserved, and inarticulate.
Communication helps maintain transparency and improves mutual understanding. It also works to boost trust and helps builds a stronger relationship between you and your employees. Effective communication creates a workforce that is happier and more committed to the organization and is also motivated to work more.
This is because better communication increases the chances of building stronger and long-lasting relationships, which makes the employees feel personally connected to both; you and your company.
Just like the effective functioning of all the major and minor organs in the body is imperative to its normal functioning, the optimal operation of any organization is dependent on the effective functioning of its workforce. And the smooth functioning of a workforce is depended on its leader (i.e you) and what kind of relationship they choose to build with their employees.
And what is the building block of relationships?
3. It Makes It Easier To Persuade People
A key skill that’s required by all business leaders is the ability to persuade people.
Gone are the days when the seller was the god. The world market has taken a 180* turn: now it’s the consumer who pulls the strings.
With the product market teeming with tons and tons of choices, how do you convince a consumer that they should pick your product? That is, what makes your product or service better than the other product(s) or service(s) that the consumer can just as easily avail?
The answer: You and your persuasive skills.
You need to convince the buyer why your product or service is superior, or why they should switch to your service from another service that they’ve probably been using for longer than they can remember.
Both inside and outside the workplace, the power of persuasion can make it way easier for you to achieve your goals. And to become a better persuader you need to hone your public speaking skills.
4. It Attracts Attention & Opportunities
If you train yourself to become an excellent orator, then you open up new doors of opportunities for yourself.
This is because you increase your chances of being noticed by people–important people. It can be anyone. Say, if you’re someone who’s started a small publishing firm and have organized a workshop on the benefits of self-publishing with your firm.
If you’re someone who’s well-versed in public speaking and persuasion, then you’ll be able to convince more people to publish with you, which will ultimately help you make your start-up bigger.
Not only this, but if you’re excellent with words, you might also get the opportunity to showcase your skills on bigger platforms through invitations to talk shows, news channels, YouTube channels, Ted Talks, magazine interviews, etc. And if people are impressed by you during your interview/speech and your company continues to grow, you might get invited to even more of them!
5. It Makes You More Authentic
Authenticity is an important factor for the long-term success of any organization.
If you want people to stick with your company for long-term, it is imperative for them to be able to connect with you and to know that you are real and true to what you claim. And as in most people’s minds you and your company are synonymous with each other, how authentic you seem to them will determine how authentic your company will be considered by them.
People look for, look up to, and will follow an authentic leader i.e someone who does their job without compromising their values and personality. Leaders who are authentic participate fully and honestly in the workplace and organizations that encourage authentic behavior are more likely to have better engaged, satisfied and motivated employees.
Communication is a key factor to becoming a more authentic person and building trust between people. Unless and until you are able communicate your thoughts and feelings with other people aptly, you cannot say that you have a healthy alignment between internal values and beliefs and external behavior. Therefore, it is imperative to be a better communicator in order to become a better leader.
6. It Helps You Build Better Networks
Another key factor that makes is imperative for CEOs to be better public speakers is that it helps them improve the quality of their business networks.
Networking is vital not only for your own personal success in the corporate field, but also for the success for your company as a whole. It opens up doors to new opportunities, and helps you more fully realize the ones you already have. It also allows you access to opportunities that you might not otherwise have been aware of on your own.
It is especially important for small companies as your business network can also provide information on what potential employers look for and advice on how you can improve professionally. It helps you keep track of new business trends, improve your connections, as well as give insight on business leads.
Building strong networks doesn’t just happen in a moment. You need to invest time and effort into it. And if you want to build a better network, then you must know how to better present yourself publicly and to hone your public speaking skills. Remember that however we may frown down upon it, first impressions are the last(ing) impressions.
Next time you’re in a networking environment, you could do the following:
- Make mental notes of the projects your colleagues and clients are working on.
- Offer insight about your own projects and progress.
- Ask people intelligent questions and listen to their replies.
- While it’s important to be outspoken and assertive, make sure you know your boundaries.
- Work on your small talk by asking them about any progress they’ve made in their company, asking about what made them pick a particular business venture etc.
- Introduce yourself to as many people as possible.
- If you feel like you want to be a part of a conversation that’s happening, politely ask if you can join. Don’t force yourself in.
7. It Helps With Revenue Generation
Another key factor that public speaking helps with is revenue generation. A part of the reason is the factors listed above. However, another way in which public speaking increases your revenue is by opening up more channels of revenue generation. If you do a great job on the stage, then audience members might reach out to you & invite you to participate in joint ventures with them.
If your public speaking skills are truly out-of-the-box, then you might even end up with more offers than you can reasonably say yes to! Public speaking also helps better build brand awareness about your business. This will directly add to your business revenue.
It also offers you the chance to impress and hook in hundreds of people with a single presentation, encouraging them to give your brand a try. Also, most public speaking ventures pay you to speak to a hungry crowd. So, it’s easy on your ad budget too!
How To Improve Your Public Speaking as a CEO
1. Know What’s Actually Important
Most people mistakenly believe that public speaking is all about what you’re speaking. In reality, great public speaking is only 20% your speech, and 80% how you deliver it. Unless and until you master the how part of the equation, the audience is not really going to care for the what. Good delivery primarily involves engaging the audience, be it through maintaining eye contact, using correct voice modulation, maintaining proper body language etc. Etc.
If you feel your delivery isn’t as powerful as your ability with words, don’t worry. The good news is that speech delivery is something that you can learn to master over time through continued practice. In fact, we have an article on Body Language Guide To Public Speaking (The Do’s and Don’ts).
Check it out if you need more help!
2. Keep Practicing!
As with most other things in life, practice makes perfect. Especially if you’re someone who’s not comfortable speaking in front of a large crowd, it’s important to keep practicing your public speaking skills regularly so that you can improve both your confidence and better hone your abilities. The more you practice, the better you will become, which will help boost your confidence level. If your confidence level increases, as will your ability to speak in front of a large crowd. And as you grow even better, your confidence will blossom yet again…so on.
Fun Fact: Most of the big shot CEO’s practice their seemingly flawlessly rendered, impromptu public speeches dozens of times before actually delivering it.
So what’s stopping you?
3. Skip The Negativity And The Negatives
While it’s important to be disciplined in your approach to better your public speaking skills, it’s equally important not to be too hard on yourself. Remember that progress takes time, and that Rome wasn’t built in one day.
Another key factor to remember is to skip the negatives while you’re actually delivering your speech. That is, make sure your speech doesn’t contain any negative wording or phrases. Skip self-deprecating and apologetic comments. This makes for a negative experience for your audience.
4. What’s Your Objective?
How do you wish to specifically use the public speaking platform? Is your objectivee to connect with potential investors? Introduce potential consumers to your new product or service?
You need to get specific with your business goals in order to identify the right event organizers to target, and to structure your speech and the event itinerary. For example, if your goal is to connect with potential consumers, then it makes sense to pick a location that’s frequented by many people, like a mall. For more ‘business-oriented’ talks, a more professional setting like a business hall would be better.
5. Have Your Marketing Material In Hand
Another important tool to deliver a successful public speech is to have the material you’re going to be use to market your business in hand. This will help popularize and broaden the reach of your business among your consumers, and directly aid in the revenue bit mentioned earlier. To do this,
Marketing material can range from a variety of materials. This can include business cards, coupons, brochures, pamphlets, questionnaires, and free giveaways.
6. Stay Updated
It’s important to stay updated with new trends in your industry, and to share any new trends. This will ensure that your audience not only sees you as a great public speaker, but also trusts you to inform them of important information.
Another way of staying updated is by being innovative with your presentations. Don’t dole our the same old presentation and speech at every public event. You need to innovate and to keep experimenting with new stuff. It’s very important to keep your presentation new, engaging and fun, so find updates or new examples to add to it.
7. Actively Seek Out Speaking Opportunities
This is another great tip to keep in mind if you wish to improve your consumer base. You need to set time aside each month & seek potential speaking opportunities. This is especially important if your business is new and you’re looking to increase it’s influence and reach.
Once you deliver a few speeches, provided that they were remarkable ones, you will soon be invited to speak at various other events. However, success doesn’t happen overnight. It will take some time to get to a place where you don’t need to actively seek out opportunities to speak out in public. Be patient. Keep speaking. It will happen.
Handling Common Communication Scenarios as CEO
Communicating With New Employees
It is imperative for CEOs to maintain good communications with their employees. A great CEO understands that a company isn’t merely run by customers and profits. If you wish to maintain a greater level of productivity and motivation, it is imperative to foster a strong level of connection with your employees. Maintaining communication levels is even more important when it comes to new employees.
Helping new employees feel welcome can not only work to reduce their stress or any underlying adjustment issues, but it can also lead to them being more productive. One way of doing this is having g an open door policy. An open-door policy makes CEOs more accessible to their employees and makes them feel welcome in the organization.
You don’t need to keep the door literally open! You just need to ensure that the employees are aware that they can drop in anytime or reach out and arrange for an appointment to speak to you.
Another strategy is to regularly check in with them for the first couple of weeks. Actively seek them out at the end of their first day or week and enquire how they’re doing. A friendly conversation can go a long way in making someone feel like they’re a part of things!
Interacting With Customers
Gone are the days when it was considered the norm for CEOs to leave communication with customers to their employees. However, recent studies have shown that customers no longer accept a high-handed approach from company heads.
On the contrary, the image of the CEO is now synonymous with and majorly influences how customers feel about an organization. It is no longer viable for CEOs to be hidden from view; they must actively engage with their employees. As it’s not feasible to have a one-on-one conversation with all your customers, the best way of engaging with them is through the internet.
You can do so through your company page, using corporate videos, or by hosting live Q & A sessions. Also, social media is a great way of directly engaging with customers. Through various websites like Twitter, Instagram, and the like, it’s now possible for both; customers and company heads to directly seek out each other.
Interacting With Shareholders
Communicating with shareholders is focused on capital: capital is available to companies when investors are confident that the return on their investment is going to be greater than the perceived risk. By gleaning an understanding of investor motivation and fostering better relationships with the investment community, companies can maintain a better degree control over the capital formation process.
The best way of doing so is by staying transparent and communicating your business strategy clearly, frequently, and thoroughly. You must provide the shareholders’ company information in a relevant and timely manner.
You must also adopt a strategy of full disclosure. Incomplete disclosures can result in inconsistent messages, and in worst-case scenarios, might lead to shareholder suits.
Interacting With Board Members
The board of directors has influence over a business’s actions and directions. Therefore, it is imperative for the board of directors and the CEO to have a solid relationship. To foster stronger relations with your board members and to continue gaining their support, CEOs need to informally build relationships with board members outside of board meetings.
Not only this, but you must also seek out their counsel and input regarding the company outside professional settings, as this might help you glean new insights into any matter.
You must also communicate openly, regularly, and transparently with the board, maintaining a “no-surprise” policy. Another key factor to remember is that you must be open-minded and flexible, and be willing to consider and apply the board’s views.
Interacting With Senior Management
The management team of a company is directly responsible for its day-to-day operations and profitability. Thus, it becomes the CEO’s responsibility to foster better relations with and to maintain the smooth operation of the firm with the senior management’s assistance. Diversity and heterogeneity in teams can lend a positive effect on teamwork.
CEO plays a key role in enabling the team to foster communication, share information, maximize optimal work, set goals, manage any arising conflict, and solve problems collaboratively. The CEO must have a collectivistic orientation i.e he subordinates his or her personal interests to the group interests and goals, emphasizes sharing and cooperation within the team.
As a result of their individualistic views and strong opinions, senior management teams might sometimes face strife within the teams. It is therefore the CEO’s responsibility that the team works through these conflicts and that they keep the company’s overall vision and mission in mind.
Best CEO Speakers
Maria is hands-down one of the biggest and most prominent voices for gender equality in the corporate field, a place that’s traditionally considered a men’s corner.
She is also credited for founding the theory of “The Girl Effect” which aims to put girls on the global agenda and has the primary goal of eradicating global poverty.
What she did well: This is one of Maria’s most popular speeches, and for good reason. Her passion infuses the listener and makes them feel just as passionate about the subject. Passion is an integral ingredient for the successful delivery of a speech, and one that speakers often tend to overlook. It is what separates good speakers from great ones, and is also necessary to push your business to a level beyond.
Mark Zuckerberg is one of the selected minority on the planet that needs no introduction. However, what few people know is that he was a very shy kid, and his shyness never really went away even after he grew up. The Facebook founder went from being a student to the CEO of a multi billion-dollar company in the matter of just two years.
However, in the beginning, he struggled greatly with public speaking. He tripped over words, used fillers, and sometimes appeared visibly nervous as well. However, slowly, over time the improvement in his public speaking skills became evident. Bit by bit, he chipped away the anxiety that had marked his earlier speeches.
What he did well: The best thing that he did was hands down practicing and practicing and practicing his public speaking skills, and understanding that they were key to his success as a CEO. Over time, his speeches have become enlightening and engaging, besides being deeply insightful. His speeches also make him seem easily relatable, which is another key to the growth of both yourself as well as your company.
To conclude, public speaking is essential not only for your personal growth but also to expand your business. Excellent public speaking skills are what separates a good leader from a great one, and a great leader is what distinguishes an average business from an outstanding and longstanding one. Need even more reasons to convince you? Check out our article on 5 Ways Public Speaking Can Help You In Business!
Another remarkable speech by a well-known CEO was delivered by Sundar Pichari, the CEO of Google and Alphabet. Pichai was brought up in Chennai and studied engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology.
He is an excellent orator, and this speech saw participation from former US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, Korean pop group BTS, singers Beyoncé and even Lady Gaga!
What he did right: The commencement speech came at a crucial point in history, where many people are mourning not only the tangible losses brought by the pandemic but also the loss of an entire year of one’s life; the loss of experiences and memories that could’ve been made.
He takes care to addresses the shared loss, but he also makes sure that it’s not the focal point or the takeaway from the speech. Instead, he uses positive affirmations and ends the speech on a good instead of an unhappy note, which is very important for the audience to have a positive outlook on your speech.
Jeff Bezoz is another high-profile name that comes to mind when we’re speaking of excellent speaking skills. He’s delivered a multitude of amazing public speeches, like his commencement speech at Princeton University Class Of 2010, his stint at a Ted Talk, besides a multitude of interviews and public appearances.
What He Did Right: There are many details that he employs while speaking which make him an excellent public speaker. However, the main points are that he’s got a great body language, uses simple language, and also his unique way of using quotes to answer questions. This lends his speeches a personal touch, which the audience recognizes and relates to.
I know, I know. He’s not real (I’m sure we all wish he were, though). And after Avengers: Endgame, I’m sure we’re all Team Stark.
Even though he’s not a real life CEO, there are many things we can learn from him (besides the virtue of promoting world peace). There are a multitude of qualities which make him stand out as a great leader and an even greater public speaker. He’s delivered more awesome public speeches than I can mention here. However, our focus for today is his speech at the Stark Expo.
What he did right: Tony Stark has done many things right (and, for Team Captain America, an almost equably number of things wrong), but to focus on his speech, he hit almost all the main pointers mentioned in this article while delivering it. He entered with a bang (literally). His speech inspired the audience, which is just as important when you’re delivering a speech as a CEO as grabbing the audience’s attention.
His speech also centered on his father, Howard Stark, and the legacy he left behind. By emphasizing on the legacy of his company, he is trying to create an emotional resonance with his audience. Emotional resonance is another key factor that makes for a great and unforgettable speech.
And suffice to say that he managed to strike an emotional chord with us all.