I heard on the news that Oprah Winfrey’s school for girls in South Africa has an oratorium. Why? It’s because she feels that leaders and influencers need to have good speaking skills. Whether you’re speaking to 1 or 100, I couldn’t agree more.
Public speaking is one of the quickest ways to establish credibility as an entrepreneur. It’s also one of the biggest phobias most human beings have. So for the moment, let’s forget about giving a planned, formal presentation to an audience.
Public speaking encompasses many other opportunities to establish credibility. Think about it. We’re formulating opinions of fellow entrepreneurs every day, based on those experiences. When and where?
At committee meetings, volunteer groups, boards, public forums, with co-workers, with a boss, with customers, networking events, luncheons, trade shows, and informal meetings. (OK, you get my drift.) Just remember that a big part of an entrepreneur’s brand and image are influenced by how a person presents him/herself in each of those settings.
There are two different ways we make that impression. One way is through the choice of words and the delivery of a well thought-out position. The second, and more powerful influence is the speaker’s level of passion, conviction, and sincerity. To give you a great example of the power of conviction and passion, consider this excerpt from Tony Robbins’ The Power to Shape your Destiny. “When two people meet, if there’s rapport, if there’s a feeling of mutual respect and trust… if one person is more certain than the other, that person will eventually influence the other person’s feelings.” Pretty powerful stuff, if you think about it. By having a stronger sense of conviction, belief, and passion, you can persuade someone.
Because you must establish trust and rapport, of course there is the need for sincerity. Think of what happens when sincerity is NOT present. The minute someone starts bragging or arrogance creeps in, we tune out. We assume that in future dealings that person will be looking out for them self. Call me old-fashioned, but I know there are some powerful people out there who are humble and genuinely interested in the well being of others. So those are the type of people we should choose to surround ourselves with and rely on.
That said, as long as you’re sincere and have conviction I believe you’ll have more credibility and will be more persuasive than the passion-less person who might put together a more articulate argument.
Here are a few tips for being persuasive:
Tip #1: Be sincere, be genuine, and don’t worry about how you’re going to come across. (I think this also helps to relax us, making it even easier to formulate our thoughts.) As long as we speak from our hearts, we’ll be powerful.
Tip #2: If you’re fearful of speaking, start small. But do practice. Start with your introduction or “elevator speech”. Practice on coworkers, friends, significant other, kids or the dog. Anybody who will listen!
Tip #3: Be likeable. Smile, and let your passion shine through. Of course, you don’t want a silly grin on your face the whole time. But the idea is to make yourself approachable. You want to connect with your listeners.
Tip #4: Appreciate your listeners’ time and don’t drone on. There’s an old quote that says, “Be accurate! Be brief! And then be seated!” I can remember being at a networking meeting where everyone had 30 seconds for a quick introduction. Most took more than their share of time. What was fascinating is that I had several people come up to me afterwards, simply based on my brief introduction. They appreciated the fact that I kept it short, I sounded confident yet approachable, and I whet their appetite with just one tidbit of info that had them asking for more.
Tip #5: Believe it! I’ve seen people speak with so little conviction that I wondered if they truly believed what they were proposing. If you don’t believe it deep down in your heart, no one else will. Just remind yourself of the wonderful value you’re offering, and how much your listener needs the information you’re about to share.
I’ve covered just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being a more persuasive communicator. But even a modest improvement in each of the five areas above will result in a dramatic change in your results. Try it!