A great public speaker isn’t necessarily a great leader, but every exceptional leader I know is an exceptional public speaker. It makes sense, since you can only influence people to the extent that you can connect with them.
Over the years, I’ve witnessed literally hundreds of professionals become better speakers. Along the way, I’ve observed three distinct levels of effectiveness. They each have to do with how people relate to their audiences.
I’ve found myself in each of these camps at different times, How about you?
Level 1: Talking At Your Audience. This is where most of us start. My first foray into public speaking was a talk to my high school Young Life club. To this day I can’t tell you what occurred during those 13 minutes of my life. It was all about me, not screwing up, not forgetting anything. I’m sure there was an audience but I honestly didn’t notice them.
Level 2: Talking To Your Audience. Once a speaker gains some confidence, they begin to notice their audience and actually speak to them. Though it’s a step in the right direction, speakers in this stage still think of public speaking as one-directional. I think the vast majority of people settle down and get comfortable in this stage. Having escaped Level 1, they mistakenly believe they’ve arrived.
Level 3: Talking With Your Audience. The best speakers I’ve ever seen—the elite few—talk with their audiences. They don’t scan the crowd as they speak, they actually have a series of one-on-one conversations with individuals in the audience. Of course the audience members don’t respond with words (usually), but the great speakers are listening intently, picking up body language and reactions from people—enjoying and encouraging them. The measure of a Level 3 Public Speaker? How well do they listen while speaking?
What do you struggle with when speaking in front of others?