In the wake of the 2012 election in the United States, the nation and the world watched as President Obama gave his acceptance speech. He’s good. He’s an effective speaker. When he finished speaking, I googled “top public speakers throughout history.” Barack Obama makes the cut. Some of the other names that appeared frequently were Malcolm X, Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. Martin Luther King Jr. was number one on every list that I saw.
What makes a speaker effective? Part of what we notice about gifted speakers is the speech itself – the writing. Who doesn’t remember such famous words as “I have a dream” and “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Yes, good speech writing creates lasting memories…and…perhaps more important is how a person speaks. Take a moment to imagine Richard Nixon delivering the “I have a dream” speech… It’s not nearly as effective as Martin Luther King Jr., is it?
Why is it important as a Leader to be an effective speaker? It’s important because your voice is one of the main ways to enroll others in your cause. The good news is that every leader has the capacity within them for charismatic speaking in any situation.
While our culture is trained to focus on the action and the doing, a person’s Vocal Presence, their charisma, is about “who they be” as they speak. How a person shows up to their speech is the human being showing up to the human doing.
You may be thinking “that’s all well and good, and yet how do you do that in practice?” Unleashing our inherent, authentic charisma while we speak is not as difficult as it may sound.
- Connect in the moment to your life purpose. You were probably connected to it when you agreed to speak. As you step up to speak, ask yourself “what is the relationship between this opportunity to speak and my life purpose? What values am I honoring by getting up in front of people in this way?”
- Release your Soul Suckers™ (a form of inner critic) from the responsibility of being in charge and hand the reigns over to and connect to your authentic self instead. When we speak we are out on a limb and our Soul Suckers often try to take charge and anticipate and control everything. “What will I do with my hands? How should I say this? What if they don’t like me? What if I’m boring?” No amount of planning what you will do with your hands or focus on being liked results in charisma. In addition to connecting to your life purpose while releasing your Soul Suckers, try breathing more deeply than you are used to and wiggling your toes in your shoes to become present in your body.
- Connect in the moment (truly, madly and deeply) with the people in your audience. Try making and maintaining eye contact with one person at a time while holding space for and allowing the rest of the crowd to witness. Listen to the space while you are speaking and look for the non-verbal realization of your life purpose in the crowd.
Remember, every Leader has the capacity for charismatic speaking in any situation. And, every person is an emerging Leader. I have seen the transformation happen before my very eyes in my Vocal Presence Path™ work – often before an audience in workshops. The path to unleashing the charismatic speaker within is about removing the obstacles to the inherent charisma, not about reaching to become something other than ourselves. The voice is an expression of your soul – if you let it be.
*An earlier version of this post was originally created for the CTI Transforum Blog in 2012.