Top 6 Public Speaking Skills Everyone in Leadership Must Master

Since the Ancient Greeks, oratory, public speaking, and debates, have shown the power of the spoken word to influence and make an impact.

Not everyone wants to be a Professional Speaker, but everyone can become more professional when speaking to an audience.

Public Speaking and Leadership

Effective communication is a vital skill that every successful leader must possess. Leaders can inspire, influence, and direct their teams to achieve organizational goals through communication.

Whether it is the company kickoff, a team meeting, or presenting to the board, leadership requires confident and effective public speaking skills. 

Leadership requires courage and so regardless of your level of comfort with public speaking, this is a pill you will have to learn to swallow if want to be successful. Having been a professional speaker for nearly 25 years and coached hundreds of people to speak with confidence and gravitas, this blog is designed to sugar-coat that pill. 

It Starts with Listening

Every great speech starts with listening to the audience. What are their challenges? What are their needs, wants, and beliefs?

By listening the leader can empathize with where the audience is physically and emotionally, and then transport them with their message to a future state. 

"People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care"

This quote from President Theodore Roosevelt beautifully sums up the importance of listening to emphasize. When people feel listened to they are much more likely to trust you. 


Prior planning prevents poor performance is a maxim that every speaker should adopt. Nobody should speak 'off the cuff' unless they have a deep understanding of the topic and their audience, and even then preparation is essential. After reflecting on or researching what you want to say, prepare your speech into a beginning, middle, and end.

  • The beginning establishes that the speaker understands the challenges and opportunities that the audience is facing. This can be achieved through a personal story or surprising facts.
  • The middle explores the options that the audience has in terms of how they might think, feel, or act differently. You might do this with a diagram, or model, or by sharing a new perspective.
  • The end is a call to action. With new facts, perspectives, and insights, what does the leader want the audience to take away and execute? Because, if the speaker doesn't tell them, nothing will change.

Preparation enables the leader to articulate their thoughts and ideas clearly, concisely, and effectively. Clarity is essential when presenting strategies, goals, or expectations so that everyone quickly understands.


I remember giving my first TEDx speech in 2016. At that time I had been a Global Professional Speaker for 17 years, but with the 18-minute format, I prepared and rehearsed over and over until I was completely comfortable with the message, the pauses, and my gestures.

Most leaders are time-poor, and I know many who have somebody else prepare a slide deck, but practicing is still important.

  • Practice identifying the key message for each slide. That's right, just one message per slide. 
  • Practice finding a story or analogy that will illustrate your point rather than reading off the slide.
  • Practice visualizing the audience and connecting with them


We have all sat through a mind-numbing presentation and thought, "that was an hour of my life I am never getting back". In contrast, when the speaker is passionate about their message or topic, we can be carried along and time goes by in a flash.

Leaders, regardless of their specialty, must get in touch with their passion for the topic they are speaking about. It's worth noting that passion can also come from a strong desire for change. Uber was not created by two guys who were passionate about transportation, it was created when the founders were frustrated that they couldn't get a taxi and thought, "there has to be a better way!".

When I am coaching leaders to speak in public, I often ask what will happen if you don't give this speech, or worse, what will happen if you give this speech and nobody understands the importance of what you are saying? Now, how does that make you feel? Right, inject that feeling into what you are talking about.


A bad message delivered with confidence is more persuasive than a good message delivered timidly. Listening, preparation, practice, and passion, should build the leader's confidence to stand on stage with executive presence, and deliver.

If confidence is still lacking then some coaching on executive presence is a must to prevent the leader from losing credibility.


Leaders tend to get good at broadcasting, and the tips shared here will enhance that but what makes a good speech a great speech is when it becomes a conversation with the audience.

By asking real or rhetorical questions, the speaker will engage the audience and create buy-in for the message.

Knowing that the end goal is to master conversation rather than speaking - then listening, preparation, practice, passion, and confidence are transformed.


Not every leader needs to be a Steve Jobs at a product launch but there is a lesson to be taken from his preparation and passion for the product.  With the right intention and practice leaders can master public speaking and become more confident and competent communicators. With the right combination of knowledge, preparation, and passion, a leader can become an inspiring and motivating speaker that will be remembered for years.

With my experience as a Professional Speaker and Leadership Coach, I have been engaged by companies such as Microsoft, Red Hat, and BASF to develop their leader's ability to speak with impact. Contact me if this is something you need help with.





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