September 11, 2013 | 5 minutes

5 Public Speaking & Presentation Skills for Chief Executive Officers

presentations virtual officeAs Chief Executive Officer, you are expected to be able to deliver a good speech and to present well in a public setting. This is also true with virtual offices, where meetings and presentations will have to be delivered over the Internet. Fortunately, public speaking is something that can be practiced and improved upon, so you can be confident that you won’t mess things up for the whole organization. Even though a presentation or webinar via teleconference isn’t quite the same as doing one in person, many of the same skills and techniques apply. Here are five public speaking and presentation skills that CEOs should have:

Keeping Gestures Practical (and to a Minimum)

When giving a speech or presentation, it is natural to gesticulate or to use our hands to illustrate our concepts. That’s not a bad thing, but gestures need to be controlled and need to emphasize the point you are making. To do this, it’s best to practice the gestures as you practice your speech. Practicing your gestures means that you know when to gesture, and what gesture to make to emphasize your point, but also means that you know what to do with your hands when you aren’t gesturing. This also ensures the middle ground of gesturing at the right moments without them detracting from what you are saying. It should also be noted that the opposite shouldn’t be done either. Keeping your hands to your side the whole time, or putting them into your pockets (which is worse), only makes you look stiff and unprofessional as a speaker.

No Nervous Ticks!

Everyone gets nervous when they are speaking in public or giving a presentation, but it’s a skill to eliminate those ticks and to not let them get in the way of what you are presenting. Nervous ticks can mean a variety of things, from vocal pauses to tapping the podium, from clicking a pen to shuffling your body or touching your face/hair. It’s okay to be nervous, but you don’t want to be obvious about your nervousness with the audience. When practicing your speech, be mindful of these ticks and make an effort to stop doing them.

Thinking on Your Feet

As a CEO and a respected person in your field or industry, you’ll probably have to answer questions throughout or after your presentation. Although you can take some time to prepare for obvious questions, you do need to be able to think on your feet to answer the unusual or the tough questions. You don’t want to look unintelligent or unprepared when answering a question. Being able to think on your feet will also help you in the rare case that you forget a line or a point in your presentation. Instead of wasting time looking foolish and fishing for words, you can keep right on going without anyone in the audience noticing you made a mistake.

Own the Material

If you’re giving a long speech or presentation, then asking yourself to memorize the entire thing word-for-word is a lot to ask. However, you don’t want to spend the entire time reading off slides, note cards, or pieces of paper. Find the middle ground by owning the material. Know what you are doing to talk about during the speech i.e. the arguments you’re making, the examples, relevant statistics, points of emphasis etc. By owning the material, you’ll appear prepared and polished without losing the audience. By owning the material, you’ll also be able to look extemporaneous and be in the moment to deliver a great speech or presentation.

If you’re going to memorize anything word-for-word, it should be the introduction and the conclusion. Those two parts of the speech are crucial in building audience connection, so it’s the two times during the speech that you want to look audience members in the eye and deliver the message to them personally.

Be Yourself

You want to connect with your audience, and the best way to do that is to be yourself. This is even more critical in a virtual setting, where the audience may only be able to hear you and not see you. There’s no one way you have to appear or to communicate when you give a speech or presentation as a CEO. If you like to entertain people, then include a joke or two. If you’re not a showy person, then you don’t have crack jokes and be over-the-top during your speech. The point of the speech or a presentation is to communicate the ideas that need to be communicated in that event, whether it’s a toast or a sales pitch or a thank you speech. Think about that idea and think about communicating the idea the best you can, rather than who you think you need to be on stage or who you think your audience expects you to be.

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