Becoming a great leader takes some real initiative and confidence. But how you communicate with an audience—whether it’s your own team, potential or existing customers, or industry peers—can heavily impact just how well your message and ideas are received.
Using techniques such as body language, empathy and self-awareness can help you become a leader who is successful at getting others to see your vision and act accordingly. With your staff in particular, being a great speaker with strong communication skills can lead to increased productivity and great morale.
So how can an entrepreneur best acquire the necessary skills to effectively communicate with others? To help, six members of YEC Next share a few crucial communications habits that can make all the difference between an average speaker and someone who inspires. Here’s what they said:
Members discuss some communication habits worth remembering. Photos courtesy of the individual members.
1. Demanding Presence
The telltale sign of a great leader versus an average speaker is how a person keeps eye contact. It can be very intimidating to have direct eye contact with the audience when one is speaking, but the person who is able to pull it off, demands greater attention. When a person has such a demanding presence, they are distinguishable from an average speaker. A person who is looking at the clock, their shoes or even up at the air shows a sense of nervousness. Great leaders are very careful to not let their attention wander while speaking. Sometimes, just looking slightly above the audience does the trick, because the people in front think you are looking at the people behind them. As long as the attention of the speaker is focused on the people, he or she exhibits the qualities of a great leader. – Ajmal Saleem, Suprex Learning
A great speaker is a person who can convey to an audience that they are the most interesting person in the room. A great leader is one who inspires their audience to be and become the most interesting person that they know. We pride ourselves on self-awareness. Every great communication starts from knowing yourself, so you need to be aware of your inner self. The more aware you are about yourself, how others perceive you and how you take in the information the world offers you, the better you are able to connect. Having confidence and conviction in what you say translates into what you do, how you carry yourself and how you convey your message. The best way to be a great leader is to start with you, and believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in you, why should anyone else? – Jessica Baker, Aligned Signs
Posture and eye contact are paramount to being an effective speaker. You have to consider what the audience is seeing. Watching a speaker whose shoulders are slumped and whose eyes are directed at the floor is uninspiring and will damage the event at hand. When speaking, you want to command respect and hold the attention of your audience. Hold yourself upright and look at those to whom you’re speaking. It is not a big deal if you look at notes every once in a while; your audience is expecting to listen to a fellow human. That said, you need to do enough to make them feel present and engaged. The best way to develop this skill is to practice. Work with friends or family, and be open to failing for a time. Public speaking skills don’t come easy. It takes persistence. – Bryan Driscoll, Think Big Marketing, LLC
Great leaders are experts in their verticals, whether it’s Steve Jobs in tech or Anthony Williams in health. The moment a speaker can’t communicate an expert opinion is the moment all attention is diluted and lost. When speaking, great leaders are not cocky about their expertise; rather, they share with empathy, always putting the audience’s emotions and understanding before their own opinions. If they are concerned, then share that concern; if they are excited, then share that excitement. It takes practice, but it helps you target the exact thoughts and emotions they are feeling, which allows you to speak in a personal manner—something much better than just a generalized manner. And always be as transparent as possible: If you don’t know an answer to a question, be honest about that. – Ron Lieback, ContentMender
5. Eye Contact
People underestimate the power of eye contact. When you look into someone’s eyes, you communicate your interest in what they have to say. Even if you are the one speaking, you show your attention to the conversation through eye contact. Establishing that connection is crucial for leaders. Practice with a close friend and ask them to give you feedback about how your communication made them feel. – Kyle Wiggins, Keteka
An excellent storyteller makes a fantastic speaker, engages an audience, and is thereby seen as a leader. The best way to develop this skill is to find your story for your particular audience. What is your unique story? What is relatable? What is interesting? What are you trying to convey? What is your why? Find your story. Create your story. And practice practice practice. You might have a great story and be terrified of speaking. Or you may be a great speaker but you’re not sure what story to share. There are many factors at play here. You can hire an expert to help you determine your story, develop your speech, body language, posture, and delivery. – Angela Delmedico, Elev8 Consulting Group