Get 'Wow' Instead of 'Wah, Wah, Wah'


Enhance your communication skills to effectively deliver your message. By Sheri Staak presenter talking with other business peopleEffective communication is not always a given—it’s a skill set that can be learned, enhanced, and shared with those you lead. Transparent, fair, and reciprocal communication is vital to the success of any team. If you are a "wow" leader, as I like to call exemplary leaders, set the example by being a positive, clear communicator who encourages the same from others.

Presentation skills, public speaking, executive presence, or platform skills (no matter what you call it), a "wow" leader needs to be good in front of people. To inspire others to rise up and go the extra mile, the clarity, passion, and sincerity of your words must be properly communicated. If you deliver a lackluster, insincere, or rambling message to your team or audience, what they’ll hear will be little more than what Charlie Brown and his friends hear when the grownups speak: “Wah, wah, wah.”

To develop and maintain exemplary platform communication skills, you must work at it. You must resolve to wow by identifying what may be tripping you up at the podium or in the boardroom. Try some of these techniques:

1. Prepare. Make a checklist before a meeting, presentation, or speaking engagement. What is your objective? What is your point? What are the key messages you want people to walk away with? Also keep in mind factors like the setting, how much time you have, and audience expectations. Write out a rough draft or agenda that includes your main points and several examples. Also allow time for questions, if appropriate, to reinforce that your message was clearly conveyed. The point is to do your homework before you begin speaking.

2. Read your audience. You’ll need to adjust your tone, pace, style, and even the message depending on the venue and the audience. If you’re speaking to an intimate group of close, familiar co-workers, you can be more informal and direct, but if you’re presenting to a large, mixed group of colleagues, you may need to be more formal and careful with your words. If you’re giving the same speech to several different audiences, ask yourself how they are different, and adjust as needed.

3. Rehearse. Go over what you’re going to say before you say it. Get in front of a mirror or enlist your trusted advisers or inner circle to listen to a run-through. Better yet, make a “selfie” video of your presentation, then play it back to see how you did. Practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, but it will help you stay organized, tighten up any weak spots and, in general, strengthen your confidence and overall performance.

4. Seek feedback. It’s not always easy to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses. To get the best picture of your true skills, seek feedback from someone who will tell you the truth and provide you with honest input. Chances are, people at the top of their game in terms of executive presence did not start out at the top; they had to work at it and build up to it.

To be a WOW leader, you must have an acceptable level of communication skills, not only one on one, but also when you're in front of the whole team. Your job is to inspire, motivate, and communicate effectively so you can lead effectively. Those to whom you present your ideas, directives, and visions are the same people you depend on to step up and push through barriers and challenges.

To get the results you seek, you must deliver a "wow" message in a "wow" way. Improving your presentation skills is an investment in yourself, your people, and the common goals and successes you all endeavor to achieve.

Sheri Staak's broad range of experience in both the small business and corporate workplace has provided her with a wealth of knowledge that she shares regularly in her blog, The STAAK Report. She is the author of the new book, Tune in to WOW Leadership: 10 Lessons Learned From America's Favorite Shows. CUES' flagship CEO Institute program helps develop top-notch leaders with three week-long segments. Also read "NextGen Know-How: 6 Strategies for Becoming a Persuasive Speaker."

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