Rusty Divine

Live, Love, Learn, Teach

The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence

“The Leader's Guide to Speaking with presence: How to Project Confidence, Conviction, and Authority”, by John Baldoni.

The Big Idea:

There are a few guidelines when creating a speech or presentation that will help make it worth the audiences’ time to attend. Keeping these in mind while creating, revising, practicing, and delivering a presentation will make the most impact for the message.

This book also briefly discusses tips for improving leadership through communication, mediation, and active listening.

Book Notes:

This guide is very concise – many of the ideas are covered with just a paragraph or two and some of the leadership advice isn’t much more than some bullet points. I do appreciate brevity and was not disappointed because the advice is quite good and makes a great reference.

Tips on Speaking

John describes what it takes to deliver an effective presentation. Here are some highlights:

  • Structure speeches like a composition - with opening (attention grabber), pitch (make music worth listening to), rhythm (pace), pause (if you do nothing else in your next speech, pause), closing.
  • Know well what you are going to say and what's coming next and the context so that you can diverge from the memorized script.
  • "Metaphorical handshake" - make personal contact with audience by smiling, relaxing, being at ease. Acknowledge them before you launch and break the ice with a brief personal comment.
  • Make the audience feel welcome, as if you have invited them into your home and want them to enjoy the evening - they want you to succeed. It's good to think of it like your home; you own the stage and can help them have a good time.
  • Good posture is important for conveying what you are saying is important to you and that you want people to consider it. Practice breathing regularly.
  • Don't undercut your message with self-effacing quips about poor quality of your slides or audio. Lead the presentation through any difficulty by being able to describe the message.
    • Don't read your slides - just show the concept on the slide through a few words or pictures and fill in the rest with your speech.
  • An entertaining speech can be more memorable, especially if you can wrap your main message in a summary that is humorous.
    • A story is a very good vehicle for getting a message across, too.
  • Tailor your optimism so that you consider the possibility for set backs so that you rebound gracefully
  • Consider what you would want your audience to think or do after hearing your speech when revising it.
  • Restate questions so everyone can hear. Handle objections by acknowledging their merit and it's ok to say you don't know, but will deliver an answer later. Always tell the truth.

Tips on Leadership

John also has some advice for leading teams. Two pieces resonated with me:

  1. Develop your elevator speech for every single key issue, and
  2. Refrain from voicing your opinion first because it may color the opinions of your team.

The first reinforces something I’ve been considering as an app that I could make to help keep short bits of information at easy recall with mnemonic techniques, and the second as part of my effort to encourage more participation on the software development team I’m a member of.

Related Material:

In addition to this book, I also recommend:, How To Win Friends and Influence People, and JohnScott’s presentation and guides to technical speaking (also on Pluralsight).

Tools: impress.js, zoomit, onslyde, slideshare, animoto, archives

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