Leading when you speak

Last week I talked about “that dirty ‘M’ word” (micromanagement) and the fact that we’re all leaders and need to acknowledge our accountability, and the responsibilities our colleagues have that impact that.

Today I want to go further and talk about one way we can assert ourselves as leaders:

In the way we speak.

I just finished reading “Speaking As a Leader” by Judith Humphrey. My dad (an amazing speaker!) lent it to me. It’s all about how no matter where you are – an elevator, an informal meeting, writing an email, presenting formally, etc. – or who you are (junior, experienced, CEO) – you can present yourself as a leader.

How? It’s about the way you speak. And I don’t mean the words you use or the voice you have (although the book touches on that, too), but the way you share your message.

It uses a simple approach. And I’ll summarize it here:

Introduction: Grabber, Subject, Message, Structure
Body
Conclusion: Restated Message, Call to Action

This approach is scalable, in that it can expand or contract depending on how much time you have, or what kind of format you’re speaking in.

Even in the week since I finished it, it’s been a game-changer. I used it immediately last week in a presentation I shared at an AFP Workshop in Toronto on the combined power of marketing and fundraising.

I don’t want to steal Judith Humphrey’s intellectual property – and I could never do the book justice – but in short it’s about grabbing your audience with something inspiring, powerful, personal, relevant, etc., stating your subject (what are you here to speak about?), stating your message (what’s your argument in regards to the subject?), and then explaining to the audience how you’re going to support that argument (the structure).

I can’t stress the importance of structure enough. You’ve been there: at a presentation and you may be genuinely interested, but you’re a bit bored or tired or distracted and struggling to pay attention.

As a presenter – or a leader – we need to help our audience follow along. We need to say: here’s my point, and here are the three ways I’m going to prove it to you.

They don’t talk about this in the book, but my dad expanded on this part for me; keep going back to that structure. Say, “So now I’m done with my first point, X, and now I’m going to share my second point, Y.” This does a lot to keep people engaged, and when you’re truly leading, it will hammer your points home.

The body of the presentation/talk/phone call/etc. is self-explanatory.

The conclusion is all about bringing people back to the message by restating it. But restating it isn’t enough; what do you want people to do? Finish with direction, action, a rallying cry!

It’s just like donors. Inspire them? Yes. But don’t leave them hanging. Inspire them to act.

I hope this helps you organize your next presentation, meeting, or whatever it might be. Approach it this way and you’ll be doing more than speaking; you’ll be leading.

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Written by Maeve Strathy

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Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
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