How to Speak and Become a Leader
From A to Z
By Arvee Robinson
Speakers are leaders and leaders are speakers. Every great leader, and even those that aren’t so great, have one thing in common. They are great speakers and communicators. They become great by speaking over and over. No leader wakes up one morning and becomes a leader in their industry, leads a movement, or creates change overnight. Leaders are grown—over time.
You are growing into a leader by learning how to speak better. Whether you want to be a leader or not, you are being primed to become a leader in your industry. If you want to change the world, learn how to become a great speaker.
Using the alphabet, from A to Z, you will learn the characteristics and traits of a great speaker and a great leader.
A is Attitude
Have a great attitude every time you speak. Attitude is more important than any of the facts you’re going to say, or any of your content. You can’t convey your content if you have a bad attitude, talking about your bad day or something that happened to you.
Your attitude will determine whether your message is positive or negative, a burden or a blessing. Your attitude will decide your success or failure both as a speaker and as a leader. It’s really important to have a great positive attitude in everything you do.
I know sometimes life is hard, but your attitude can make all the difference. I went to church and was disappointed that my regular pastor wasn’t there, but I knew I was supposed to be there. A guy named Chris came up on stage. He had a physical disability. He shared that it hit him when he was in the eighth grade. He was in a wheelchair for five years. During those five years, he always kept a good attitude. His family always looked at it as a blessing. As the scriptures say, “With God all things are possible.” Now at 45, Chris not only walks, but also speaks all over the world, sharing his story and the love of God as a motivational speaker. Attitude is key.
B is Believe
Just like Chris, you need to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will believe in you. You need to be self confident, self-reliant, and even if you don’t like it, know that you have done your best. No matter what!
I know it’s hard when people don’t believe in you or your message. You’re like a Lone Ranger. If you have a message that might not be popular, and you know it has to get out there, then that’s the message that you need to speak. That’s what leaders do.
Believe in yourself and believe that you can do it. Believe in your message. Believe that it is your message to share. Believe that only you can share it to people who can only hear it from you. Know this in your heart of hearts! Share it with whoever will listen.
C is for Character
One of the most important characteristics of a leader is integrity. I know that word has been thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? It means that you are a leader of your words, not only to others and to your audience, but also to yourself. Treat yourself like you would your clients or your audience and anyone else who you love.
Integrity is one of the greatest characteristics to have as a speaker and as a leader. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” That is really fitting. What is your character like? Character is something we build every single day. Every time we step out on the stage or every time we lead a group, we are building character.
D is for Determination
Determination is the number one characteristic for speakers and leaders. The difference between success and failure, between possible and impossible, lies in a person’s determination. Everything is possible if you are determined not to let things get in your way. Keep getting out there and speaking. One day the floodgates will open.
A client of mine has been constantly giving her testimony to local groups. She just kept showing up and showing up. At my last event, she met a producer and he loved her story. He wants to make it into a documentary. The year before she had tried to have it made into a movie. She got very discouraged, but she was determined to make it happen. Did she think it was going to become a documentary and she would be in it? No, but she never gave up. She knew a movie was going to be made about her life.
Some of you may be thinking, “I wish I had a movie about me?” Never feel bad that someone else got what you wanted. The price my client paid for her story was that she lost two sons in an auto accident that changed her life forever. Before you want what someone else has, remember that the price may be higher than you want to pay.
If you want a movie about your life, set that as your goal. If you want it bad enough, show a lot more determination. Every day take a step in that direction and you will get it.
E is for Enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is contagious. Enthusiasm sells. No matter what, you must have enthusiasm as a speaker and a leader. When times are tough, chances are that your enthusiasm will energize you and propel you forward, even when you think it’s too hard.
The spirit of enthusiasm will lift you up as well as those around you. When I am selling my program on stage; sometimes I get so excited I want to buy it myself. That’s what you want to do when you’re speaking or leading a group. Be excited and enthusiastic about what you’re saying, about what you’re teaching and especially what you’re selling.
F is for Failure
As a speaker and a leader, you can expect some failure along the line. It comes to everybody sooner or later. One of my clients says, “Always fail forward, and not fail backward.” Fail forward means to learn from your failure. Take it as an experience and as a lesson. Get up and do it again. Let it strengthen you. Let it make you tough. Let it mobilize you. Always use your failures to create big successes in your life.
G is for Gratitude
Never fail to show your appreciation to your audience, to your clients, or to anybody. Gratitude strengthens relationships, energizes colleagues and fortifies relationships. A leader who expresses gratitude and shows appreciation always has loyal companions, raving fans, and loyal followers.
If you want to create a database, or a “tribe,” always be grateful to them. You can show gratitude in many ways, but there’s nothing better than to say, “Thank you.”
Gratitude journals are very popular. One of my clients shared with me that one day she was really down and crying for no reason. She got out her journal and started writing all the things for which she was grateful. In less than 30 minutes she saw all the things that she had. Now, any time she gets sad she looks at that journal.
H is for Hope
Always give your audience hope. No matter what it is. Always let your hopes be known. If you’re teaching or rallying people, give them hope. If you’re talking about a tragedy, because not all topics are pleasant, always give hope and keep your own hope. There’s nothing worse than the feeling of total hopelessness. You never want to instill that.
Leaders always give their audience hope. Think of Martin Luther King, Jr. Think about how loved he was. Why? Because he gave people hope. His “I Have A Dream” speech gave thousands of people hope. He was a big seller of hope.
I is for Influence
Writer Margaret Lee Runbeck once said, “A man leaves all kinds of footprints when he walks through life. Some you can see like the children in his house, others are invisible like the prints he leaves across other people’s lives, the help he gives them and what he has said, his jokes, even his gossip and hurt. A man doesn’t think about it but everywhere he passes he leaves some kind of mark.”
Remember those words and do the best that you can to leave a positive kind of legacy. When you hear me on stage, you know I often talk about how our words are so powerful. They can heal or they can kill. They can repel or they can sell. Words influence people. You have influence on others through both your words and your actions. Make sure they are positive. Leaders always influence people in a positive way.
J is for Joy
Balanced leaders live in joy. There is happiness, but then there is joy. Joy is like an inner happiness. Happiness can be temporary, but joy runs throughout our lives. Great leaders have great joy in their lives because it comes from within.
K is for Kindness
Our greatest leaders are kind. I’m not talking about all famous leaders. I’m talking about leaders who have kindness in them. This is a character trait of our greatest leaders. They are kind towards charities, their courteous, hospitable, and generous. They touch lives with their words and their hearts. Mother Theresa was one of those great leaders. Princess Diana was also a great leader because she had inner kindness. They reached out. No matter how famous, they are always helping.
L is for Learning
Great leaders are constant learners. They invest in themselves constantly. They read a lot of books. They have a ferocious appetite for learning. They stay current with what is going on. They go to a lot of seminars. They are constantly learning new things.
M is for Motivation
Great leaders have a great amount of self-motivation. No one has to tell them what to do or to go to work or to practice their speech. They’re motivated.
Motivational speaker Tony Robbin’s vision is so big that it propels him up in the morning. The minute his eyes are open, he is up and ready to go. That is motivation. How big is your vision? Is it propelling you to get up in the morning? If not, maybe your vision is too small. Maybe it’s time to expand.
What is your vision? Whatever you want in your world is outside your comfort zone, or you would have it already. What is it outside your comfort zone that you want? See yourself as a great speaker and a great leader. See yourself in front of 10,000 people.
N is for Nip it In the Bud
Great speaker/leaders know how to catch and stop problems in the early stage. They know how to nip it in the bud. Let’s say you’re in network marketing leading a team or a speaker in front of an audience and you see something is going awry. It could be a problem with your presentation or something distracting your audience. You want to nip it in the bud before it gets big. These things have a way of spreading.
I was at a speaking engagement, coaching a speaker and auditing his presentation, when a gentleman in the audience started acting like he knew more than my client, the presenter, even though it was my client’s company, his office space, and his audience. At first the gentleman just made comments, but the second time, (because I had taught him well), my client nipped his behavior in the bud.
When something happens, you don’t know if it will turn into a situation. Right then, you can easily diffuse it and move on. But, if it happens multiple times, you have to really acknowledge it and nip it in the bud. Your audience wants that person to stop. Your audience wants whatever is distracting them to stop.
As the speaker and leader, you have to quickly identify those kinds of situations and end them. Kindly and gently diffuse them before they get any bigger. Make sure to catch them in the early stages, and don’t let them get out of hand.
O is for Opportunity
Great leaders and great speakers always look for opportunities. If you’re speaking at an organization, look for another opportunity to speak; maybe they have a sister organization or another event that you can speak at.
At the end of your presentation, ask whoever invited you if they enjoyed it and if they thought their group enjoyed it. If the answer is yes, right away ask for other opportunities. Does their company do an annual conference? How can you get in front of the right people who make the decisions? Don’t just pass your name along because that’s not going to do anything. Ask them if they can introduce you to the one who makes those decisions.
Look for opportunities and jump on them right away. Don’t wait two or three days and then call. There’s no urgency, no excitement. You want to hit that frying pan when it’s hot. Look for that opportunity in all you do, especially at all your speaking engagements because you will find that there are more speaking engagements there.
P is for Perseverance
Great leaders persevere no matter what. They keep going and going. Many of you have heard the Rocky story. Sylvester Stallone was broke, trying to sell his screenplay, but the caveat was that he had to star in it. He was turned down over and over. Finally someone said yes and the rest is history.
Here is another Hollywood story. Nia Vardalos, who starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, actually wrote the screenplay because she couldn’t get an acting role. Hollywood didn’t think she was pretty enough. Her friend suggested that she write a screenplay about her crazy Greek family. So she did. It didn’t happen overnight, but she kept knocking on doors. Just like Stallone, she insisted on the starring role. She didn’t give in to anybody for any amount of money. She persevered and won the day.
If there is a place where you really want to speak, persevere. Eventually, it will happen. If you want to speak at a Women’s Conference of 10,000 women, filling out the speaker form on their website is not enough. You need to be a loyal fan, talk to the owner, become known, become a sponsor, and do everything you can to get on the radar of the right people. Keep persevering. Keep moving forward. Keep speaking.
Q is for Question
Great leaders question things. If someone asks you to speak for their organization, make sure you ask the right questions. Does this make sense? Is this the right fit? Who is their target market? Who’s in the audience? What are the demographics? What do they know about my topic?
Ask questions so you can put together a speech that’s right for them, and so you will know if it makes sense for you to go. Some organizations don’t have enough members to make it worth a long distance drive. Maybe in the beginning, but eventually, you won’t have that kind of time. Make sure that you can help them and they can help you.
R is for Respect
Effective speakers and leaders always involve respect for others. Respect is number one. We’ve talked a lot about respecting your audience. When you have your audience in front of you, respect them and their time. Get there early, start on time, end on time and thank them for being there. Look them in the eye when you speak. Appreciate them. Love on them as much as you can. Make them feel good. Always respect them.
If something happens and an audience member disrespects you as a speaker, rdiffuse the situation, but always do it with respect.
S is for Struggle
Life is not always smooth sailing for speakers or leaders. Whatever your struggle is, look at it, identify it and then pass through it. When you get to the other side, you’ve got another story to tell.
A lot of the stories that I bring to the stage are about my own struggles. When I talk about my adventures in Egypt, those are stories based on my fears. I thought I was going to fall off the mountain when I was going up Mount Sinai on a camel. I was claustrophobic when I went into the pyramids. I’m not proud of this, but because I struggled through, I now have stories to tell.
There are going to be struggles as a speaker. There are going to be things that are going to go wrong. Once you get through them, it won’t be just a struggle but a story to share.
T is for Trustworthy
As a speaker, as a leader, you must be trustworthy. Your audience needs to be able to trust what you say, what you do, what you say you’re going to do, your material, and your content. Being a speaker and a leader comes with great responsibility because people are going to believe you. You have to be trustworthy because they’re naturally going to believe you.
If you’re not telling the truth and there’s something that’s not good for them, they could do it and be harmed. You must speak the truth and not say anything that could potentially harm another human being. You want to be trustworthy and get your audience to trust you.
U is for Unite
Great leaders and speakers have great teams behind them. They’re able to rally people for support and to their vision and goals. Just like that. They have great vision themselves and they can speak about the vision persuasively. They can rally people and automatically build great teams. This is not just leaders of network marketing, but leaders of fund raising, and leaders of not-for-profit companies.
One of my clients is creating a new not-for-profit company. I’m helping her get it off the ground. I introduced her to a gentleman, not even knowing or dreaming that he would become part of her team. All of a sudden, he’s in. She rallied him to become her CFO for no money. That’s pretty amazing that somebody could pull in a high level person who’s going to do it for free because she enrolled him into her vision.
V is for Values
Those who lead effectively have values. Their high values are for family, friends, colleagues, God, and people who are heart-centered. That’s where their values are, not on material things.
Looking at this characteristic for a great speaker, note that your values come through on stage because they are at the core of who you are. You want to share those values with your audience. In the old days, speakers would protect themselves and try to be politically correct. They towed the line so they wouldn’t go too far to the right or to the left. They wanted to be popular and not upset anybody. That’s not the way it is anymore.
Now people want the truth. They want to know who you are and what your values are. Instead of trying to please everyone and pleasing no one, it’s time to stand up for who you are and share your values. It’s what I call “naked authenticity” or being real.
Whatever you stand for, it’s time to bring that on stage. Whether it’s your faith or whatever your value is, it’s time to stand in that value.
W is for Words
Your words will either sell or repel. Your words will either heal or kill. Your words will either inspire or injure. Your words will either wound or win over.
As a speaker, as a leader, it’s important to really pay attention to your words. You may say a faux pas because you’re human, but when you prepare that speech, when you prepare what you’re going to say about your business, or when you prepare for that phone call, pay attention to your words.
Remember: Words create worlds. They’re powerful. They shouldn’t be flung around without thinking about what you’re going to say first. Always pay close attention to what you speak about and how you say it.
X is a math symbol for the Unknown
As a speaker and a leader you are going to experience the unknown. There are going to be things for which you can’t prepare. You have to be flexible. Do not let it rock your boat too much. Go with the flow, but be able to stand up and deal with whatever it is that’s coming. Believe me, in the speaking arena as well as in the leadership arena; you’re going to have things coming at you that you never expected.
Y is for Yearn
Great leaders and speakers strongly desire thinking, learning, growing, developing, expanding, and challenging themselves. They yearn for more. They yearn for more knowledge. They yearn for more speaking engagements. They never reach the top of that moment. Great speakers and leaders want to do more. They want to make more of a difference and they just keep climbing.
Z is for Zoom
Learn to zoom in on what’s important and what’s not. To be a speaker/leader you need to see the bigger picture at all times.
Z is also for Zone — when you speak, you want to be in the zone. When you’re in that zone, no one can touch you. Someone might say something to hurt you or bother you, but when you’re in the zone, you can’t hear it, you can’t see it, and nothing bothers you. When you’re in that zone, when you get in that place, you are invincible. Nothing can touch you. You can last forever. Zoom in and get in the zone.Arvee Robinson, is The Master Speaker Trainer, International Speaker, and Author. She teaches business owners, service professionals, and entrepreneurs how to use public speaking as a marketing strategy so they can attract more clients, generate unlimited leads and grow their businesses, effortlessly. She teaches a proven speaker system for delivering persuasive presentations, and easy formulas for creating killer elevator speeches and magnetic self-introductions. Arvee has helped hundreds of individuals to win clients and close more sales every time they speak. She offers private coaching, workshops, and weekly teleclasses. Her programs will make you money for the rest of your life.
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