The language of leadership

Recently the Venture Consulting team had the opportunity to spend time with Ryan Avery, Toastmasters champion and internationally acclaimed motivational speaker. Beginning with a promise, Ryan quotes obscure speechwriter James C Humes, who said that "the art of communication is the language of leadership." Ryan puts this another way: the better a communicator you are, the more influence you have. 

In other words, a core skill for any leader - whether a captain of industry or individual team members - is the ability to stir your audience to action. Over the next few hours, Ryan introduces us to a few simple techniques for elevating our communication for greater professional (and personal) achievement - in his words, making the change from 'a' leader to 'the' leader, from being one of many to being the only one worth listening to. 

Here are just a few of the techniques Ryan shares with us:

  • Silence is a powerful tool in any presentation. Well-timed pauses can focus attention on the speaker and her message. Silence can also be effective at recapturing attention by disrupting audience expectations - a vital tool for anyone who's losing their audience 

  • Appreciate the power of stories, and work hard to make them your audience's as well as your own. One way to do this is recast your anecdotes from past into present tense. Doing so subtly draws in your audience, as together you explore the thread of the story

  • First and last impressions are important (or a variation on peak-end bias for the psychologically inclined). Specifically, don't end with  Q&A, as this diminishes your control over your audience's last impressions. Rather, save one piece of information for the end - send your audience out feeling like they've benefited for having listened to you

While these techniques are principally designed for formal presentations, they can easily be modified for day-to-day interactions, such as those between team members or business development meetings. Above all, the key is to remember that communication is not a mechanical process, an afterthought to be considered once you've decided on your message; rather, communication is central to your message. It is the difference between your message being one among many, and your message being the one that stays with people and stirs them to action.