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How do some people climb the ladder but somehow miss out on learning how to speak effectively?

It’s really interesting, I think, that some leaders climb the corporate ladder and yet they somehow miss out on acquiring the skill to present and speak effectively. We have all been at presentations where a CEO or director has spoken at an event and their staff have cringed in embarrassment. It happens a lot. I have spoken to many leaders who have climbed the ranks but, to their regret, have never acquired the basic skills of speaking. There seem to be several reasons. Years ago, in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, it was a common practice for up and coming leaders were told to go and join a group like Rostrum or ToastMasters to learn the skill to speak effectively. This apparently was especially true for lawyers and many who went on to become judges had learned the skill of presenting in one of these learning organisations. Young managers were told to get themselves off to learn to speak effectively. The same does not happen today as it did in the past. And so the result is way too many managers, executives and leaders, who simply cannot speak well. The reasons? Most people say they never saw it as important and by the time they became senior enough for it to matter, it was too late. Some just felt they could not justify the time to develop a skill now that they were senior and their time was valuable. The underlying problem here is that speaking effectively is not a skill that can be gained “overnight”. By the time they were managers, many were just too embarrassed to go to a course with people who may have been their own staff. A small number simply never have, and still don’t think it is important – these are the people who tend not to hear feedback and so they don’t think there is a problem. It’s really hard to help these people who are not open to learning. There is hope! For most people who have “missed out” through their career, the only way to improve their skills is to have a coach. A coach can work like a laser and target the specific issues which need development. It takes several and perhaps many sessions but it can be done if the person is open to it. There is so much that goes into a truly powerful speaker and it takes time to build the skills. The biggest myth The biggest myth that flies around about speaking is that if the content is good, then the presentation will be good. Nothing can be further from the truth if a speaker wants to be effective or influential. The presentation of the content is always more important than the content itself. People with a technical background often fall into the trap of thinking that content is supreme. As any audience member can attest – you can have the best content in the world, but if delivered badly it has either no impact or a negative impact. Ironically, the reverse can sometimes also be true – poor content, delivered really well can actually attract a really positive reaction.

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