Posted by: Brandon W. Jones | January 6, 2011

Leaders, Speak Up

There are many companies and organizations out there that follow the Peter Principle of promoting from within.  They feel that by promoting from within they create a strong sense of unity and loyalty within the employees.  With this philosophy, there is one problem that is very prevalent.  The people being promoted are learning their organizations inside and out, but they are not acquiring all the skills necessary to be a great leader.  One skill being underdeveloped is the ability to speak in public and grab the attention of the audience.  Public speaking is a learned skill that many people are not learning as they progress through their career.

The goal of any speaker is to have confidence while giving their presentation and to get their message across.  As people speak, there are three main categories of barriers that inhibit leaders from conveying the message.  The three categories of barriers are verbal, vocal, and visual.


Verbal barriers are the barriers created from the words coming out of the speaker’s mouth.  The verbal barriers come out when people stutter, have lots of “ums” or “ahs”, or have other issues causing them to stumble over their words.  When speakers are “winging it,” there is a greater tendency for them to have these problems. 


Vocal barriers are created from the tone of voice of the speaker.  The vocal barriers can be seen when people talk really quietly, loud, in a squeaky voice, monotone, etc.  You have all seen speakers that have had these problems, and I am sure it has been painful for you to listen.


Visual barriers come from the physical moments that the speakers make, as well as, the graphics (i.e. Power Point, chalk board, etc.) that they use.  Some of the major visual barriers are swaying back and forth, hands in the pockets, hands crossed in front of you, folded arms, etc.  These are also distractions to the listeners that take away from the message the speaker is trying to get across.

If you are not sure how good of a speaker you are, video yourself giving a presentation and watch it back and critique yourself.  As you watch yourself, try to pick out things that you could do better.  If you don’t have access to a video camera, give a presentation as a practice and have someone critique you. 

Each of the three barriers can be overcome through repetitive practice giving the speech prior to the speaking engagement.  Another way to overcome these barriers is to know your content really well and have it clearly outlined before you give it.

What suggestions do you have for overcoming speaking anxiety?



  1. What an excellent article discussing the importance of public speaking. Thanks for going over 3 main criteria that is needed in order to effectively communicate what you are relaying to your audience. I must say that I have never tried video taping myself when giving a presentation. The only thing that I have done is practice what I’m going to speak and talk to myself in the car to try and organize my thoughts. I would say that the only way to overcome anxiety is to practice, practice and practice. You figure most motivational speakers weren’t “born” as excellent speakers; they started somewhere despite their gift to be able to speak eloquently to their audience, it would be interesting to see how motivational speakers train. Great job!!

  2. Welcome Heather, Thank you for your comment. You are definitely right about the importance of practice. The more you practice a speech before you give it, the better it will go in most cases. Through practice you are able to own the material which definitely helps you to be more relaxed when you deliver the speech. Thanks, Brandon.

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