News & Events

Persuasive and Influential Speaking Tips for Leaders

Jan 24, 2023
Speaking tips for leaders looking to grow in their communication skills

By Arial Starks

Kimberly Pace

As the leader of any company or organization, you will most likely be the person your team looks to for instruction, advice, and leadership. While you may have great intentions and ideas, the only way to ensure your intended message is accurately conveyed is through effective communication. Kimberly Pace, Professor for the Practice of Communication at Vanderbilt Business, shares persuasive and influential speaking tips for leaders looking to grow in their communication skills

1. Know your audience and tailor your message. 

One of the first steps to persuasive and influential communication is to learn who your audience is and decide the best way to convey your message for that particular group. To achieve this, you must first know the purpose of your message, and then you can figure out how to tailor that message to the intended audience. 

“For example, if my audience members are the top executives in the company, then I want my information to be concise, data driven, and have a very clear call to action,” Pace said. “I would also be prepared to answer hard questions, even after I’ve given my presentation.”

2. “Listen” to your audience while you are speaking.

Once you have crafted your message and tailored that message to your audience, it is now time to deliver it. Most likely, your team members won’t literally be speaking while you are presenting, but there are non-verbal communication signals you should be cognizant of while sharing information with a group. Pace says if you pay attention, you will notice your audience is having a full dialogue with you without ever having to say anything. 

“If you’re only focused on your message and your content while speaking, then you’re missing the majority of what your job is as a persuasive speaker,” she said. “Being a persuasive speaker is knowing your content well enough that you are reading the audience. That means listening to the audience, listening to their body language, listening to the energy they’re putting back, and being able to then adapt your message.”

3. Consider the format of your communication. 

With remote job opportunities on the rise, there has been a shift in the format in which leaders are communicating with their teams. While some of the same rules apply when communicating to someone via email or video chat, there are also adjustments leaders can make to ensure they are still holding their audience’s attention and getting their message across. 

Aside from having good quality equipment (i.e. camera and microphone), Pace also suggests utilizing a background that looks appealing and professional, and making sure your camera is at eye level. 

“When on a video call, you have to love what I call the green light, which is wherever the camera is,” Pace said. “You have to really consider looking through the camera as if you’re talking to a real person.”

She also encourages leaders to consider the following: use more hand gestures and facial expressions, use the names of your audience members while speaking, and set your video chat settings to speaker view so that when members of your team are speaking you can see a large image of them on your screen, giving you a better chance to pick up on non-verbal signals. 

4. Practice your message and delivery. 

Just as with any other skill development, it will take some practice to get it right. Pace suggests leaders practice giving presentations and delivering information in front of a trusted mentor for feedback, as well as recording presentations to do some self reflection. She says watching yourself is one of the best ways to immediately improve. 

“I do that with all of my students in the Persuasive and Influential Speaking program,” said Pace. “It’s one thing for me to give them feedback and they’re like, ‘Oh, my gestures were fine’. And then they’ll watch it and say something like, ‘why am I doing that with my hand?’ The next time they remember that and won’t do it. So, recording presentations is a great feedback tool.”

Register for the Persuasive and Influential Speaking program led by Kimberly Pace today or learn more about Vanderbilt’s other upcoming Executive Education short programs.

Other Stories

Want to learn more about Executive Education?