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Professional speaking and presentation for CEOs

Opinion & Analysis
As a leader you are serving your audience, so understanding your audience is paramount before, during and after delivering any presentation.

TO a leader, effective communication is of strategic imperative. The leader has to speak to shareholders, employees or the media. Their ability to articulate ideas clearly, engage the audience and inspire action can make the difference between success and stagnation.  People buy into the leader before they buy into the bigger dream and as such, the leader’s ability to point out his vision and that of the company through words is of essence. Their professionalism, power and speech palatability play a crucial role.

In this article, together with Otildah Ndhlovu, we bring tips on professional speaking for CEOs. The leader must have the ART of speaking and presentation. ART is an acronym for audience, rehearsal and truthfulness.


As a leader you are serving your audience, so understanding your audience is paramount before, during and after delivering any presentation. Never take your audience for granted. Whether speaking to investors, board members or employees, tailoring your message to resonate with their interests, concerns and priorities is crucial. Three things are crucial when you are to understand your audience — segmentation, empathy and clarity.

Segmentation: You must identify different stakeholder groups — their taste, preferences, needs and things like that and align your communication accordingly. What matters to investors may not be the same as what motivates your employees.

Empathy: If you were part of a listening audience, what do they need to hear? In this instance you are putting yourself in the shoes of your listener. Here are critical questions: What do they need to hear? What are their pain points? How will my speech meet those pain points? Demonstrating empathy builds rapport and trust.

Clarity: Use good and clear language. Avoid technical jargon that may push away non-experts and ensure your message is accessible to all listeners.


Effective speakers know the power of preparation. No matter how skilled you are as a speaker, preparation is key. Rehearsing your presentation not only helps you deliver a polished performance, but also increases your confidence and reduces anxiety. Here are things to take note of in rehearsing:

Eloquence: Your voice exudes or reveals the inner colour, creativity or condour. Do not say something before you are sure of your inner clarity. The best critic of your voice is yourself. Also look for a speech coach or therapist to help you overcome your weakness and polish your speaking craft.

Intonation: Your breathing when you are in front of people determines your pace, punch, pose, pitch and power. Master your breathing techniques. Relax and have enough air in your lungs and you will be able to use words effectively.

Pronunciation: How you push, shape, enunciate and roll your words matters. Take time to learn new words through reading widely and that will improve your diction.

Diction: Let these words come out with clarity, art and exuberance. Technical terms need to be unpacked and elaborated for clarity. The choice of words that a CEO uses can expose his “brain and brawn” in the same breath. It is, therefore, imperative that the diction is in sync with the motions being put forward in the presentation.

Timing: Respect time. Practice pacing your speech to ensure you cover all key points within the given time. Being concise yet comprehensive demonstrates respect for your audience's time.

Feedback: Seek feedback from trusted people, experts, colleagues or mentors. They can offer valuable insights and help you refine your delivery. Feedback makes you see the gaps that must be plugged in your speech.

Visualisation: Rehearsing helps you visualise yourself, delivering a successful presentation. Positive visualisation can boost your confidence and performance on the big day.


The leaders must touch the heart before they ask for the hand.  The leader must have a genuine leadership spirit.  A leader must love and love from the heart. John C. Maxwell once said “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much your care”. The power of a leader is not in his ability to command and people doing his bidding, but in his ability to make people do what is right, even during his absence. That takes the power of influence.

Truthfulness goes beyond what we say, but what we do to the people we lead. Remember, people are not machines to be controlled, but humans to be touched from the heart. Truthfulness is built on three pillars: transparency, integrity and being genuine.

Transparency: In the process of being polished speakers, the weakness is to say things that sound right, but might not be about our lives. That then brings transparency. Be open and transparent about both successes and challenges. Transparency builds credibility and encourages open dialogue.

Integrity: Uphold your values and principles in all your communications. Your integrity as a leader is reflected in the honesty of your words and actions.

Being genuine: Be willing to admit mistakes and being corrected as a leader. You are not always right, so listen to others. Authenticity is not about being flawless; it is about being genuine and willing to learn, listen and grow.

Parting point

As speakers, we have our own fair share of failures and we keep learning from them. The continual quest to improve and better presentations is mandatory if brands are to grow. Therefore we keep polishing and refining the art of the spoken word.

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