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Public speaking guidance: Storytelling and pitching

Smart leaders know that when it comes to public speaking, stories are a secret weapon – the most powerful instrument in your communication toolbox. And, the more that you advance, the more critical storytelling becomes: persuading others to buy into you, your vision, ideas and solutions, with or without authority, and the ability to create followship and take people with you, all underpin success. The bottom line is, communication and influence are essential skills for leadership.

Yet the idea of speaking in front of others is one that strikes fear into many. In fact, 77% of people have a fear of public speaking.

Whether speaking to colleagues, presenting in a meeting, picking up the phone or sharing ideas over Zoom, the ability to speak so that others want to listen – and are inspired to change and follow you – is absolutely critical as a leader.

Storytelling in leadership

Elon Musk built the ninth-most-valuable company in the world, not because he knew anything about electric cars but because he’s a master storyteller who inspired a team of world-class engineers to build a better one.

He’s not the only one. The world’s leading organisations have used storytelling to build a tribe. Google, Apple, Facebook and Virgin are world-leading organisations whose success is based on getting visionary storytelling right.

“Leaders must do more than demand different behaviour. They must shift mindsets.”

Visionary storytelling lets you articulate a bold vision for where your company is going and what it plans to achieve. It can encourage innovation, unlock investment, inspire and build followship, it underpins culture, creates community and fellowship.

If you want your leaders to use storytelling as a change catalyst, create more meaningful relationships (both internally and externally), and have greater self-confidence, then teaching them to speak so that others want to listen is the springboard to success.

Learning to pitch yourself

A key skill worth developing to ensure you are memorable is pitching yourself – telling your story and asking for what you need in a way that compels others to choose you or to help you. What you are aiming for is a remarkable pitch – literally worthy of re-mark – so others talk positively about you.

Imagine this: you have ten minutes to prepare before standing in front of a group of your peers and pitching your unique vision to them. You have been told to make it memorable, clear, succinct, and to include an ask from your audience. This is your moment to make an impact, get buy-in, and to seek out potential opportunity. How would you feel?

On many Ivy House programmes, our delegates have the opportunity to be radically challenged in exactly that way. Throughout life we have many moments like this, only we don’t usually get the luxury of ten minutes to prepare ourselves – we have to jump straight in! Networking events, important presentations, chance encounters with powerful people – it is often in these moments that we realise the power of storytelling but for many, it is too late. Learning this skill, and practising it daily, is what will make you stand out from the rest.

At Ivy House we have a model to help people plan and prepare a remarkable pitch – for exactly these moments.

  1. Connect: Connect with your audience, be it one person, a few or many. This could be as simple as introducing yourself, asking a question, or making a remark about something that connects you as people.
  2. Identify: This is about being memorable. Tell your audience who you are, but don’t just stick to the basics. What is it that makes you remarkable? Consider your passions, your travels, your achievements – the more memorable the better.
  3. Focus: What is it you are focused on right now and why? Consider what it is that you are looking to achieve, what you would like to learn about, or what issue you are trying to tackle.
  4. Ask: Ask your audience for help! People like to help others, and pitching is the perfect opportunity to seek opportunity. Make your ask specific and tangible, rather than a vague plea for support, as this will make it easier for them to support you. If they say no, that’s fine – you will still make an impression in their mind for asking and they might think of you at a later date.

Learning to pitch yourself is a great step towards becoming a powerful storyteller. It is often far more nerve-wracking than having to regurgitate a speech, debate an idea, or even sell a product! If you can learn to pitch yourself with confidence, you will gain a massive advantage in the workplace, and will be a huge step closer to becoming a visionary storyteller.

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