4 Speaking Lessons from the World's Most Powerful People

4 Speaking Lessons from the World's Most Powerful People 640 426 C-Suite Network

by Gerhard Gschwandtner


As a leader, you probably give speeches and presentations frequently — both formal and informal. I always see these experiences as opportunities not just to convey information and ideas, but also to motivate people and inspire them to action.

Whenever I host the Sales 2.0 Conference, for example, I love to improvise. It’s a lot of fun for me to be on stage in front of hundreds of B2B sales leaders. Because I’ve been in their shoes, I’m able to empathize with them and respond with authenticity to their concerns and challenges. I often skip slides or abandon them altogether so I can walk among the audience to ask questions and engage in a spontaneous dialogue. In my experience, the whole room becomes electric when I go off script because the audience doesn’t know what might happen next.

Even though I’ve been on stage many times, I still find it valuable to learn from the speaking and communication styles of powerful and ultra-successful people. Some years ago, I accepted an invitation to attend the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. When I attend a conference, I always like to sit up front to enjoy a closer view of the speakers. As I walked down the aisle, I spotted an empty seat at the left front table and asked the people if it was okay to join them. They were kind enough to offer me the last empty seat at their table. As I introduced myself, I realize that I was sitting next to the President of the Rockefeller Foundation, opposite Maya Angelou and right across from Oprah and her friend, Gayle.

We spent the next two hours discussing ways we can help address world hunger and combat poverty. Everyone at the table shared their views, and Maya Angelou, in her booming voice, summed up the crux of the problem saying, “Poverty begins with poverty of the spirit.” Oprah was down-to earth, charming, disarming, authentic, loveable and thrilling to hang out with. After this high-octane event, I researched her and some of the other extraordinary people I met. I read about their struggles and triumphs, travels and difficulties, victories and disappointments.

The biggest lessons I learned are these:

  1. It’s important to stay curious because we’re never done learning.
  2. If we study successful people from all walks of life, we’ll have a far greater chance of becoming a success.
  3. Most success comes from overcoming great difficulties.
  4. Sometimes not getting what we want can be a wonderful stroke of luck. It is often the beginning of a magnificent struggle that can lead to extraordinary success.

Keep these four things in mind the next time you speak to an audience, and your words will carry both wisdom and emotion.

I invite you to join me at the next Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18. Register using code ggv200 for a $200 discount.

gerhardGerhard Gschwandtner is the Founder and CEO of Selling Power and the publisher of Selling Power magazine. He is also the regular host of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Hear him speak live at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18. Click here to register.
Find Gerhard on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter @gerhard20.