A Board Member’s Success Starts With Sound Communication
Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking, and it is one of the most common phobias. Fortunately, it can be managed via practice and ongoing, concentrated effort. As members of boards of directors, the importance of effectively communicating to an audience cannot be ignored. Individual success, as well the success of organizations, can hinge on a person’s communication skills.

Catherine Johns, a public speaking and communications expert, recommended the following tips for board members hoping to improve their delivery of speeches and presentations:
  • Be physically relaxed. Whether you are on a stage or in the boardroom, you must be mindful of your physical presence. Sense your feet on the floor, ground yourself and allow the energy to move up from there. Align your spine and let your shoulders relax. Your center of gravity should be the energy center in your lower belly. And remember to breathe.
  • Be you. You are at your most magnetic when you are truly being yourself. Congruency is key: Your voice, face and gestures must match your words. Your listeners will sniff out any hint of phoniness, and it will kill your ability to impact your audience. Let go of the need to impress — allow your true self to come through. This is why it is a bad idea to read a script that someone else wrote. A gifted actor can make his or her voice, face and gestures match somebody else’s words. The rest of us are most natural saying our own. A script can be useful in the early stages of preparation, but after practicing a few times, boil it down to bullet points and practice with only those. You can take your notes onstage if you like, but they should include just enough information to keep you on track but not so much that you are tempted to read them verbatim. The same thing applies to a confidence monitor (a screen off to the side of a stage that allows speakers to see their presentations or notes). You can glance at it now and then, but do not read from it.
  • Be conversational. Talk with the individuals in the audience, whether it is five of them at a conference table or 500 in an auditorium. In other words, have a conversation instead of giving a speech. Conversations are two-way, even when you are the only one talking. Be aware of the energetic connection with your listeners and use the feedback to tailor your message.
  • Be pithy. Attention spans are short and getting shorter. You will need a strong introduction — a story, a startling fact, something that gives people a reason to listen to you. If you do not quickly capture their attention, you may not capture it at all. Your ending should be powerful, too. People are most likely to remember the first and last thing you say. And in between? Choose words for their punch and be sure to use spoken English, which is different from written English. In general, try to use shorter sentences, fewer clauses and words people do not have to think twice to understand.
  • Be comfortable with silence. The strongest speakers sometimes stop speaking. The pause gives weight to your words. It draws the ear to your message the way white space on a page draws the eye to an image. Pausing also conveys confidence. Use the pause to let your meaning sink in and to command the room.
Why put these suggestions into practice? Simple: Board members who speak with power and presence can drive agendas, generate support and advance their association’s mission.


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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for 70 years.


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