Several years ago, Toastmasters did a study of 3,000 people and asked, “What are you most afraid of?” Public speaking was number one. Death was actually number six! But, for any person in a leadership position, public speaking can be a great way to give back to the business community, to build their own personal brand, and to provide valuable visibility for their organization.
For Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Detroit member Rom LaPointe, embracing public speaking turned out to be one of the most gratifying experiences of his career.
In 2012, Rom, president of i3Logic In Pontiac, attended the national Entrepreneurs’ Organization Leadership Academy, a prestigious educational gathering attended by 25 entrepreneurs representing 15 different countries. The agenda for the leadership academy included practical advice and coaching for public speaking, which was something Rom had never really pursued as part of his career or business growth strategy. However, after giving a short speech to his fellow classmates the instructor pulled Rom aside and asked if he’d ever developed a “signature” or keynote speech — something with one core message that would allow him to share his values and experiences with other leaders.
Rom realized that his experiences in leadership and entrepreneurship would be valuable to share, so he set a goal to develop a keynote speech by the end of 2012. He worked with professional speech/presentation consultant, Eleni Kelakos (www.theelenigroup.com), to learn and perfect public speaking fundamentals. Some were simple things like how to make eye contact and how to engage the audience. Others were a little more complex, such as how to make sure all the anecdotes and stories that support your speech always tie back to that one central theme.
While Rom has never feared getting up in front of a group, he did fear that having a “canned” speech would make him seem stiff and unnatural. But, that’s where Eleni’s coaching really made a difference. She tells all her clients to use supporting material that will bring out their passion in the speech. If you love music, use music. If you love sports, weave in some sports anecdotes. And, as for coming off too “canned?” Eleni told Rom that practicing again and again would actually set him free to be himself.
Under Eleni’s guidance, Rom spent the better part of 2012 thinking about, crafting, and perfecting a message that would entertain — and more importantly, inspire — people to reach their full potential. His speech, “Zoom — High Performance Leadership” includes strategies for sustained high performance in every aspect of life.
Early in 2013, Rom had the opportunity to deliver the speech in front of 300 business executives at a University of Michigan leadership seminar, and was delighted with the outcome. The audience was engaged, developed thoughtful questions, and took away important knowledge that would help them build their businesses and careers — and improve their personal lives, as well.
For Rom, it was a gratifying experience to be able to give back to the business community, while at the same time making new connections and raising visibility for his firm, i3Logic. His advice to other entrepreneurs and business leaders? Embrace public speaking as a way to share your experience with others. In addition to being a good marketing tool for your business, it can also be a great source of personal growth.
Sure, as the Toastmasters study found, everybody is a little uneasy about public speaking. But, in EO Detroit, we have a mantra — Boldly Go! When it comes to public speaking, it might take a bold first step. But, as Rom LaPointe found out, it’s something that can be a great experience for you and your audience.