How to speak and inspire others to take action

The most underrated attribute when it comes to inspiring others is certainty.  Certainty in what you believe.  In what you value.  In what you know, deep down in your gut, to be true and important.  Simon Bucknall, from Toastmasters International believes that If you have this certainly you can also be inspirational when giving a speech or presentation or talking to others less formally.

In business, a leader’s ability to inspire through the spoken word has never been more highly prized. You may be rallying your team, seeking to engage the Board, presenting to shareholders or pitching to prospective customers.

How likely is it that an audience will be inspired by a ditherer? By someone who simply can’t make their mind up?

Simon suggests these practical steps we can all take to inspire others to action.

Change is the starting point

As human beings, we feel inspired ‘to’ something… to feel a certain way, to think a certain way and/or to behave in a certain way. We believe that ‘change’ is valuable.

However the majority of workplace presentations deliver little if any change at all! The focus is almost entirely on the content, with little if any thought being given to how that content might be applied by the people listening.

Ask yourself right at the outset of your preparation: What change do I want to achieve? In the room? In the minutes after they leave? Over the next few weeks? Even years from now?

Use that clarity of purpose to develop your key messages.

By doing so, you’ll…

  • Deliver better – and more authentically
  • Focus your energy on the audience, rather than on yourself
  • Feel less ‘nervous’
  • Likely include less detail (which is good!)
  • Leave people with something concrete to take away
  • Differentiate yourself from the majority of other presenters
  • Be more likely to inspire others… to change!

Your beliefs and values

Inspiration involves a transfer of belief. If you do not believe in your idea or proposal, why should anyone else?

Values and beliefs underpin any powerful message.

So, in relation to what you need to communicate…

What DO you believe?

What DO you hold dear?

For example, for my part, I absolutely believe that…

1 The ability to speak powerfully is a skill, not a gift.

2 That as human beings we consistently underestimate the true value of our own personal experience.

3 That words can speak louder than actions (!)

As a simple exercise, complete the following sentence:

“I absolutely believe…”

Keep it simple.  There is power in the single-mindedness of your answers.

Discover the story’s ‘Critical Moment’

Storytelling is very often referred as essential for inspirational impact. This is because personal experience exudes Certainty. No-one can dispute the fact that you’ve had that experience (assuming of course it’s genuine – so, no lies!)

What’s frequently underestimated is the importance of finding the specific ‘Critical Moments’ within a story, unearthing the precious gems that capture listeners’ interest.

Reflect for a moment on a story you’re fond of telling.

What was the Critical Moment of that story? The tipping point, if you like. The point at which things changed.

What precisely happened? Where were you? Who was there? What was said…?

Let your characters speak

Dialogue is a very effective tool for conveying the drama of a Critical Moment. Through the use of dialogue, your story enters into the present tense. Listeners hear the voice of the character (rather than you the speaker). This makes for a more emotionally intense, and therefore, potentially inspiring,  experience.

Contrast the following two statements:

A member of the Danish royal family was depressed and wondering whether or not to commit suicide.

To be or not to be.

Give your characters a voice and you will achieve a deeper emotional connection.

You now have some ideas to play with. Start by picking one to use as your prepare for your next presentation, speech or important conversation.


Simon Bucknall is from Toastmasters International and was the runner-up in the 2017 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club:  Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.
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