Professional Development

Public Speaking Tips for Future Thought Leaders

Here are some ideas that future though leaders should consider when planning a presentation.

You’ve worked hard and done all of the right things to position yourself as a thought leader and now the opportunity to get in front of an audience to present a topic arises. What do you do?  What are some things you need to think about? Are you ready for it?

Here are some ideas to consider when putting together a presentation. Bear in mind I’m not talking about a seminar presentation where the audience is solely there to hear what you have to say. Instead, the focus here is on the opportunity to speak in front of an audience that has gathered for a specific purpose other than just to hear you speak such as a speaking engagement at an industry conference, a local executive round table, or a presentation to the Optimist or Rotary Club. Either way, you’re not there for a 60 to 75-minute break out session but rather a 20 to 30-minute presentation.

Preparation is Key

First of all, your preparation begins long before you step into the room to share your thoughts and ideas with an audience. You need to do your homework on your topic and make sure what you have to say is spot on and relevant to your audience. Hand in hand with that is the research you need to do on the group or organization you are speaking to. Make sure you visit their website and learn all you can about the challenges and issues those in the organization or industry face.

Once you are confident in what you want to say, you should work on how you want to say it. What’s your personal style?  Are you the white-knuckled podium grabber?  Let’s hope not.  Perhaps you’re the vigorous pacer?  Again, hopefully not. Think about your style and delivery so that you come across as comfortable and natural.

Now that you’ve done the research you need to get to work on the actual presentation.  To create and deliver a great presentation you need to have the three components: introduction, content and call to action.


This is where you build rapport with your audience – tell them what you’re going to talk about, making sure you define your purpose for speaking, and engage them early so that they will be active participants in your presentation.  Think of it as teeing up the topic so they know what’s coming.

You may include a brief, and I mean really brief, biography about yourself in the introduction section before outlining the key points you will talk about. Depending on the time you have allotted, there should be between 3 and 5 main points. If you’re delivering a presentation that is more than 30 minutes long you may be able to add a point or two.

Content Delivery

This is the body of your presentation and is where you are able to showcase your knowledge of the subject, and provide useful information to your audience. This is the point in the presentation where you should touch upon the 3 to 5 main points. Again, depending on the time you have to speak, aim for around 5 minutes on each main point.  Yes, I know, it’s not a lot of time so don’t waste it with superfluous information. Get to the point quickly.

Call to Action

This is also known as the conclusion. I call it the call to action since I am a firm believer that you want your audience to be inspired to act upon what you have shared with them. Maybe you want them to research the topic you presented in greater detail, maybe you want them to write to their members of Congress to express their views on a particular piece of legislation or proposed legislation. It could also be that you want to compel them to apply some of what you talked about in their own organizations or professional lives.

Any way you look at it you want you audience to go out and do something after hearing what you have to say.  Be sure to summarize your main points and wrap everything up before you deliver the call to action.

Avoid the Sales Pitch – a Quick Note

We all know that one of the main reasons you want to be looked at as a thought leader is to develop business relationships and ultimately close new business. However, adding a sales pitch in the presentation is considered to be unprofessional and should be avoided at all costs. If you are a great presenter and really know your topic, there’s really no need to add any sales pitches in the presentation. You and your expertise will shine through and people will seek you out for assistance, eventually hiring you.


Tim Allen is an experienced professional services marketing professional with broad experience in strategy creation, branding and business development. Mr. Allen has held top marketing positions in both large, national CPA firms as well as smaller, regional firms where he has been instrumental in creating and implementing a firm-wide marketing culture. He has written and presented extensively on the intricacies of services marketing and is currently writing his first book on the transition from college to career and creating your personal brand for the millennial generation.

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