Speak with Impact: How to Command the Room and Influence Others

Speak with Impact: How to Command the Room and Influence Others

by Allison Shapira


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When you know what to say and how to say it, people listen. Find your powerful voice, and step into leadership. Speak with impact.

Every day, you have an opportunity to use your voice to have a positive impact — at work or in your community. You can inspire and persuade your audience — or you can distract and put them to sleep.

Presentation styles where leaders are nervous, ramble, and robotic can ruin a talk on even the most critical topics. As your performances become weak, your career prosects start to dim. To get ahead and make an impact, you need to deliver well-crafted messages with confidence and authenticity. You must sound as capable as you are.

Public speaking is a skill, not a talent. With the right guidance, anyone can be a powerful speaker. Written by former opera singer turned CEO and TEDx speaker Allison Shapira, Speak with Impact unravels the mysteries of commanding attention in any setting, professional or personal.

Whether it’s speaking up at a meeting, presenting to clients, or talking to large groups, this book’s easy-to-use frameworks, examples and exercises will help you:

  • Engage your audience through storytelling and humor
  • Use breathing techniques to overcome stage fright
  • Strengthen and project your voice by banishing filler words/uptalk
  • Use effective body language and build your executive presence
  • Compose a clear message and deliver confident, authentic presentations

Learn to conquer fear, capture attention, motivate action, and take charge of your career with Speak with Impact.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814439715
Publisher: AMACOM
Publication date: 10/16/2018
Edition description: Special
Sales rank: 738,426
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Allison M. Shapira(Washington, DC) is founder and CEO of Global Public Speaking LLC. She teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School and offers keynote speeches, workshops, and executive coaching for Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and nonprofits around the world.

Read an Excerpt


Before You Speak

What Is Public Speaking, and Where Does It Happen?


This book is designed to walk you through the process of writing, practicing, and delivering a speech or presentation in front of any audience. The first half outlines the process I've developed over the past fifteen years. The second half prepares you for different speaking situations, from moderating a panel to speaking off the cuff.

Identify an upcoming speaking opportunity and use this book to prepare. If you don't have one coming up, the section "Finding opportunities to speak" will help you.

Find a practice partner with whom you can practice what you learn in this book. It should be someone you trust who can give you genuine feedback: a friend, family member, or colleague. Talk through your goals and fears about public speaking with this person, and practice your speech drafts along the way. Because public speaking revolves around the impact we have on others when we speak, it's important to practice your speech with others to ensure that you are having the intended impact.

Alternately, you could form a book club and go through this book as a community. Before each meeting, read a chapter of the book and then come together to practice what you learn and apply it to your upcoming speech. Celebrate your progress and successes together.

Use this book as a practical, skill-building manual. Write in it, highlight it, and dog-ear the pages or take notes on your digital copy. It's intended to help you again and again. Many sections end with an exercise to apply directly to your speech or presentation. Each time you have an upcoming speech, you can quickly go through the exercises to prepare.

Don't try to go through this book all in one sitting. As you'll learn in Chapter 3, writing is an interactive process. Spend some time reading and writing, then take a break. You'll learn about the power of "Pause and Breathe" in Chapter 7; beyond being a practical technique to avoid filler words and give your audience time to absorb your message, pause and breathe is a philosophy for calming your nerves and living your life.


If you're listening to this book as an audiobook, close your eyes and listen to this paragraph. If you're reading it, then as soon as you finish this paragraph, close your eyes and visualize it: You are about to give a speech. You're nervous, but you feel excited and ready. You walk onstage with confidence and a sense of purpose. You make eye contact with your audience, pause and breathe, and then deliver an opening sentence that captures people's attention. You describe a central, compelling message that resonates with the audience and causes them to think differently about the world. You can see heads nodding and some people taking notes. You speak in a genuine, warm tone that makes people feel like you are having a conversation with them, like you would be the same person onstage as offstage. You use personal examples that illustrate your main message and include a call to action that underscores the urgency of your message. You finish to strong applause and a feeling of excitement and accomplishment. You did it!

How do you feel? I imagine if the above happened to you, you would feel energized, excited, and purposeful. That's exactly how I'd like you to feel, whether you are walking out onstage or striding confidently into a conference room. That's why I've written this book.


What's the difference between public speaking and presentation skills?

"I don't speak in public, but I give presentations every day."

I remember the quizzical look I gave the woman who said that to me many years ago. I realized we might have different definitions of the same concept.

Close your eyes and picture someone who is "public speaking." Where are they? What are they doing? Chances are, you picture someone standing on a podium, looking out at a vast crowd. You can hear a pin drop in the audience as she clears her throat and prepares to speak. Maybe she has a script, and maybe she uses a microphone. There's nothing casual about it; it's a formal speech.

A formal speech is certainly one example of public speaking. Giving a presentation is another example, when you convey information to an audience. You are probably in a smaller setting like a conference room, you might use visual aids or handouts, and your focus is more informational than inspirational. There is also some overlap between the two types of speaking. A presentation can be inspiring. A speech can be informative. Every time you communicate, you have an opportunity to influence others and make an impact.

I believe public speaking happens any time you speak with an audience of one or more people with some purpose. It's something you do every single day, at work and at home. It's a speech, presentation, or conversation, and it can happen in person, by phone, or by video. Why use such a broad definition? Because if we define public speaking as standing up and making formal remarks to an attentive audience, then we'll be neglecting the daily opportunities we have to connect with, influence, and inspire others.

Take a minute and think about what kind of speaking you do, with an audience of one or more, with some goal: You're being interviewed for your dream job or pitching a client, prospect, investor, or donor. You're having a difficult conversation with a direct report or addressing the entire company across different time zones. You're speaking up on a conference call or leading a video webinar. You're running for political office or trying to bring together your community to take action. You're speaking at a conference or walking into a networking event. In each and every one of these situations, you are speaking with an audience of one or more with some purpose. You are speaking in public, and you have an opportunity to make an impact.

Ever since the day that woman told me, "I don't speak in public, but I give presentations every day," I have used both phrases together. Not because I believe they are separate, but because you might believe they are separate. And one of the first lessons in public speaking is to know your audience and their assumptions. If you relate to the phrase "presentation skills," then that's what I will use to get your attention instead of trying to convince you that my phrase is more inclusive. This book will cover all of it.

We Do This All Around the World

No matter what country we live in, what language we speak, what industry we work in, or what stage we are at in our career, every single one of us speaks in public. Public speaking is one of the most powerful and ancient ways in which we connect with others.

I've worked with Armenian economists, British investment bankers, Israeli diplomats, Japanese entrepreneurs, Palestinian investors, and women business owners from Argentina to Rwanda to Afghanistan. In this book, we'll talk about what is universal in public speaking and what is culturally specific so that you can give a powerful speech in English, Arabic, Spanish, or Kinyarwanda.

Is It Talking At People, or Talking With Them?

Many people don't like public speaking because they hate to be the center of attention, or perhaps because they don't like lecturing other people. Here is some good news: it's not about making you the center of attention. A powerful speech should feel like a conversation between you and every single person in the audience, no matter the size.

As we'll discuss later on, when you focus on the message instead of the messenger, then many of your nerves dissipate. You no longer become the center of attention: your idea becomes the center of attention, and your audience becomes the focus.

Is Public Speaking a Skill or a Talent?

Many people use the excuse that public speaking is a talent that they weren't born with. My experience and the experience of my clients has taught me that public speaking is a skill. In fact, it's a core belief upon which I built my company. While some people may be naturally better than others, it's something that every single person can learn through practice and feedback. It's a skill that you can learn and master. It's a skill that this book will help you build.

Is Public Speaking About Substance, or Style?

Public speaking is not about dressing up a boring message with jazzy hand gestures or a charming smile. It's first and foremost about crafting a compelling message that resonates with you and your audience. Then it's about delivering that message in a way that engages your audience's attention by using body language and eye contact that enhance instead of distract from the speech. It's about both substance and style, content and delivery.

Imagine a speaker with all substance and no style. She knows everything there is to know about her subject and has crafted a beautiful speech. However, she buries her nose in her notes, reads word-for-word from the page, and speaks in a flat, lifeless voice. Will she capture your attention? Will you listen to her entire message? Or will your mind wander to the things you didn't get done at work that day or what time you have to pick up your kids from school?

Now imagine a speaker with all style and no substance. He smiles widely at the audience, moves masterfully around the stage, and speaks with a warm, booming voice. He makes meaningful eye contact and pauses to make sure you've absorbed the message. The problem is, there is no message — he speaks in platitudes we've all heard before and doesn't have a compelling point. In fact, you're wondering what the message is at all. There's a humorous example of this at www. speakwithimpactbook.com.

Whether in a conference room or onstage, when you combine a powerful message with engaging and authentic delivery, you capture people's attention and compel them to listen. You connect with them on a personal level, which lets them see you as a human being. This builds trust with the audience because it demonstrates how much you have in common. When you do this, your words have maximum impact.

Some people will discredit the importance of nonverbal communication. Some experts will tell you that it's all about the strength of their argument and the veracity of their data. I disagree. Professor Alex "Sandy" Pentland of MIT's Human Dynamics Laboratory explains that nonverbal signals predate human language. We pick up on these "honest signals" far more quickly than we do the language itself. So while we may think it's just about the content, we're reading cues before the speaker even says a word.

Why Is Public Speaking Important?

If you've purchased this book, then you already have some idea of why public speaking is important. Maybe you're still scarred from that first public speaking experience you had in middle school, or maybe it happened last week at a staff meeting, or you have just been informed that you will have to give a toast at your best friend's wedding.

Why go through all the effort to learn how to speak in public? Isn't it easier just to hide behind email or strategically delegate the presentation to someone else?

Speech is one of the most powerful tools we have as human beings. It's one of the ways in which we build trust with others: if you want to get to know someone, you talk to them. In studying high-performing teams, Professor Pentland found face-to-face communication to be the most valuable form of communication. Regardless of all the digital ways we can connect, there is no form of communication as powerful as an in-person conversation — to clear up a controversy, inform people of a new procedure, or inspire a community to take action. There's an energy in the room, an electricity, a bond that's formed when a group of people sits together in the same space and goes through the same experience. When you lead that experience, you connect with people on a new level.

This book will help you build trust with clients and prospects and move up within your career. It will help you manage difficult conversations and lead a team or an organization. It will help you build confidence in yourself and help you connect with others on a deeply personal level. It will help you pass your knowledge on to the next generation and become an advocate on behalf of what you believe in.


We have daily opportunities to practice public speaking. If you're more junior in your career, speaking up is how you build your visibility and reputation within the organization. If you're a senior executive who is used to strategically delegating a presentation to others due to your own fear, the opportunities below give you ways to take back those speaking roles.

Professional Opportunities

Speak up in a meeting: The easiest and quickest way to speak in public is to speak up in a meeting or on a conference call. One senior banking executive I worked with said to me that, early in her career, she went to every single meeting ready to make a point. She prepared bullet points in advance so that when she spoke, seemingly off the cuff, she would feel and sound confident. That banking executive is now a model public speaker for her organization.

Again and again, when managers send their direct reports through our training programs, they will say to me, "Look, if they're in the room for a meeting, we expect them to speak up. Don't just sit there in silence." Recognize that if you are in the room, you may be expected to contribute.

What if someone else makes your point before you do? In that case, you can simply refer to that person's point and build on it. I call this "compliment and build," and it's a useful tactic for interrupting someone long-winded. Wait for that person to take a breath and then jump in to compliment him, build on his point, and take the conversation in a new direction.

Volunteer to present at a meeting: No matter what industry you work in, meetings provide opportunities for people to present information to one another. Depending on your work culture, it's either easier or harder to speak in front of colleagues. A lot of professionals will say, "I have no problem speaking to clients; I built my career doing that. But I'm terrified of speaking in front of internal leaders." However, the leaders of that same organization will say to us, "Did you hear how nervously he presented in the last meeting? Does he speak to our clients like that?"

No matter who is in the meeting, presenting is a terrific opportunity to build and demonstrate your knowledge. If you're more junior in your career, let your manager know that you would like to present at an upcoming meeting. If you're a mid-to senior-level manager or executive, you have an opportunity to model for your subordinates the behavior you expect. By speaking in these meetings, you are setting the tone and conveying the message you'd like them to convey to others.

Volunteer to speak at a community event: Many companies we work with encourage their employees to participate in community organizations on behalf of the company. It's a great way for those employees to promote a good cause while also increasing goodwill toward their company. Speaking to that community group on behalf of your organization gives you an opportunity to talk about something you truly believe in, while also finding a way to put a human face to your company.

Speak at a conference: Whatever your field, from neuroscience to supply-chain logistics, speaking at a conference is a powerful way to elevate your own professional brand and also represent your company. You don't have to be the keynote speaker! You can sit on a panel or lead a breakout session.

Speak up at a conference: Come prepared to ask questions during a conference. It's a great opportunity to practice your speaking skills and also build your visibility. Prepare a few questions based on the speaker or the subject, and choose one according to how the presentation goes. Someone could come up to you afterward and say, "I thought that was a great question. Can I speak more with you about this?" Or, better yet, "Can I hire you to help my company through the same challenge?"


Excerpted from "Speak with Impact"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Allison Shapira.
Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Confessions of a Former Opera Singer 1

Chapter 1 Before You Speak: What Is Public Speaking, and Where Does It Happen? 11

Chapter 2 Start with Strategy: The Three Most Important Questions to Ask Before a Speech or Presentation 25

Chapter 3 Write the Speech: A Process to Write Any Speech or Presentation 43

Chapter 4 Empower Your Audience: Critical Tools to Connect with Your Audience 63

Chapter 5 Polish the Speech: The Final Steps Most People Neglect 79

Chapter 6 Show What You Mean: The Three Movements That Make Your Speech Come Alive 93

Chapter 7 Pause and Breathe: Calm Your Nerves and Strengthen Your Voice 115

Chapter 8 Give the Speech: All Those Last-Minute Details 129

Chapter 9 Illustrate the Speech: How to Use Visual Aids and Technology 143

Chapter 10 Prepare for the Unexpected: How to Speak Off the Cuff and Answer Questions 159

Chapter 11 Speak in Different Situations: On Calls, On Panels, or Across Borders 175

Chapter 12 Build Your Executive Presence: Five Components to Bring Out Authority and Authenticity 193

Chapter 13 Find Your Courage to Speak: How to Use This Book to Speak Up 205

Endnotes 213

Index 221

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