The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence Book Summary



If you want a lifetime of speaking skills by a top leadership speaker, compacted into 70 pages, you found the right book.

The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence: How To Project Confidence, Conviction, and Authority, by John Baldoni is the latest gem on my book shelf.

The beauty is that The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence is one of those books where the leadership lessons will last a lifetime.

And yet the lessons are so pragmatic, so insightful, and so specific, that if you had to give a better talk today, you could flip to just about any page in the book and find something you could immediately use to take your talk to the next level.

If you don’t know John Baldoni, he is a world-renowned leadership speaker, educator, executive coach, and the author of a dozen leadership books including Lead with Purpose, Lead Your Boss, Lead by Example, and The Leader’s Pocket Guide.

Here’s what Marshall Goldsmith says about John:

John Baldoni is one of the organizational thinkers that I respect the most. His ideas are practical – and he can help make sure that you have an impact in your organization.

Anyway, let’s get back to the book.   The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence is a powerful mentor at your fingertips.

Now, let’s crack open the book and see what it’s all about …

Chapters at a Glance

  • Chapter 1 The Sound of Your Leadership Speech
  • Chapter 2 Present as a Leader
  • Chapter 3 Make the Audience Feel Welcome (and Banish Stage Fright)
  • Chapter 4 Stand Up Straight (and Don’t Forget to Breathe)
  • Chapter 5 Lead Your Presentation, Don’t Have It Lead You
  • Chapter 6 Turn PowerPoint into Performance Art
  • Chapter 7 “Tell Me a Story”
  • Chapter 8 Project Optimism the Right Way
  • Chapter 9 Master the Art of Meeting and Mingling
  • Chapter 10 Leverage the Energy of the Room
  • Chapter 11 Avoid Nuance When You Speak Out Loud
  • Chapter 12 Develop Your Leadership Presentation
  • Handbook on Communicating Leadership Presence

What’s In It For You?

Here is a sampling of some of the challenges that The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence helps you with:

  • Learn how to present your ideas clearly, concisely, and within context
  • Learn how to create more effective leadership presentations
  • Learn how to deliver your leadership presentations more effectively
  • Learn how to achieve genuine presence and communication excellence
  • Learn how to frame your speech to capture hearts and minds
  • Learn how to radiate confidence and put the audience at ease
  • Learn the most common mistakes that hurt credibility and how to avoid them
  • Learn how to use stories to inform, involve, and inspire


Here are some of the key features of The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence:

  • 100 actionable tips.   The tips are brilliant and precise.
  • Action Steps.  Every chapter ends with a short-set of Action Steps to take what you learned and apply it in practice.
  • It’s compact.  It’s a true pocket guide.  John masterfully distilled the essence of what he knows down into an incredibly compact guide.  And by compact, I mean 70 pages of brilliance.  I don’t know the last time that I read a book that short, with that much insight in a single “bound.”
  • Expert advice.  As you read the book, you get the sense that John has been there, and done that, and knows his stuff.  And he shares it all with you, in a pull-no-punches way.
  • Handbook on Communicating Leadership Presence.  At the back of the book are 9 pages of actionable insight presented in concise bullet format.  It’s organized as 5 big steps that help you break down your path, and provide ways to practice learning how to speak with presence.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite nuggets from the book …

The Power of Personal Presence

Personal presence is often the difference that can make the difference, right from the start.

Baldoni writes:

“Have you ever seen an executive scurry across the stage with his head down, clutching a copy of his presentation, and being speaking immediately upon reaching the podium?  Such an executive resembles a mouse seeking shelter more than a leader about to deliver an important message! 

Yet we see this kind of behavior all too often. 

What the speaker has failed to do is acknowledge the audience.  Worse, he has failed to demonstrate leadership, the kind that emerges from personal presence.”

Use Stories as Seasoning for the Stew

Stories help you get your message across in a memorable and sticky way.

Baldoni writes:

“Find stories.  There’s an old saying in journalism: Names make news. People make pictures.  That is especially true for stories.  The stories can be about people in your organization or people in the news or people from history. 

Use seasoning for the stew. 

They add flavor and spice.  Best of all, people remember stories; so it just may be the best way to get your message across.”

Frame Issues So That People Can Understand Them

If you have vision that’s one thing.  But if you can’t frame the challenge, so other people can follow, you’ll struggle as a leader.  The most effective leaders master the art of framing.

Baldoni writes:

“Leaders need to frame issues so that people can understand them.  That requires explaining what went into a decision and why it’s important.  It may be appropriate to recapitulate the debate the provoked discussion. 

People do want to know that their leader has thought about something before taking action.  When explaining context, it is good to discuss outcome — what you expect to achieve.  Outcome is the satisfaction of the goal.”

Be Specific

Be specific with outcomes and people will find a way.

Baldoni writes:

“Nuance is the enemy of specificity.  When asking employees to do something, be clear and direct about what you want to achieve. 

The period of explanation is over; now is the time for action. 

Link actions to goalsDo this and it will reduce costs.  Do that and we will improve quality.  Do both things and we will have happy customers.’ 

Employees in turn will figure out the action steps that enable the fulfillment of the goals.”

The Stuff of Corporate Legend

People like to prevail.  Stories of victory remind people what’s possible or breathe new life into what’s possible.

Baldoni writes:

“Employees become jaded; there is only so much ‘importance’ they can absorb, even when their jobs are at stake.  So it falls to leaders to find ways to inspire their teams. 

Stories are the ideal vehicle for inspiring people because inspiring stories can dramatize the human condition

A story about a customer who drove through a raging blizzard to close a sale, can quickly become the stuff of corporate legend. 

These stories give sustenance in times of travail, and they say to an employee faced with long odds, ‘If she can do it, so can I.’”

Get the Book

The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence is available on Amazon:

The Leader’s Guide to Speaking with Presence: How To Project Confidence, Conviction, and Authority, by John Baldoni

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