[Quick public speaking tip] Is your past undermining your speaking confidence?


Overcoming a fear of public speaking has many facets.

One of those facets is taking the fear apart and looking to see where it came from – looking into the past for clues.

Previous personal experience can affect our confidence in any situation.

Teasing of any sort can destroy confidence and if it was associated with public speaking then any chance of future confidence in public speaking will be shattered.

Thoughtlessly expressed feedback presented as criticism can do the same. A teacher, peer or parent can destroy confidence with unthinking negative comments.

If you find clues like that, then you are well on the way to overcoming it.

Finding a source in the past takes away the magic of the fear. You can apply logic to it.

Was the teasing justified? What was the motive for it? If it was justified and the motive was to bring you up to a standard, then you can work on changing the behaviour in your speaking that prompted it. If it wasn’t then you can dismiss it.

No, I didn’t say that was easy, but it can be done.

Giving feedback on a performance or activity is a valuable tool – but only if it is done with balance, sensitivity and appropriate motive. If it isn’t then it can be damaging and destructive.

Again, logic comes into play. Did the criticism in your past have a base in fact. Then address that fact.

Was it one-sided? Then find a way to get feedback on what your strong points might have been to provide balance and a sense of hope.

No, I didn’t say that was easy, but it can be done.

Even harder to address is the mindset that you may have adopted as a result.

One of the greatest sources of fears is of being judged.

That was mine.

I had a fault pointed out to me at the age of 7 … at school. Every piece of public speaking I did after that was at school – either to be marked out of 10 or graded or to win or lose a debate, or both. Judgement. Always. And for a normally high achiever at school that was a fearsome challenge.

I did well, and achieved, but always with fear.

Then I joined a speaking organisation whose programs were aimed at preparing speakers for speaking competitions. Judgement. Again – success but always with fear.

It wasn’t until I started speaking and running workshops at conferences and speaking to groups outside those confines that I felt I could escape the judgement and just be myself, communicating with an audience, and presenting them with something of use.

To me, the best cure for the fear is to believe that I have something of value and to focus on how that can help – to focus on expansive generosity rather than on a creation that is put up for judgement.

If you have a past experience that makes you fearful of public speaking, I would love to read about it in the comments, and even more so if you have fund a “cure” for it.

5 Reasons why it might NOT be best to lead with a story


“Always lead with a story”.

I wonder who gave him that advice?

It sounds feasible, even powerful.

Stories ARE powerful.

They engage, build credibility, create an emotional tone, set the scene.

And all of those things are what is needed from a speech opening.

But they are not the only options for a speech opening.

You can do something that really GRABS attention, if that is necessary.  And you will waste anything that is not aimed at getting attention and holding  it … like saying “hello” or testing the microphone.  But between those extremes there are many choices.  You can open with a quote, you can use a different language or colloquialism, you can use humour, you can ask a question.  You can refer to a person or event that has local interest at the moment you speak.

And you can use story.

But certainly not ONLY story.

Does this audience relate to story?  Do they value that emotional connection?  Perhaps they are sleepy after lunch.  A story, unless it is incredibly punchy, may be too slow.

Has something happened immediately before your speech that MUST be addressed?  Avoid that or, indeed, the elephant in the room, and you lose a powerful opportunity to connect and engage.

Is this a regular gig?  Perhaps you periscope your tips every few days.  If you open with the same signature story every single time and, congratulations!, you have regular followers, they certainly don’t want to hear it over and over again.  “For Goodness’ sake,” I mutter, “you promised me 5 tips on this thing, get on with them!!”  “And you don’t have to sell me on who you are, I KNOW you already!”

Please don’t open with a story unless you have it fine-tuned and powerful.  You need to know exactly what you are creating with the story, why you are using it, and have removed anything that does not contribute to that outcome.   This is especially true if you are trying to establish your credibility.  One tiny flaw, one tiny doubt in that story, one weakness and you have me doubting you, wondering about that weakness or doubt and I lose the trust you need me to have and you have to build it up again.  Those tips, that content, had better be good!

Make sure, too, that the story does actually serve some sort of purpose.  I understand that story creates connections, all on its own.  It also creates it own energy, no matter where you use it in the speech.  But we, your audience, are creatures with short attention spans, especially if we discovered you as we were flicking through the internet, or are sitting in your audience reading from devices.  Tell me a pointless story and you insult me and lose my attention.  I return to my browsing.  I gave you my time and attention in hope of receiving something of use, or an experience worth attending.    Reassure me that that is what I am getting by having the purpose of the story absolutely obvious – at some time soon!!

I say “Thank you” to the man who provoked me to write this article.  I like him and I value his content.  I was just sad and irritated to see him devaluing himself by taking advice that wasn’t suitable to his uses.

“Lead with a story”, by all means but not ALWAYS!



You might also be interested in:

All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low Trust World

The story of a secret – your secret

Standing out in the deluge

“The Story is Everything”


[Quick public speaking tip] Why would your audiences want to do homework?


Why would you give your audience homework?

How could homework be a gift?


Most school children hate homework, or at least see it as a chore.

Why do school children have homework?

I imagine there are many reasons, but one must be to solidify the learning done in school.

Because we learn by doing.

We reinforce theory with practice.

We multiply the learning by applying what we have learned to our own lives.

We take ownership of the learning when we implement it.


We take ownership of the learning when we implement it.


Spend time in the classroom or with an inspirational speaker, and we take in theory.

We take in enthusiasm, too, hopefully!

We take in the steps to success.

We take those “in”… at the time.

But how far “in” do they go as soon as we leave the classroom

… as soon as the speaker leaves the podium

… as soon as the lesson has ended?

How often have you listened to a motivational speaker, felt motivated … and then several weeks, or even days, later, if someone asked what you were doing differently now, could not remember what his message was or what you had felt so motivated to do????

Clever speakers give their audiences homework.

Caring speakers who really want their audiences to achieve or grow or benefit give their audiences the gift of homework.

They will learn by doing.

They will reinforce theory with practice.

They will multiply the learning by applying what they have learned to our own lives.

They will take ownership of the learning when they implement it.

So if you care about your audience, really want them to change, really want to be of service, what will you ask them to do when they get home after your presentation?

[Quick public speaking tip] Are you being heard?

If your audience cannot hear you, you have lost them.

If there is no microphone, and even if there is, it is your responsibility, in the end, to make sure people can hear you.

1. Project your voice – right to that back row.

2. Articulate well. Practice overdoing it sometimes – hilarious, I know, but a great way to remind you voice muscles that they are expected to work for you and to say words properly without slurring, mumbling, muttering or leaving off the ends of words. In today’s fast-paced world we sometimes develop lazy habits.

3. Take the time to pronounce each word properly. Research every word you use so you don’t get caught. You may be heard, but it’s going to be distracting if you mispronounce something, or stumble over it.

4. Using abbreviations or acronyms? Unless they are in common usage, they might as well have been whispered if someone in your audience has not idea what you mean.

5. You will have made the effort to visit the venue if at all possible before you present. While you are checking it over for all possibilities, remember to check the accoustics, and the microphone.

6. Have someone you can call on to deal with unforeseen issues like a noisy air conditioner, a noisy audience member or a noisy microphone. If there is no someone, have a disaster management plan in place.

7. Don’t forget to make your audience very aware that you have their interests at heart, that you are meeting their needs, and that you are all in this together, or they will stop listening anyway.

And, in the end, there is always that old tried and true phrase “lend me your ears” – well — maybe!

Presenting with Power … powerful public speaking tips

I had the pleasure of contributing to this compilation. And I have to say I love the format which makes it so easy for you to pick up tips on speaking… particularly now that I have remembered to click on full screen rather than squinting at it!!

PREZI’s Top 100 online resources for presenters

Prezi Top 100
Last week, Prezi released their list of the Top 100 online resources for presenters. It’s an incredibly useful resource all packed into one page.

We have scoured the web looking for the most inspirational and useful resources for anyone looking to improve their presentation skills; the #PreziTop100 is the result of all this hard work. We assembled this list by looking at both popularity data (Alexa Rank, Google pagerank, pageviews, Klout score, social media followers, and social engagement) and the quality of the content as determined by a panel of Prezi judges.

And I am so honoured to be included in the blog section. Honoured to be chosen by Prezi, but also kind of amazed to see my name listed among people whom I have been reading and learning from for years.

So to Prezi, thank you.

To you, I have a wonderful new resource I can share with you – The Top 100 online resources for presenters

How to win audience support for your cause

“In public speaking, we must appeal either to the prejudices of others, or to the love of truth and justice. If we think merely of displaying our own ability, we shall ruin every cause we undertake.”

William Hazlitt

Quick public speaking tip – Know your audience

And the first tip is to know your audience.

This is what underlies the construction of most of your content. It is the reason to talk about the benefits of a product instead of the features. It is the reason to use language the audience understands.  Look at your technical terms, and any jargon that they may not understand. Use examples, stories, quotes and other support material that has relevance to their lives and their interests. You will keep their attention and their interest. And if your presentation has been advertised in media or in a conference program, the material in that advertising is what drew people to your session, so try to stick to it, or they will disengage very quickly.

So research you audience before you create your presentation if you can. Find out how best to dress, speak and what will meet their needs, or solve their problems and you have the first step to keeping their attention.

Quick public speaking tip – the words you use

Consider your audience when you are choosing the words that you use –the vocabulary. Speak to them in a language they understand. Look at your technical terms, and any jargon that they may not understand. Use examples, stories, quotes and other support material that has relevance to their lives and their interests. You will keep their attention and their interest.

Quick public speaking tip – choose your attention-getting introduction

How will you hook your audience – get their attention – make them focus on you and your speech? Anecdote? Dramatic statement? Question? Personal experience? Make your choice on the basis of: the composition of your audience, the theme of your presentation, and its length, and what you hope to achieve with it, and then apply all of your confidence and practice to making it effective.