Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Blog

Resources to improve your public speaking and presentation skills.

Asking Questions

When you give a presentation, do you ask enough questions? Even if they’re rhetorical questions, many people don't have enough questions in their presentations. It's simply a series of statements.  And the higher level thinking or the more familiar the topic, the more involved we are, the less easier it is to remember that sometimes we need to flip and turn a statement into a rhetorical question. For example, I was working with a client in sustainability who had some incredible stats, that she simply clicked through to on the slides and… there they were. And that was a perfect moment, which we...

Want to be a More Powerful Speaker?

Extend your vocal range.

You'd probably agree with me that one of the most crucial aspects of  an audience's ability to "hear" us is the amount of vocal contrast we use. (There are other contrast aspects too, topics for another day.) Coming across as varied enough is a key challenge that so many speakers have to face. Low vocal range equals low contrast, and low contrast leads to low engagement. We all have a natural range, don't we? Varying from very little change (almost monotone in delivery), to highly expressive...even dramatic! You can probably think of people who demonstrate very different ends of that scale! If...

How strong is your mind-to-mouth connection?

One of the things we’re always aiming for when we speak is to be clear. Sometimes to be impactful as well, but definitely to be clear. 

[Video content is below, too, if you prefer to watch.] And one of the key reasons that we don’t achieve this clarity goal is when our mouth is ahead of our mind: we don't have a strong mind-to-mouth connection.  When our mouth is running the show, any of these issues can happen. I'm sure you'll recognise yourself in at least one of them! Most people do at least one of these on a regular basis. We: Ramble ...

Do you Prefer “I feel” or “I think” when you Speak? And Why it Matters.

Speaking with a younger client hoping for promotion this week, she was telling me about meeting a partner in her firm to discuss her concerns about a team process.

And I noticed in her retelling of the conversation with him that she was continually using “I feel” and “I felt” to describe what she was observing.  Even though there were feelings involved on her part, using this language can be a concern for a few reasons:   For us. Saying “I feel” - it’s personal. It’s closer to us. We are actually priming ourselves to attach more strongly to the idea we’re expressing. This...

Don’t fight reality when speaking in public

Many of my clients try to fight or deny the reality of their situation when they have a presentation or important event coming up. And I've found, interestingly, that while it’s more for fearful or anxious clients, it's also common with highly confident clients who lack the time or focus to devote to their talks or presentations. Fighting your reality plays out in three different timeframes. You may recognise all, or just one of them:

1st: leading up to the event.

You procrastinate and put off preparing your slide deck or notes. In fact you may not give yourself any thinking time at...

How Much Time Should You Spend on Context in an Interview?

Whether you're answering a behavioural interview question using the STAR structure (Situation, Task, Actions, Results/Reflections), or giving upfront context during a presentation or meeting: what's the best % ratio to use when you're giving that context? How can you avoid spending too long on setting the scene? I used to get bogged down in detail with this (and still have to stay alert to the danger!)  - and so do many people I work with. Getting the ratio right can make the difference between your audience tuning out and drifting to thoughts of lunch or the weekend, or staying engaged right to the end. In this video, I...

Why and How to Practise Speaking Under Pressure

The why - and how - to practise speaking under pressure: why it matters, and 2 super-practical tips. Do you ever get frustrated by the fact that you can practise and be fine at home or in front of the dog...but when you get into the actual space, things start to unravel? Or you feel more stressed than you thought you would, and that catches you by surprise? Here's a 2-minute video on how to put yourself under deliberate pressure in order to increase your capacity when you're actually speaking. By testing yourself in the ways I mention in the video - and there...

Speak to me, not ‘everyone’!

Speak to me, not 'everyone'

As communicators, we're always on the lookout for ways to connect and engage with our audience. What do you think is not ideal in these two examples? 1. An email I received this week from UNHCR*: "Dear Sarah, Thank you to everyone who has donated to help..." 2. My weekly email from Tim Ferriss of 4 hour week fame, which begins each week with "Hi All!" and ends "Have a wonderful weekend, all." Agh!

Tell me: do these communications engage with you directly?

Do you feel connected - as an individual, just one person - to the person or organisation sending the...

The Value of Volume When You Speak

What do I mean by the value of volume?

The amount of sound we make when speaking in public has impact far beyond simply people being able to hear us. And it doesn't matter if you're highly experienced, or new and nervous: working with aspects of volume is a great way to access greater courage or presence.

1. Let's look at volume and nerves first:

If you're anxious, your system tends to shrink and contract. And you may recognise any of these as a result: low breath, low energy, mind-blanks. This contraction happens to both your mind and your follows the other: and the...

Low Clarity Equals Low Impact When Speaking

Low clarity equals low impact and it's so common when speaking in public: in fact it's one of the key areas my client and I focus on. Whether you're experienced or just starting out, it's easy to forget just how important being clear with our goal(s) for speaking and messages are. It's also important if you want your words to be remembered.

Why is lack of clarity so common?

I usually find there's one big reason that can then lead into lots of smaller ones: Low thinking time prior to presenting or speaking. It actually doesn't matter either if people are experienced presenters who've been...