Category Archives for Public Speaking

A Letter from Your Audience

Dear Speaker,

Before we give you our time and attention, there’s a few things that we’d like you to bear in mind.

  1. There are plenty of other things that we could be doing.  Instead, we are here, listening to you, in the hope that what you have to tell us will be of benefit.  Please remember, our to-do lists are long, our attention spans are short.   If you value our attention, we will value your message.
  2. Your nerves are invisible to us.  If you are nervous, you are the only one focussed on it or feeling it.   The rest of us are just ready to hear what it is you have to offer (so no need to offer apologies).
  3. We don’t read powerpoints (neither should you).  It’s right there in the name – Power points not paragraphs. We do love images though and can handle one or two visual points that you then expand upon. 
  4. If you are not prepared to present, we are not prepared to listen.  If it’s your intention to read from your notes, you could have just emailed them to us.  The purpose of us meeting face to face is to build connection and understanding.

The reality is, we want you to succeed.   You have the opportunity to take us on a journey that allows us to imagine a better way, to not just inform us, but connect us, inspire us and challenge us.   And maybe, just maybe – because we see so few who truly offer that kind of connection – you will have enhanced your reputation.  

By showing us respect, you will have earned ours.

Sincerely yours,

The Audience

5 Must-have Anecdotes for your Arsenal

If you want to make a go of this public speaking thing….if you want to deliver memorable presentations and you’ve done your homework – you already know that weaving personal stories into your presentation is key to creating connection with your audience.

Storytelling is presentation dynamite.

When you’re asked to speak on the spot, having relevant and relatable stories fresh in your memory to share, can build a whole new level of respect and interest with your colleagues and clients.

Your 5 Must Have Stories

  1. Your most spectacular fails – first rule of presenting, is be human.  Be willing to share your fails AND of course what you learnt from them.  Rest assured, 99.9% of the time, your audience will be laughing with you, not at you.
  2. Catalysts for change – times when a situation became untenable and you took action to change it. e.g. changing your diet, your lifestyle, your job, your relationships?
  3. Obstacles overcome – building a business with no money, dealing with a difficult colleague, coping with loss, coming back from an injury or illness – obstacles are everywhere and sharing yours has the potential to inspire another human being to tackle theirs.
  4. Your WHY – if you are not one of the over 44 million people who have already watched Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action …do yourself, your future audiences and anyone you meet at a networking event a huge favour.   People will be willing to trust you more, when they know WHY you do it.
  5. Your inspirations – who are the people you admire and why.   What did you read in their latest blog or book or hear in their podcasts that has changed the way you think or act around a certain subject.

Have more than one go-to story in your library

If you’ve been in a relationship for any length of time, chances are you’ve heard your partner tell one particular story at a party over and over again.    The first time you heard it, it was hilarious – even the second, third and eighth time were enjoyable…but, you know, there comes a time when all good stories need to be removed from the shelf, to make room for new ones!   So make sure that you’ve got a number of stories that fit the above 5 and switch them up!   

Look for lessons and add to your arsenal often

Life is happening to you, every minute of every day.  Every day is another page in your story – but most of us are just skimming through it like a 5 year old magazine in the doctor’s office. 

Great stories don’t have to be life-changing, there is magic in ordinary moments.  At the end of the week, look back at what’s occurred – did you witness an act of kindness on your morning walk, did your team solve a problem or make an un-makable deadline, did you read a book that changed your view?  Is there a message in one of these moments that would make a good anecdote somewhere down the track (maybe even in a job interview!).

Your stories make you uniquelooking more closely at your every day experiences gives your own life more meaning, as does sharing them with others.   

On the other side of fear lies amazing opportunities!

To paraphrase the mesmerising Will Smith, as well as America’s #1 Success Coach Jack Canfield – on the other side of fear…lies amazing opportunity.

In my 20’s, I was given the rare (we’re talking rainbow unicorn rare) opportunity to audition for breakfast radio in Melbourne. What an incredible door to have held open for you, even just a crack!  Unfortunately, I completely and utterly tanked the audition.    I was stilted, I was wooden, I was quite honestly paralysed by fear.   Where did the sunny, happy, witty (even if I do say so myself) me go?    Why on earth did she disappear on me, when I needed her most!?!

Why did I freeze?    My best guess, without becoming a frequent flyer at my local therapist’s office, is that it was fear of failure.   I got my mind so caught up in the size of the opportunity and ‘what if I fail’ that I fulfilled my own prophecy.

…and that is just one of the spectacular opportunities that I’ve missed, while I stood paralysed on the other side of fear.

Focus on the other side of the wall

Fear is like a wall, it’s the barrier between you and what you dare to dream.   Like a prisoner seeing their family on the other side of an inch of plexi-glass – what you want is right there in front of you, but painfully out of reach.

To quote Tony Robbins, “Life is a dance between what you desire most and what you fear most.”  When the desire for what’s on the other side of the wall outweighs the barrier in front of you, nothing will hold you back.  

FOMO, FOOMO and So What?

For so long I have dreamt of helping others conquer their fear of public speaking, but the fear of failure has always loomed large, and time and time again it’s made me slink back into the shadows.

Call it FOMO – but my desire has finally overcome my fear and I’m excited (and scared) to offer my thoughts, tactics and techniques to those who are holding themselves back from their dreams, because of their fear of public speaking.

You could say my FOMO has turned into FOOMO (fear of others missing out).

Now when the fears creep up and threaten to overtake me, I simply say “So What?”  If it doesn’t turn out the way I dreamt it, so what?   The possibility of failure is now nothing compared to the pain of not even trying.

Are you ready to overcome your fears?

In my Find Your Voice Workshop, we take a closer look at WHY you run away from the doors that open for you to share your story, your products and services…and give you the tools you need to climb the wall and discover the opportunities that lie on the other side of fear.

…it’s OK, not a single participant has died…yet.

Warning: Sarcasm Ahead

I have watched many presentations where I could see the possibilities of what the presenter was trying to convey, but they really needed to pare back the information on the powerpoint and polish their presentation skills to have meaningful and memorable impact. 

I’ve also watched far too many that were prepared the night before, the morning of or as they stood to speak.  Which is perfectly OK, if you’re not invested in the outcome of your presentation or the perception of yourself, your skills or your company.

Five leading ways to get to ‘meh’

  1. Take your audience for granted.  Assuming that your audience has nothing better to do than watch your tedious demonstration of half-arse-ery might be just enough to do it.  
  2. Choose not to prepare.  If your name is Billy Connolly, then this will definitely work out for you – otherwise, probably not so much.
  3. Rely on technology to save you.   Relying on the whole room looking at your whizz-bang Prezi extravaganza, so that you can present with no one looking at you – is a great plan…until the tech fails and you’re left stumbling along saying “I had a slide that was a great representation of….blah, blah, meh”
  4. Have no clear conclusion or call to action.  Every presentation needs to go ‘somewhere’ – if you can’t state the purpose of your presentation in one clear sentence, probably best to save us all some time and feign illness.
  5. Allow fear to hold you back.   OK, this is where I drop the sarcasm.   So many people are paralysed by the fear of public speaking – brilliant people who have much to offer their community and their industry – yet they choose to remain small, rather than let their light shine.   I have known uni students who dropped out of their degree because they didn’t want to face their oral presentation, women whose incredible talents could create a thriving business but choose to work for others rather than put themselves out there.

My Find Your Voice Workshop is designed to tackle No. 5 once and for all.   To help you:

  • Understand why you get nervous.
  • Give you the hacks and techniques to get you past the fear and embracing the opportunity.
  • Tackle points 1 through 4 in a helpful way!

This gorgeous meme I saw on Tracy Sveinson Up Yours Facebook page says it best:

None of us were born for mediocrity.  So when you’re given the opportunity to shine for others, grab it with both hands and give it your whole heart.

The Mother Teresa Rule

Don’t waste oxygen talking about what you don’t want.   Fuel your goals not your fears.

For me, the opportunity to speak to a group is a tremendous privilege.   Everybody’s time is precious, so for people to give me their undivided attention to share my thoughts, opinions or ideas should be treated with the greatest respect, and used wisely.

Mother Teresa is quoted as saying “I will never attend an antiwar rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.”   Hmmm…Anti-war / Pro-peace…isn’t it to-may-to / to-mar-to??  I think you’ll agree there is a subtle yet powerful difference between the two.    To be anti-war is to use your energy pushing against the unwanted and focus on the unwanted – it’s exhausting, and even if the war ends you are no further forward than the day before the war began.   On the other hand, to be pro-peace is to focus on what you DO want, it’s effects go way beyond the day the war ends to a brighter, more harmonious and prosperous future.

From a speaking perspective, when you speak in the positive it offers energy, excitement and opportunity, you are lifting the energy of the room and focussing your audience on solutions.   When you speak in the negative without providing an alternative, you are lowering the mood and leaving people feeling worse than when they walked in (politicians take note – give people something to vote FOR not against).

It is something that you will hear me harp on in my presentation upskilling workshops – it can be the difference between getting the job and not, the difference between being thought of as a leader or…not.

So when you’re gathering your notes and your thoughts to share in a meeting or deliver to a group – consider the opportunity before you, remember the Mother Teresa Rule and give the bulk of your presentation to the solution, not the problem.

Six candidates walk into a bar

A small business manager, a mechanic, a soldier, a teacher, a showie and an incumbent walk into a hotel….

Welcome to the Townsville Chamber 2019 Federal Election Debate.

I went to this morning’s event for a couple of reasons – it was my only chance to see all* the candidates side by side and get a sense of the person behind their election poster….and as a Presentation Coach, I wanted to see them put through their speaking paces and observe the impact it had on their message.

Here’s what I saw:

  • All six candidates were passionate about their vision for their electorate’s future.
  • They were all human.
  • They showed respect for their fellow candidates.

My recommendations (from a presentation perspective) to anyone standing for public office:

1. If you’re invited to a debate and you can’t attend, send your apologies. No one likes being stood up.

2. Rehearse your introduction – it is best not to umm and aah while speaking on the subject you should know best (yourself!). Your audience may not consciously notice your umms and aahs, but they will get a sense of uncertainty from you right from the start.

3. Be aware of your microphone ‘popping’. Those “P” sounds that force a large amount of air into the mic and jar your listener’s ears. If you notice it happening, turn your mouth slightly away from the microphone to avoid the air hitting it directly.

4. Watch your ‘crutches’. The first time you preface your sentence with “Let me be very clear!” it’s powerful…the second time a little less so….and the third time you say it, your audience is starting to think you’ve just got your Party pants on (Political party that is) and you’re parroting political clichés!

5. Answer the question – we know that politicians need to try to weave their party policy into the conversation, and ‘toe the party line’ when responding on certain issues…but if it doesn’t sound like you’re building to a clear answer in the first 15 seconds you will lose the crowd. (And it won’t be easy to get them back.)

Congratulations to all the candidates, not just for showing up this morning, but for being willing to put yourself in the firing line and step up for your community. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and tell others what they ‘should’ do (like I just have!) – thank you for adding your voice to this country’s conversation about our future.

*We won’t mention the candidates that chose not to show (without sending apologies for their non-attendance). You’ve already done enough damage to your own reputation amongst the Townsville business community.

Stop blending in & be heard

Do you ever get the feeling you're missing out on opportunities, because you are too afraid to speak up?

I know I did. But that doesn’t have to be your story.

Although I worked in radio for many years, safe and ‘anonymous’ behind the microphone in a studio, if you put me in front of a group of people (including my workmates) my heart rate would skyrocket, I would physically shake and worst of all I would never say what I really meant to convey.

I know that several career opportunities went flashing by while I was still trying to get the words straight in my head...and a couple of managers who should have been outed for less than appropriate behaviour, continued on to harass others, when I couldn’t speak up.

Fast forward 10 years and speaking is now my passion.

My workshops are designed to help others to overcome their fears, control their nerves and polish their presentation skills. My one on one coaching opportunities are perfect for those who want to take their speaking to another (hopefully paid) level.

The world needs more positive people who can stand up and speak their amazing truth to inform, inspire, educate and uplift those around them.

I can’t wait to hear your story.

Ruth Guice