8 Top Tips to Smash It at Public Speaking

Back in 2004 I was invited to speak at the Enterprise Britain Policy Summit at the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, London. There were about 500 delegates and I was 1 of 17 speakers, our purpose was to help create a deeper enterprise culture in the UK.

There I was, the only small business owner, standing on a stage with UK plc giants including Gordon Brown the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Director General of the CBI, the Chair of Channel 4, the Chief Exec of Manchester City Council and 12 equally illustrious others.

So how did a childcare provider from South Wales employing 50 nursery nurses end up speaking about innovation at such a gig? Someone recommended me, they’d heard me before and had been impressed.

Smashing it at public speaking can get you the job, the customer, the platform and these are my top eight tips to do just that.

1    I probably don’t need to tell you that I was nervous, it had started days before, getting edgy at the travel arrangements and snapping at loved ones. Get as much information about the venue and audience beforehand then daydream away. Visualise yourself looking out from the stage to the audience and feel the satisfaction of delivering your perfect presentation.

2    Understand why your body seems to be working against you. We have impressive reactions to fear designed for fight or flight none of which help us to stand on a stage and speak. Try and move beforehand to use up that nervous energy and get your breathing right. Be mindful of the rising panic, it’s not you, you’re the one who’s about to step onto the stage and smash it, acknowledge the fearful voices in your head and reassure them you’ve got this….

3    Be you - we all know a blagger when we see one, we don’t like them and we don’t trust them. You want to build trust with your audience so be you, be in conversation with them and talk about what you know. I talked about me and my business, no one was a greater expert on that subject.

4    Have you ever noticed what happens when someone starts talking about what they are passionate about? Suddenly, they’re energised and smiley and we want to be around them. Speak about your passion and your audience will reach out to you. I LOVED my business and what made us innovative, I couldn’t wait to tell them.

5    Tell your story, the story that only you can tell - your audience always wants to hear about you, your adversity and how you got through it. Listen to a celebrity tell an embarrassing story on a chat show, we love them for it. Dare yourself to be vulnerable, the emotional connection you create will be remembered long after your words are forgotten.

6    I don’t know if there’s another feeling to match 500 people laughing at your humorous comment, it’s a delicious drug but don’t try and make it happen. This is not the time to tell jokes, it’s not about making them laugh, it’s about being you and if they laugh, enjoy the bonus.

7     Be professional - turn up on time, if you’re booked for 15 minutes then speak for 15, practice time and again to get it right. Get your ending right and finish on a high leaving them wanting more.

8    When you’re done, you’re done - show up, do your best then walk away. Don’t begin to imagine that you can control the outcome, I can confirm that mental post mortems are a form of torture. However when the next speaker up is the head of PepsiCo UK and he begins by saying,  ‘Remind me to never again follow Louise’,  congratulate yourself for smashing it!