How to be a better public speaker in only 2 years

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Alright, it’s hardly the speediest of transformations but it is true! This is the story about how I became a better public speaker in only 2 years…

Once upon a time I was 14 years old and my teacher informed I was to read from the bible in the next school assembly. I’d never spoken to an audience before and so I had no fear. This was the one and only time I felt no fear and so what happened to cause such long lasting anxiety?

With my 1980s perm atop my head, I opened the Bible and began to read aloud. Before I knew what was happening my left leg shook uncontrollably. How I didn’t topple over I do not know. I had an acute, and embarrassing, case of Elvis Leg.

From that day on I managed to avoid all forms of public speaking. But then I started my own business and everything changed. Make way for the hideous world of elevator pitches! And if they’re not bad enough, sometimes you have to explain what your business does in a coherent and confident manner. Imagine that! The cheek of it!

Gaining Confidence in Public Speaking

And then, in August 2019, I received an amazing opportunity. I was invited to host a breakout session at the National Enterprise Network annual conference. This was a massive opportunity and without thinking, I said yes. I’d got three months to prepare. Loads of time to think and loads of time to get my anxiety levels nice and high!

Then work got busy. Very busy. And all preparation went out the window.

Listening and Watching Other Speakers

With two weeks to go I attended Cambridge Social Media Day. I made a note of everything I liked or didn’t like about the presentations. And I watched how the audience reacted to each presenter. With thanks to this event, I knew I must include the following:

  • Why I am credible? Why should someone listen to me?
  • Folk like free things – what can I give away?
  • How do I link my breakout to the theme of the Conference?
  • A hook, right at the beginning, to engage folk.
  • How can I gently promote my business? What can I give folk that’s valuable?
  • End by linking back to the theme of the conference

I now had a structure for my presentation.

Structuring and Planning your Presentation

Six days before the conference, I did something I’d never done before. I story boarded the whole presentation. I tell you what, it was a revelation!

Tips to preparing and planning a public speach

Instead of writing a script and trying to learn it verbatim, I used the 6 points above as my structure. And next I wrote 35 bullet points which became my storyline. I then hunted for 35 appropriate images (never underestimate how long image search takes!).

The bullet points were my story line, the images my visual clues and so now I just needed to practice. Oh how I practiced! Three, four and five times a day for 5 days. I didn’t stop until I knew the story inside out and upside down. All I needed to do now was tell my story and sound enthusiastic!

And that’s what I did.

  • Yes I was nervous but it was controlled.
  • Yes I arrived at the venue 2 hours earlier than required.
  • Yes I ran through the presentation twice on arrival.
  • Yes I gave myself 30 minutes to sit and think.
  • Yes I laid off the caffeine.
  • Yes I welcomed everyone with a beaming smile because I was going to need all the support I could get!
  • Yes I froze because I couldn’t remember the phrase Consistent Tone of Voice. Thank heavens someone in the audience helped me out and off I trotted again.
  • And Yes, I got a laugh at the point I’d scripted.

Confidence comes through preparation, practise, perseverance

I was happy with my performance and knew I couldn’t have done any better. Folk were engaged and animated and afterwards I received three invitations to speak at other events. Go me!
As I travelled back from the conference, Facebook shared a Memory with me. It was this picture of me speaking to a small audience exactly two years earlier.

Tips to improve Public Speaking

The audience were members of a Business Group I’m part of and, yet again, I was reminded how important it is to have the right folk around you. Your Tribe. Without my tribe I couldn’t have delivered this presentation because I wouldn’t have:

  • Attended Cambridge Social Media Day
  • Been offered the biggest speaking gig of my life and done it justice
  • Learnt the powerful art of storytelling

You too can be a better, more confident Public Speaker

And so my point is this. When you find things difficult, do not give up. Do not believe the clickbait headlines (except mine because it’s true). Do not think you can solve everything on your own. Instead surround yourself with business owners you can learn from and who want you to succeed. When you’re part of an amazing Tribe you can pretty much achieve anything you put your mind to.

Without my Tribe, I wouldn’t have delivered this presentation with the confidence I did. I wouldn’t have story boarded it and I wouldn’t have known to write it as a story. And so I must say a huge thank you to every single person who is part of Drive The Partnership Network. Without all of you, this amazing feat of heroism would not have been possible!

I am no expert, but if you’d like to know move about how I wrote this presentation with ease, I’ll gladly share everything with you!