Three Ways to Improve your Next Presentation

Public speaking tips from 10 years of practice

Last Thursday, I stood in front of 200 people and extended an invitation for a group selfie. It was a first for me, and despite appearing incredibly confident, I was actually terrified.

Surprisingly, you would never have guessed that, especially after watching me for the past half-hour, energetically jumping, running, and clapping all across the stage. Interestingly, my journey with public speaking did not begin as it might seem from that selfie with my new 200 friends.

It started quite differently.

I still vividly recall the first time I was asked to speak at a charity event. At that time, I was merging my newfound interest in wellness with my background in productivity, time management, and working smarter—a focus I had even a decade ago. I went alone to the event, and interestingly, my hair was blue at the time.

Yes, just like Taylor Swift has her eras, I had my own hair colour eras, which is totally a thing, if you ask anyone.

To sum up that initial speaking experience in two words: educational (for me) but also utterly humbling.

That talk did not go well, and one reason, I realised in hindsight, was the mismatch between my energy and my message. Even ten years ago, the energy I brought to the stage was very high, in the best possible way, as people who joined me last week at Creator Day can attest (see below)

However, in that talk, I asked attendees to be more collected, reflective, and engage in deep work exercises, which did not resonate with the energy I was emitting. I ended up scrambling to recalibrate the room's energy and refocus everyone to conclude my session—almost having to call for their attention.

As a result, I couldn't close the session as planned and felt anxious about not being able to hold the space.

Practice makes progress.

The subsequent ten years of learning and gaining experience on stages, both live and virtual, have truly paid off. Next, I want to share some lessons on how to effectively bring great, engaging energy to the stage, helping you perhaps avoid some of the mistakes I made over the past decade.

👩‍🏫 Lesson of the week

  1. Start with a Story: It might be a cliché, but it works. Over the years, I've observed some of our best speakers at the school successfully use this approach. Understanding and adapting your signature story for any situation is crucial. While your signature story might evolve over time, having one is invaluable. It sets the scene at the beginning of a talk, provides a deeper understanding of who you are, and makes your message more relatable to the audience.

  2. Foster Audience Interaction: This is something I practice whether I’m teaching a class of 10 students or speaking to a group of 200 people. My favourite method is using quizzes, which we even incorporate into our newsletters and at the start of our podcasts. I find quizzes a fun way to engage people, encourage reflection, and provoke thought about current shifts or changes. Finding a method of interaction that feels comfortable to you is essential to keeping your audience alert and engaged.

  3. Bring Examples into the Mix: When speaking on stage, I make it a point to use examples, whether they are story-driven or behind-the-scenes insights. My talks are designed to educate as much as inspire. Collecting and sharing relevant examples makes the content more accessible and relatable, in contrast to dense, bullet-heavy slides that can be difficult for an audience to follow and absorb.

These strategies have significantly improved my ability to engage an audience and create a relatable and educational experience.

✍️ Teacher corner: your challenge

One of the most effective ways I support my students is by encouraging them to begin with manageable steps.

  1. Identify a single topic that encapsulates your journey or expertise relevant to sharing your story on stage. This could be a part of your personal journey, a specific area of your expertise, or a unique lesson that uniquely reflects your experiences and how you've reached your current position.

  2. Break down what is one lesson you can share with a wider audience from that topic or experience, then break it down further as appropriate.

As an additional resource, I recommend reading books like Talk Like TED. These can be incredibly helpful in guiding you to discover and refine your topic effectively.

🏫 Class in session

I was so grateful for this chat with the fantastic Sonia Thompson, definitely one to bookmark and learn from.

We all have stories worth sharing. Finding the confidence to stand on stage and inspire others to make a change, try something new, or potentially transform their lives altogether, can feel like a tremendous responsibility.

As uncle Ben used to say, "With great power comes great responsibility."

But even if practice feels daunting, and progress seems distant, it doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

I encourage you to hone your story—you might be surprised by how many people you can inspire to make a difference and impact the world.

Always cheering you on,

Fab ✌️

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