The Top 40 Lessons I’ve Learnt So Far As A ‘public Speaking’ Coach
I turned 40 this month (and like many of us, I spent it in ISO, as I caught COVID a few days before..) Here’s a photo below of Zara and I on the day!
However, to celebrate the occasion, I thought I’d share the top 40 lessons I’ve learnt over the last few years as a public speaking / storytelling coach.
I’ve segmented the lessons into 4 pillars, essentially the 4 pillars I cover when coaching. That is:
So, feel free to scroll straight to the section you’re most interested in! There’s 10 lessons for each pillar.
1. It’s normal to feel nervous ahead of a presentation
People want to eradicate nerves completely. However, it is quite normal to feel some level of nerves ahead of a presentation. Because we’re very social creatures and acceptance is the currency we’re all interested in.
2. Just because you’re a confident speaker, doesn’t mean you’re effective.
I’ve seen lots of speakers who are very confident in themselves and what they’re saying, but they actually aren’t saying much! It’s not new and doesn’t leave us with any specific action.
3. The biggest thing stopping you from being the speaker you want, is you
Whatever beliefs you have about your ability to completely transform as a speaker will hold you back and limit you.
4. What you focus on happening will come to life
We are like computers, in that what occupies our thoughts and what visualisations we focus on, will be brought to life. So focus on what you do want.
5. We’re kinder to ourselves if we use “You …” statements
I remember coming across a study that proved that when we talk to ourselves in the 2nd person that we’re much kinder to ourselves. It must be because we feel a little more removed saying you’re statements than I am statements. E.g. “You are … going to nail this” than “I am … going to stuff this up”. Try it out and see for yourself the difference it makes.
6. How you perceive yourself as a speaker will mould how you show up
We’re greatly shaped by our past experiences and the beliefs we hold about what that means about how we’ll show up in the future. However, our brains and thus we have a great ability to change. Your past does not dictate your future. So keep an open mind about your ability to transform yourself as a speaker as you’re the key thing limiting it.
7. The key to being a calm speaker is to talk to yourself kindly
The biggest difference between speakers that aren’t bothered by presenting and those that fear it is the way they talk to themselves. We never talk to ourselves the way we’d talk to a friend before a talk. If you can talk to yourself kindly, you’ll find it has a big difference in your attitude and how you feel and show up.
8. A talk shouldn’t be seen as a success or failure.
There are always positive learnings to be had from any talk. We’re always learning as speakers. No-one is ever perfect, or done learning. So make sure you don’t see a talk as a failure. It’s simply a great opportunity to change or tweak your approach for the next time.
9. Practice doesn’t always mean perfect
Simply presenting a lot doesn’t mean it will make you a better presenter. If it’s not a positive experience it can make your nerves worse. So if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by a presentation coming up and you need more support in order for it to go well, or if it’s optional and you don’t feel ready, it’s not always in your best interest to grin and bear it.
10. Public speaking is a skill to be learnt, not one you’re born with
One of the biggest misconceptions that exists about public speaking is that everyone who is great have always been like that. That is absolutely not true. Almost all great speakers have had to work hard at it.
⚡⚡⚡ Do you feel like you actually need some help with your nerves / mindset regarding public speaking? If yes, I can work with you privately to help you overcome your limiting beliefs, move on from past experiences and gain your confidence back. If you’re keen to know what that would look like, you can book in a Discovery Call with me here.
11. People need to be motivated to change their behaviour
If you want people to take up a certain process / idea / tool that you’re presenting on, just remember that they need the ‘motivation’ to change their behaviour and that doesn’t come from explaining the ‘what’. It comes from explaining the ‘why’.
12. Your job as a speaker is to influence, not just inform
If your audience don’t do anything differently after you present, what’s the point in you getting up there in the first place!? Unless you’re a comedian, there isn’t a point.
13. People can’t remember lots of discrete bits of information
Humans don’t have a great working memory. In fact contemporary scientists believe that we can remember about 3 things. Hence why it’s good to stick to a rule of 3 when you’re sharing information.
14. Show don’t tell
Instead of simply telling people things / making points, bring it to life for people by showing them that it’s so. You can do this by showing a demo or video, sharing stories or statistics, or doing an exercise or worked examples.
15. Your role as a speaker is to give your audience a gift
All audience members want to walk away with some information they can ‘use’ moving forward. If they don’t, there really wasn’t much point in them attending in the first place. So, like you would when prepping to give someone a physical present, make sure you do research into what your audience needs/wants and already has.
16. The opening and closing of your talk are the most important parts
Most people don’t pay much attention to the opening and closing of their talks. They open by explaining who they are and what they’ll cover and they close by asking for questions. However, you should make the opening punchy and the closing compelling.
17. What’s In It For Me should always be top of mind for you
The more you can think about the What’s In It For Me factor for your audience, the greater your ability to influence others. People don’t care about your tool, process, strategy or approach. They care about what that means for them. So make sure that’s a priority for you and focus your talk on explaining what’s in it for them, rather than focussing on what you want to share.
18. There is a set structure to the way we communicate in any form
You might be conscious of the way you structure an email or an article or report. But have you ever thought about the way you structure what you say verbally? Whether it’s an off-the-cuff response, or a more formal presentation, there is a set way to structure it for the best outcome.
19. People learn best through experience
If you truly want to create a learning experience for your audience and change their behaviour, you need to find a way to include experiential learning. This means creating space for an exercise, game, or reflection time / discussion. If you can’t do this, sharing a story so they learn through someone else’s experience is the next best option.
20. Analogies are the best way to help people understand new info
The human brain likes to be as efficient as possible and this means it likes to create shortcuts where it can. It doesn’t like to store all new information in a separate category, as that would blow out the amount of information in our minds to an unmanageable number. So, what it does is tries to compare something new to something existing, to make sense of and retain it later. So, use an analogy to help people make sense of new information.
⚡⚡⚡Want to really level-up how you structure and approach what you cover in your presentations? I have more articles you may be interested in this regard here. Also, if you’re not aware, I run a 10 Week Powerful Presenter Group Coaching Program which gives you the exact tools and templates you need to craft and design an epically impactful presentation, every single time. I’m taking registrations now for the next co-hort which will be starting in June. You can find out more about it, or lock your place in here.
21. It’s less about being perfect and more about being present
A lot of people focus on reading from a script, so they make sure they hit every single word they intend to. However, that’s not public speaking. That’s public reading. People want you to be present and human, not a robot. So focus on connecting with people.
22. The length of a pause directly influences the impact your message has
People need time to digest what you’re saying and for it to have impact you must give people time to ponder on it and determine what that really means. If you gloss over everything by moving quickly only another point, it’s hard for people to process that and for it to really sink in. Pauses help give meaning to something. The longer the pause, the more powerful that point becomes.
23. If you speak louder you’re less likely to use filler words
Most people find it distracting when others use filler words (I did a poll on LinkedIn which confirmed this). However, did you know that if you speak louder, you’re less likely to use filler words!? It must make them more obvious in our own minds.
24. Saying ums and ahs is a habit, that you can break quite easily
It’s quite interesting that people underestimate their use of ums and ahs, but they also overestimate how hard it will be to stop doing it. It’s simply a bad habit that once replaced with something else (a pause) can be completely eliminated.
25. People see those with lower voices as having more authority
Apparently, people with lower voices or people who lower their voice are seen as having more authority than those with a higher voice. So, use this to your advantage when presenting and when you really want people to pay attention and take on board what you’re saying, opt for a lower tone, rather than an upward inflection which can make people think you’re uncertain.
26. A great visual aid should be like a billboard
A visual aid should only need to be glanced at for a few seconds to be understood. If it needs to be ‘read’, then people will be distracted from what you’re actually saying. If you can keep the billboard rule in mind every time you create a slide you’ll ensure people will be able to follow what you’re saying at the same time.
27. Visual aids are meant for your audience, not you as the speaker
Lots of speakers use visual aids as their prompt for what they will say next, forgetting that the point of a visual aid is to help your audience to understand or retain the key messages you’re sharing.
28. No-one likes to be talked ‘at’ for a long period of time
If you don’t already pepper your talks with questions and interactions, you need to change what you’re doing. No-one enjoys a very long monologue. It’s just not a natural form of communication and creating some interaction is the quickest way to make it more engaging.
29. You need to repeat a message, for it to really sink in
A lot of my clients fear saying the same thing twice as they don’t want it to be repetitive. However, you NEED to repeat something more than once for it to fully be understood and retained. You don’t have to repeat it on the spot if you find that a bit much. But, make sure you intro, then explain, then summarise what you’ve said across your whole talk.
30. If you can’t remember your talk, your audience will struggle to as well
A lot of people put in place techniques to try and remember a complicated talk. They say it aloud so much that they memorise it. Or they simply read it from a script / teleprompter. However, these approaches are completely flawed. Because it’s still a complicated talk that you couldn’t remember even though you wrote it. So how on earth are your audience expected to follow and retain it when they’ll only hear it once!?
⚡⚡⚡ Feel like you need to level-up how you deliver and run your presentations? I have more articles you may be interested in this regard here. Also, if you’re not aware, I run a 10 Week Powerful Presenter Group Coaching Program which gives you the exact tools and templates you need to give an engaging presentation, every single time. I’m taking registrations now for the next co-hort which will be starting in June. You can find out more about it, or lock your place in here.
31. Stories are far more memorable than facts and figures
Stories are more relatable, more memorable and more persuasive than facts and figures alone. So, when the stakes are high, share a story.
32. A story doesn’t need to be extraordinary, often simple is best
I used to think a story needed to include lots of complicated aspects and be a rendition of an epic experience I’d had. However, I’ve realised some of the most memorable stories I’ve heard have been short and to the point.
33. Storytelling is about taking people on a journey over time
One of the best things a story does is takes people on a journey over time and shows people how things have changed over a certain time period. People love to see a before vs after, with some clear transformation that’s taken place.
34. PowerPoint is the downfall of most of corporate storytelling
The common habit of going straight to PowerPoint, using slides that have already been created and/or making sure there is a lot of content shown on slides is hands down the worst habit I see. It kills any natural tendencies to tell stories and makes it harder to pay attention to as an audience.
35. Stories are the best way to help your idea stick in your audience’s mind
I read a statistic the other day that said a story is 7 times more memorable than facts and figures. Given that Guinness World Record memory champions use the power of a story to remember extraordinarily large strings of words, letters or numbers (e.g. 80,000!), then I think that number is far higher!
36. Our minds think and operate in pictures, not with mountains of words
Our minds store what we learn in pictures. We don’t do well storing large amounts of text or information that has been shared with us. Which is why we can’t remember most people’s talks after we’ve left the room, unless they used lots of stories (or analogies and great visual aids). As these all create mental pictures in our minds.
37. A story is something that someone of any skill level can relate to
Often in Tech, the biggest challenge is trying to explain something technical to people that don’t have the same skill base or level of understanding. This is really where a story comes into play. A (good) story demystifies what’s been implemented, what’s going on, or what’s being proposed in a way that anyone can relate to.
38. A story is the only real way of bringing the bigger picture to life
If you want people to understand the bigger picture of a new release, strategy, approach, toolkit, framework etc, you need to bring that to life via a narrative structure. It helps people to see the dots connected for them and for something that can be complicated / unknown or new to be humanised.
39. You don’t need to have a super interesting life to be a good storyteller
At the start of my storytelling journey I used to believe this. That I had to have really interesting things that had happened to me in order to be a great storyteller. However, I realised all that needed to happen was I needed to become great at telling the everyday lessons I was having and turning the everyday moments into stories worth telling.
40. If you don’t know the art of storytelling you really are missing out
We communicate (whether written or verbal) every single day. Multiple times a day in fact. So if you’re still communicating simply using facts and figures, I hate to say it, but you’re not being a truly effective communicator. It needs to be a tool you have in your toolkit which you use when you need someone to really understand you, remember what you’ve said or take some course of action.
⚡⚡⚡ Keen on more storytelling goodness? I have two Storytelling Freebies you can access right now here. Also, if you’re not aware, I run a 10 Week Captivating Storyteller Group Coaching Program which teaches you how to utilise the amazing super-power stories hold in your own professional / work context. I’m taking registrations now for the next co-hort which will be starting in July. You can find out more about it, or lock your place in here.
I hope you’ve found these lessons useful. I certainly wish I had known all of this earlier on in my career!
Have your say on future Article topics
Which of these tips would you like me to deep-dive into? Vote by commenting below with the lesson #!
Until next time,
Emily Edgeley is a Public Speaking Coach for the Technology industry. Since 2017 she’s run over 100 group coaching sessions, coached more than 200 people privately and formally supported first time and experienced speakers at 10 Conferences, covering 1000+ people across the globe.
She’s on a mission to help anyone in the Tech arena learn how to speak with clarity, impact and confidence. So they can share their ideas, boost their brand and start to enjoy public speaking.
She’s also a regular podcast guest, a writer, a single mum of one, a massive dog lover and a fan of cryptic crosswords.
Emily Edgeley | PUBLIC SPEAKING COACH | www.emilyedgeley.com