5 tips for powerful public speaking from the CEO of a flexible workspace

August 7th is Professional Speaker’s Day - a day to embrace those that stand up on a stage, and speak about any topic, informing, educating and inspiring their audience.  For some, this is a talent which comes easily, for others that soft squeal of the microphone can incite far more negative feelings. But whether you love it or hate it, the reality is that you are likely to have to do it at some stage - whether it’s a TED talk for millions, a best man speech to hundreds, or a budget presentation to five. 

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To help you rise to the occasion, whatever that may be, CEO of x+why, Rupert Dean has imparted his top five tips for confident public speaking. 

1. Be brave 

The first thing to do is to say yes! To put yourself out of your comfort zone, to put your hand up, to agree to stand up and actually do it.  Often it’s easy for us to shy away from life’s difficult challenges - professional or personal. But more often than not, it is these moments that help us to grow, lead to bigger things, and provide an amazing rush of adrenalin, excitement and/or pride that are hard to replicate.  So yes, my first tip, is to be brave, and agree to get up there. 

All the great speakers were bad speakers at first
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

2. Don’t over-prepare

For all good Scouts and Brownies out there this may feel particularly counter-intuitive, and of course we have all heard the maxim, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. However, I do believe that there is value in allowing yourself room to be natural - and if you have prepared to within an inch of your life - memorised every word and pause and hand gesture - there is a risk that you lose your most valuable asset - your authenticity.  Practice and prepare so that you feel confident, but leave yourself some room to be likeable - natural, with a good dose of humility. 


3. Tell a story  

People don’t like lectures.  They like stories. And they love a good storyteller.  Whether you are presenting a budget report with spreadsheets, or talking about your best friend’s misdemeanors as a teenager, try to take your audience on a journey, with a beginning (where you get them excited about what’s to come), a middle (where you reveal the meat), and an ending (where you help them to understand the significance of what you just told them).  It’s absolutely ok to use your personal experiences to add light and shade - let’s face it we are all more comfortable talking about ourselves! Use humour if you’re a natural joker or want to lighten the mood, and throw in surprising statistics and facts if it’s more serious topic. 


4. Make eye-contact 

Don’t be scared to look at people.  And don’t be scared to try and look at everybody.  I always remind myself to ‘look left, look right, and look straight down the middle’.  Make your audience feel like you are having a conversation with them.   Don’t look at your feet, or your notes, or hide behind your lectern - look your audience in the eye, and smile. It will make you feel better, and it will invite them to lean in (of course this comes with the gentle caveat that a second or two is long enough - nobody likes the creepy speaker!)


5. Direct the show 

When you are the speaker, it’s up to you tell the audience what to do.  You can set the scene and direct events. If you want to make it interactive - invite participation.  If you want people to give you their full attention, tell them to turn their phones off. If you’re feeling nervous and need some reassurance, be vulnerable.  It’s your show. Take the lead. 

Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of courage
— Brene Brown

So there you have it, 5 tips on public speaking, from somebody who knows.  Rupert has lots of speaking experience - from industry panels, to x+why events, and bedtime stories with the most demanding audience of all, his daughters. 

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