There is no magic potion that will make you a better public speaker or cure you of your fear of public speaking. But there is something you can do to improve your public speaking and overcome any fears you may have; you can seek help from someone whose background, years of experience, expertise, and empathic approach can help you do everything possible to become an effective speaker and achieve your desired objectives.
Over the last 30 years throughout my professional life as a lawyer, law lecturer, and business person I have spoken publicly many times and delivered thousands of hours of presentations in many different formats and to audiences from wide-ranging backgrounds in various countries. This has included pre-recorded and live training presentations for lawyers (including the first ever live broadcast for LegalTV), academic and vocational lectures, business presentations, conference presentations, acting as a Q & A panellist, acting as speaker and MC at various International receptions and dinners, taking part in and moderating presentation debates, pitches for business and investment, and conducting key negotiations on behalf of various individuals and companies internationally.
I use my background, experience, and expertise to help my clients with their public speaking and presentations. When I work with clients I ensure a relaxed and fun environment which engenders an enjoyable and positive experience; there is no reason why it should be otherwise. My experience has shown me that there are a large number of people who suffer from glossophobia (fear of public speaking or of speaking generally); it is not unusual, nor is it something to feel embarassed or ashamed about.
It is worth noting that even a great actor like Laurence Olivier suffered stage fright and had episodes of insecurity and self-doubt. Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister, was a great speaker who is said to have told herself “Come on old gal” to pluck up courage and get over any nerves before giving a speech.
If you also experience the wobbles from from time to time, remind yourself that this is perfectly natural and that you are in illustrious company. You should then seek expert guidance to help you improve your public speaking and presentation skills, and to boost your confidence by helping you overcome any fears or insecurities you may have.
Our company Accordant Co., Ltd helps startups, entrepreneurs, established businesses, and individuals (at all levels up to C-Suite) globally to get traction with both investors and potential clients; effective communications skills is an essential part of this process.
Although we are involved in business, selling high-end products, as well as matching high-value investors with startups and established businesses, we also advise on communication, business, and legal strategies for clients.
The services we provide include Public Speaking, Pitching, Presentation Skills, Debate, Image and Style, Leadership, Teamwork, Selective Psychometric Testing, and In-Depth Profiling to assist in the recruitment, retention, promotion and training needs of a company. Ensuring that candidates have the right traits, including as communicators and leaders, is an essential part of the work I do.
I maintain public speaking and presentations skills as part of the business services I offer as I genuinely enjoy it so much, consider it a central plank to success, and it gives me immense satisfaction to see my clients hone these skills to produce positive results. Separately, as a business partner of CEO Worldwide I also help companies globally in their search for C-level candidates (read more here).
My clients over the years have come from a broad range of backgrounds, countries, and competencies. I have even provided assistance to a European judge who requested my help. I provide a unique and tailored service, working with people across all sectors and at all levels, right up to experienced C-Suite candidates.
I can help you too with all aspects of presentations including planning and preparation, understanding and building a rapport with your audience, effective story-telling, use of emotion and the personal experience, appropriate use of audio and visual aids, effective delivery, the use of rhetoric, establishing credibility and authority, answering questions in a confident and authoritative manner, dress and image, venue choice, demeanour and body language, confidence and assertiveness, and stress management.
When I work with clients we work together as a team, and the work we do together will depend on your specific needs. Everything I do revolves around you and we will consider your motivation and purpose, and the background and demands of your audience(s). I will then tailor a unique service that fits your specific needs and requirements and focuses on improving your public speaking and presentation skills, increasing your independence and authority, and helping ensure you make that essential connection with your audience (whether they are customers, investors, colleagues, your bosses, or competitors etc). When it comes to public speaking I want you to appreciate that the most powerful audio and visual aid in the world is You!
Like a great many people a proportion of my clients dread public speaking; they need my assistance and encouragement to overcome their varying degrees of fear and nervousness. So whether you are an inexperienced speaker or someone who has delivered presentations, I can help you enhance your approach and performance. I work with clients in a sensitive and empathic manner to bring out their best and to produce enduring long-term results.
Even if you consider yourself an experienced speaker it is wise to seek objective advice from an expert third party. Cristiano Ronaldo’s record as an international footballer speaks for itself; considered by some as the best football player in the world and possibly the best football player of all time. But even a great footballer like Cristiano Ronaldo has coaches to offer advice, to help develop aspects of his game, and to keep him at his peak. Ronaldo has talked about how he loves to learn from his coaches and how lucky he is to have worked with amazing coaches throughout his whole career.
If the greatest football player in the world is open to advice and assistance when it comes to football, then each and every one of us must accept that we can also benefit from objective advice, regardless of how good we think we may be; and this applies to public speaking and presentations too. We can all benefit from objective opinions and fresh insights provided by an experienced and skilled adviser; an adviser that can open our minds to new ideas and strategies, and who motivates us to be the best we can be; to ensure we do everything possible to achieve our aims.
Background, Experience, And Expertise Are Key Considerations When Chosing Someone To Help You With Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
I use my background, experience and expertise as a business person, law lecturer, lawyer, and speaker to help my clients harness their communication skills and become confident public speakers and presenters. I don’t just speak about communication skills; over the last 30 years I have used public speaking and presentation skills at a very senior level in law and in business; I pass on that practical knowledge and experience to my clients in order to put everything we do into context.
It is important to ensure that anyone helping you with your public speaking and presentation skills has extensive experience in business, law or some other profession that gives context to what they are saying, and practical insight into how presentation skills will help you achieve your objectives. Ask yourself whether they have successfully concluded negotiations over many months on an international business deal; ask whether they have used their skills to advance international cases worth millions of dollars or that could result in a person going to prison for 20 years or more; consider whether they have pitched for a contract or for investment which could mean significant revenue streams and employment for whole teams on the one hand, or on the other hand layoffs and reduced revenues. Communications is all about context and using your skills effectively for a specific purpose. Having delivered presentations over many thousands of hours across various formats I have built up a wealth of experience and expertise that I can deploy as necessary for my clients’ benefit. When I speak I speak from experience and I know that with every presentation I have delivered there was a specific goal or purpose I wanted to achieve.
Experience tells me that effective communications requires focused practice. To return to the football theme, we could never hope to master football by simply watching football games and learning the rules of football; no more than we could hope to master presentations and public speaking by merely reading about these subjects and observing other speakers. When it comes to public speaking and presentations we need an expert to guide us, encourage us, and to get us on our feet with carefully crafted practical exercises that boosts our confidence and the quality of our performance; this is what I do with my clients.
In my professional life I could be on my feet for five or six hours a day delivering presentations to small and large groups of people; as well as delivering all-day presentations on various subjects for both law students, government departments and corporates. When you do this on a daily basis you have to be able to communicate your message effectively, to connect with your audience, and you know that you only get one chance to do that; you never get a second chance to make that first impression.
To become an effective speaker you also need to be a good listener. Alas, most people are not good listeners. As a lawyer you are trained to be a good listener; to investigate and scrutinise detailed evidence very carefully before you make any comment; you listen to the witnesses and note every single word and then react accordingly. In the course of my career I would work on proceedings where one individual case would have hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence and took several years to prepare for trial. It is an invaluable skill to marshal substantial volumes of material, to read through and digest it, separating the wheat from the chaff, and focusing on that which is relevant. It is the diligent listening and scrutinising of the material that is the first part of any preparation; and the foundation for anything that you go on to say. The same goes for public speaking and presentations; you must know your material and your audience first. Then, and only then, can you consider your approach and how best to get traction. Naturally, this process may be very quick.
Unfortunately, a lot of people simply forget to listen and prepare before they actually open their mouths. As a speaker you will need to listen to your audience. You must know what their needs are and what they are saying to you as you deliver your presentation. As a starting point you must know your material, you must know your audience, and you must have considered how best to deliver your presentation to get traction with the specific audience before you. And naturally, during the course of your presentation you must be able to adapt to your audience if necessary, and this may mean changing the content of your presentation and how you deliver it. All of this will be a consequence of you listening and observing your audience; listening to their questions/feedback and observing their body language.
As a lawyer working on both civil cases, and also criminal fraud cases, the stakes were high; I have worked with teams on proceedings where a negative result would not just mean the loss of substantial sums of money, but in some cases could result in a client going to prison for a lengthy period of time. Dealing with high-pressured cases in extremely sensitive and challenging circumstances, requires excellent communication skills, a high degree of diplomacy and mental agility, and a calmness and authority that engenders the respect and confidence of all those around you, and crucially that includes the client.
I use my knowledge and high-level experiences to help my clients to become polished and confident speakers who will be able to deal with the many unpredictable and challenging situations they may encounter. I help my clients to become fearless and to focus on ensuring their presentation and strategy achieves their desired outcomes. I don’t believe in pushing people out of their comfort zone; I help people extend their comfort zone.
After I graduated in law in London in 1990, I was subsequently called to the Bars of England & Wales and also New York State in the USA. As a student I mooted (legal argument) and also debated with distinction nationally; I was selected to represent my country at the World debating championships at Trinity College, Dublin and also at the International Debating Championships at Yale University in the USA. It is this expertise and experience that I deploy when working with my clients.
The The Majority Of People Are Filled with Dread When Faced With The Prospect Of Public Speaking
I know that for the majority of people the thought of standing up and delivering a presentation fills them with dread. I use my experience, expertise, and understanding of how difficult public speaking can be, to help individuals at all levels of experience and competency to overcome those difficulties, fears, and perceived obstacles, and to become adept at public speaking.
“…each presentation to each new audience may offer unique and unpredictable challenges; the success of the previous presentation does not guarantee success in the next one.”
I can also provide even the most experienced speakers with refreshing insight and advice that will further enhance their performance. I know from experience that each presentation to each new audience may offer unique and unpredictable challenges; the success of the previous presentation does not guarantee success in the next one. Even a delivery of the same presentation to a new audience may require renewed consideration and an entirely different approach.
When I was lecturing law on the English Bar course back in the early 1990’s I lectured about 500 Bar students a week. I had four lecture groups of Bar students and each lecture group numbered about 140 students. I also taught a separate postgraduate law group of about 130 students, and I also lectures to other groups of postgraduate law students at several universities in London. On the English Bar Course I would deliver the same lecture four times a week to each of the four groups, occasionally delivering a lecture to all the Bar students together in one theatre. Even though I was delivering the same lecture four times a week, and I knew the content inside out, each of the four groups had an entirely different personality and vibe. I had to tailor my approach accordingly in the way I delivered and how I explained certain complex points. The same was true for the 13 seminar groups I taught on the postgraduate law course. When it comes to presentations there is no one-size-fits-all approach and one has to adapt and tailor the content and approach to each audience.
One lecture group would grasp the ideas and content very easily, another group would not do so as readily; one group would ask pertinent questions, others not; one group was more easy going and relaxed, while another group not so. The four Bar Course groups were given the same lecture but each of the groups had a distinct identity which demanded change, however subtle, on my part. One could feel the different vibe in each of the four groups, and this affected the way I approached each group. I had to adapt to the group before me and tailor what I said and how I said it to each specific audience.
And this is the same principle in business; everything must be tailored to your colleagues, clients or investors. Of course you may not have time to prepare. You may be asked to deliver a presentation at short notice. But this should not pose a problem; if you know your material or subject then you should be able to deliver an effective presentation with minimal notice, and by observing and listening to your audience you will be able to adapt what you say and how you say it during the course of the actual presentation itself. If due to the short notice you don’t have any slides then perhaps this is for the better, and you will be able to speak naturally and freely and not feel compelled to follow a strict order and contents of a slide presentation.
I help my clients practice with and without slides and it is extraordinary how much better they can do without slides. Of course, the appropriate use of slides will be dictated by the type of presentation you are giving and the expectations of your audience. But nonetheless I work with my clients to practice speaking without slides and to focus on what they can achieve without any other visual or audio aids; after all Martin Luther King, Jr. did not use Powerpoint or KeyNote when he delivered his “I have a dream speech” at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963; nor did Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, or Mahatma Gandhi.
In helping businesses to prepare their presentations and pitches I help them to understand that there is no one way to deliver their pitch successfully, and that they have to tailor their pitch content and their approach to the specific audience before them; just because the pitch went well at 9.00am with one company or investor does not mean it will go well at 2.00pm with a different company or investor. As a speaker you must carefully observe and listen to your audience and adapt if necessary; and you must be able to do so immediately and seamlessly.
You may find yourself delivering the same presentation, with the same material, even in the same venue, perhaps with the same company but with different employees, and you will find that the audience’s reaction and expectations are markedly different. The hallmark of a good speaker is how they are able to quickly pick up on this and react in a smooth and seamless manner, even if that means completely changing parts of their presentation to make it relevant to the audience before them.
You should always remember that different audiences may have differing levels of interest, knowledge, consensus, or concerns about the topic you are presenting. You must be able to address the concerns of each and every audience (and of each and every member in a single audience); and this means accepting that each audience is different, and different includes being unpredictable.
“Specialist business knowledge does not guarantee success…”
I know that specialist business knowledge does not guarantee success; it is the effective communication of this knowledge that is key. This is why I help my clients to ensure that their public speaking and presentation skills do not destroy or mitigate their business success.
It is imperative to understand that just because you have a great idea, product, or service, this doesn’t mean that everyone else is going to automatically buy into it. A critical part of you achieving success will be how well you can pitch, present, and talk about your product or service. I help my clients to deliver their pitch and promote their product or service in a compelling and persuasive way so that they get traction with investors, customers, and others.
I have witnessed enthusiastic, well-intentioned, and hard-working people with great ideas, fail to get traction with their audience because they lacked the ability to stand up and effectively communicate their message. You could lose out to competitors with an inferior product or service just because they can communicate in a more persuasive and compelling manner. I tell my startup clients that even if they have a great idea it needs to be effectvely communicated and executed; you must be able to decant your idea into reality.
As a lawyer I headed teams at City of London law firms acting for professional clients (including lawyers) & advising at boardroom level. I acted for clients at the highest levels of litigation, in extremely demanding situations, in cases involving multi-billion pound moneys, Government Departments, & law agencies, in UK, USA, & other countries. I use my experience and expertise when helping my clients in their business dealings and with their public speaking and presentation skills.
I work with a broad range of clients in a variety of circumstances, with markedly different audiences, and across cultures. People come to me for a variety of reasons: help to prepare a pitch for a contract or investment; due to criticism from boss or colleagues about their presentation skills; to improve presentation skills to get promotion or because of a promotion; due to a failed assessment; because of a bad appraisal; to help with a keynote speech; to help with preparation of various types of speeches.
In addition to business clients I also help individuals who want to improve on their communication skills, both oral and written, in a non-business setting. People come to me for purely personal reasons too; to become more confident as speakers in a social setting. I can assist people at all skills levels and with entirely different objectives and motivations, and this is not limited to just business matters but also includes preparation for a host of different circumstances including wedding speeches, birthday speeches, eulogies, being Master of Ceremonies at a reception or dinner, or delivering after-dinner speeches.
I am able to help my clients with practical and relevant insights and advice because I am actively involved in international business; creating and concluding deals for my own business projects and working with the family businesses in Asia importing and exporting a range of high-end products. So everything I do to help my clients with public speaking and presentation skills is contextualised, based on practical experience, and tailored to each specific clients needs. This bespoke approach is applied to all my clients when I help them with their business presentations, public speaking, negotiations, and pitches for investment.
I don’t provide a commonplace, run-of-the-mill, template service that is divorced from the specific realities of commercial life or the circumstances my clients find themselves in. I help my clients by bringing my 30 years of professional experience and expertise to the table, and ensuring that everything I do is context-driven, bespoke, innovative, practical, and specifically tailored to the desired objectives of each client. I have used communication skills at the highest levels over the years (whether as a lawyer, law lecturer, or business person) so I know what it means to communicate effectively at the right level and in the most appropriate and effective manner for the audience I am speaking to.
One of my key themes is Know Your Client; everything you do and say in a presentation should be geared towards your client and you have to appeal to, and speak to, the client who is sat before you. You begin to Know Your Client way before you deliver your pitch or presentation. You will need to understand who they are; what their objectives are; their areas of interest; their purpose for listening to you; only then can you truly begin to think about the content and process of delivery.
Some speakers can be vainglorious and full of their own importance. Such speakers can sometimes forget about the objectives and needs of their audience. As a speaker you should not be thinking about yourself. As a speaker you should be thinking about the audience before you; about their objectives; about why they are listening to you; about what it is they need to hear.
Being a good speaker isn’t solely about a beautifully eloquent delivery; it is also about substance. I have listened to some speakers who spoke with great eloquence, but when I reflected on the content of their presentation, brushing aside their flummery as I did so, it was clear that they hadn’t really said anything of substance or value. When it comes to delivering presentations you have to provide substance as well as an effective delivery; and both should be practiced and both should be tailored to the audience before you; Content, Context, and Communicability is imperative.
If You Are Nervous Or Lack Confidence It Will Show In Your Body Language And The Way You Communicate
If you are nervous or lack confidence it will show in your body language and the way you communicate. If you fail to perform confidently you will send out the wrong message; you will say to your bosses, colleagues, clients and investors:
I am afraid;
I am not in control;
I am not worthy of your time;
I am inexperienced;
I am not credible;
I have no authority;
I am junior;
I don’t deserve to be taken seriously.
But I help our clients to avoid such damaging consequences. I don’t have a magic potion, but I can offer a clever solution that applies my years of experience and expertise to help our clients to think and speak more confidently. I can help our clients to project a confident image and to be taken more seriously; to be true leaders and influencers.
How Public Speaking Will Benefit You
By working together as a team to improve your public speaking skills you will:
Become far more effective at delivering presentations;
Become more likely to get traction with others, including clients and investors;
Overcome any fears, anxieties, and insecurities you may have;
Be more likely to be called upon to lead;
Be taken more seriously as you will speak with greater authority and credibility;
Become more confident and relaxed;
Become a more accomplished negotiator;
Become more focused and more likely to identify what is relevant;
Effectively connect with people;
Find there are greater opportunities open to you; and
Be more likely to achieve your goals and desired outcomes.
By Harnessing Your Public Speaking And Presentation Skills You Will Advance Your Career And Be More Likely To Achieve Your Goals
All of the above benefits will prove invaluable in your business and social life; it will mean improved efficiency and productivity, and result in increased income and profits. Whether you are negotiating a contract; being interviewed for a new role; delivering a pitch for new business or that all-important investment; delivering a presentation to your boss or colleagues; giving that keynote speech on behalf of your company; by practising and harnessing your public speaking and presentation skills you will greatly improve your chances of advancing your career or business and achieving your goals and desired outcomes.
I offer a unique, client-centric, personal, and tailored approach; I work together with each client as a team and I draw on my years of experience, my expertise, and my empathic approach to help each client achieve their commercial and personal goals. I empower each client to deal with challenging circumstances at a moment’s notice while remaining calm, confident and credible.
I know that a significant number of people suffer glossophobia and fear public speaking, and I tailor my approach to each individual person accordingly. As a former lawyer and senior postgraduate law lecturer and personal tutor in London, I understand that it is only possible to bring out the best in people by understanding their specific needs and their anxieties; I am able to put my clients at ease and ensure that my results-orientated approach is both effective as well as being sensitive to the specific demands and personality of each client.
When working with clients I am able to ensure a relaxed, discreet, and motivational environment, whether that is one-to-one, small/large group sessions, global interactive video-conferencing, or any other format. I can arrange face-to-face sessions with clients around the world, flying in to your country and venue of choice to assist as necessary. I only offer a substantive and meaningful service to clients, providing positive and constructive feedback that can be practically implemented to achieve desired objectives.
I know that every client is different, but I also know that every client has the same desire for success in their personal and commercial life. So contact me now in complete confidence to arrange for a brief confidential discussion about how we may help you to improve your public speaking and presentation skills so you may get traction with your specific audience and achieve your desired objectives.
Author: Lee Phanurat-Bennett, MD, Accordant Co., Ltd