Public Speaking – A Secret to Success

I wasn’t able to get to my blog post on Friday last week due to a string of seminars I’m currently running. Unusually we had three turn up within a week of each other so I had to prioritise and I’m afraid the blog post lost out this once. That said, I’m catching up now and figured it would make a good topic if I wrote about how important public speaking is for my own strategy and how you should consider embracing it, if you aren’t already.

Seminars/Presentations, whatever you want to call them, are gold dust. If you’re given the opportunity to run one, grasp it. Where else do you get a number of people interested in your subject in a room together? If you run it well then you will undoubtedly come out with lots of opportunities and increase your chance of being approached to provide a service or product after.

I wrote about presentation skills a while back where I focused on ten strategies for a successful presentation. Today is more about re-enforcing the importance of being seen out there in order to build your personal and company brand.

I know it’s quite appealing to shy away from these opportunities – the thought of standing up in front of a load of people and talking fills most people with fear but here’s the truth – it get’s easier and you need to start somewhere. Still to this day I get a little nervous when I’m about to speak but it’s natural and helps me to fire on all cylinders. If you get nervous, don’t let it stop you – much better to learn how to control the nerves than miss out on the fabulous opportunities these events provide.

I started presenting at University as it was part of some of the courses. When I then started Optix I made sure that I had every opportunity to be in front of people, either one to one or in a group presenting. I was never a natural speaker so one of the best things I did to help was to join a business networking group called BNI. At BNI’s all around the world, you meet up every week and have to stand in front of 20-40 business owners and tell them about your business for 60 seconds. This really focuses the mind and hones your presentation skills. If you’re starting out now why not look up a local BNI chapter and throw yourself in at the deep end.

There are also organisations like Toastmasters which I’ve heard are excellent (Although I’ve not had first hand experience) – These focus on improving your public speaking skills so if you’re not sure where to start then I’d recommend looking up one of these in your area.

Here’s another great tip. I attend a number of conferences and always watch the speakers very carefully. I want to improve my own style so I try and capture the essence of where these people get it right and adapt it into my own flow. Recently I was lucky enough to watch Chris Brogan speak and then even luckier to sit next to him at a sponsors dinner that night. He was able to do 20 minutes off the cuff, without any help (no powerpoint) while making people laugh and leaving people with major takeaways by the end of his talk – genius! I asked him at the dinner how he did it and if he had any tips – he said to me something that resonates every time I find myself in front of others – ‘Alastair, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to fail’. Chris speaks hundreds of times a year, all around the world – that’s an awful lot of times to work out what works and what sucks – it’s that simple – practice makes perfect. Thank you Chris 🙂

How do you get on with public speaking? Do you avoid it? Are you working on any plans to improve yourself and want to share these with others?


  1. Oliver Moore on 14th June 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Interesting post Al – and may I congratulate you on your ability to present whilst not feeling 100% at the Business Network Lunch in Exeter.

    If you hadn’t said anything I wouldn’t have noticed!

    • Banksy on 14th June 2010 at 3:11 pm

      Thank you Oli – I felt I had to just in case my voice broke down entirely! Now that could have been interesting with all those people there 🙂

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  3. Robin Dickinson on 14th June 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Hi Banksy, thanks for this post.

    As a professional speaker, I would add:

    1) Quantity before quality: keep presenting, presenting, presenting and let you own natural style develop;

    2) Before presenting ask yourself, how can I add value to this audience right now ? (this takes the diamond focus off you and on them);

    3) Get video feedback – watch yourself on video and correct annoying habits – having a YouTube channel helps here;

    4) Trust that your own natural style will develop – let the real you through – maximize your own unique style e.g. use of theatrics, posture etc (it took over 500 paid presentations before I felt totally at home presenting);

    5) get professional help – especially from people who’s main income depends on presenting professionally;

    6) watch professionals either live or on video and become aware of how they command attention, use charisma etc

    Best, Robin

    • Banksy on 15th June 2010 at 2:02 pm

      Absolutely awesome comment Robin, thank you so much. Any plans to come over to the UK – would love to meet up face to face 🙂

      • Robin Dickinson on 16th June 2010 at 11:24 pm

        You’re welcome! Will let you know.

        Robin 🙂

  4. Kris on 13th July 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Okay, I am no expert but I have picked up the following recently…

    1 – The spoken word is completely different from the written word.

    2 – Don’t forget to breathe (something I do often)

    3 – Ask questions / engage with the audience…

    4 – Make sure you learn something from each session. Listen to the audience. What they say… or don’t say… before, during and after is so important.

    5 – Imagine everyone in their… silly hats. 🙂

    5a – For the most part – remember that more than likely you will always be harder on yourself that the audience will be.

    • Banksy on 15th July 2010 at 7:04 pm

      Great points Kris so thank you for adding them. I love the breathe one – it’s so true. Someone told me to stop and use silence during presentations. It helps with your rhythm. If this feels funny then make sure you have a glass of water and take sips from that every now and again.

      Oh and that last part is gold dust too. Almost no audience wants you to fail yet we often treat it as if they do 🙂

      Great points, thank you

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