Helping an inexperienced speaker in your company

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This blog is prompted by a conversation with a friend, who holds a general mangers position. He met a woman who was asked to speak on a panel by an industry association. The woman was keen to speak however her boss, possibly the CEO declined her as a speaker. Instead he decided that he should go on the panel to speak. The main issue with this was that the industry Association had asked her specifically as a woman in a male dominated industry in an attempt to balance out the gender i.e. have gender diversity.

As my friend and I discussed the pros and cons of this move by the boss, my friend who was initially sympathetic to her; started to see it from the CEOs perspective. That she may not be qualified to speak on the subject or that someone better was able to speak in front of that audience and on that panel.  The friend reflected on his team and who he would want to speak.

The debate between us briefly continued, he had many staff who were not in a position to speak on behalf of their company. He stated that possibly some never would.  Of course being a public speaking coach I disagree. If someone is specifically asked they should be given the opportunity to speak. In all likelihood they will be nervous and may even be ready to say no themselves.  Part of good management is to encourage staff to take up these opportunities not take them away from them.

Because by denying a person particularly a woman who is a minority in an industry the opportunity to speak you are discriminating and holding their career back. So the question remains when is it okay to say no and when should a person say yes, but given some guidelines and provide those to that speaking opportunity. 

 A no should only come after consideration of the help to let them speak and the time available.  Maybe the person that thinks they should speak should be in attendance as a back up?

Help for a not yet qualified or experienced person

1.    Training in answering impromptu questions.

2.    Training in speaking / presentations.

3.    Parameters around what they are and aren’t allowed to answer or speak to.

4.    Briefing on how to deflect questions outside the area of expertise/ approved topics.

5.    Co-ordination with the panel convenors, event organiser or MC to ensure they assist the person and help keep to the parameters.

But they should be given parameters on what they can speak about what they can comment on. They should be given the opportunity to practice answers such as  “I’m not qualified to answer that question.” “I would prefer to refer that on to someone else on the panel.” and those sorts of situations.

Saying No is old school

Saying Noto a person that is inexperienced so that a more experienced or qualified person can take over so Old School. The days of only allowing the CEO / GM or Head of Comms to ever speak will create an internal environment of lack of trust and opportunity. Externally it may well bore the audience with the same face, but also doesn’t show a breadth and depth of experience that are expected of companies. 

Supporting and giving training to that person so they can make the most of the opportunity is the way to go.  You can’t expect a child to learn to ride a bike without the training wheels and some help. But once they have got the idea of how to move forward they need to learn to stop and turn, to go up hill and slow down on slopes. 

Public speaking is like riding a bicycle….

Public speaking skills are like riding a bike once you have learnt you can apply them to many situations (hills, flat, trails, footpaths) and made different styles (Raleigh 20, BMX, mountain or road bike).  If you stop using them you make get a little rusty but, public speaking is like riding a bike you don’t forget.

Yes the under qualified person may fall off, they may make a wrong turn, by saying something they shouldn’t.  But for the most part they will wobble along and get the job done.  They may not be the best person, the most qualified, but maybe they are there for different reasons.  Like our woman who was asked due to her being a female in a male dominated industry. Her perspective may have been more important that her knowledge of the facts.

Before you say no, or before you say no to a speaking opportunity for someone else, look at what it would take for a yes.


How to become more Confident at Public Speaking

How to become more Confident at Public Speaking

When you aren’t a confident public speaker how do you become more confident? If you aren’t confident how can you become a more confident public speaker? Diana Thomson, of Speech Marks Coaching reviews her journey to finding self confidence and becoming a great public speaker.

Public speaking training: the gift that keeps on giving


With a career spanning over 25 years in Marketing, Julie Garlick has had to navigate staff and Board meetings, AGM's and difficult internal stakeholders. She credits public speaking coaching in her early years as a key to her success.  She ensures all her staff, sometime up to 70 of them were and are strong in public speaking to ensure they could do the same.

Public speaking coaching helps a career

In our interview she revealed that being able to speak well and present has helped her career immensely. “it's been absolutely critical the confidence that comes from being comfortable with public speaking means that I've been able to convey my ideas in a way that has given me credibility in front of an audience.” 

Use public speaking skills everyday

She goes beyond using them every day to say she uses them constantly. “ …everything from small meetings through to board and executive meetings, even one-on-ones with my team when I can help them, conveying to them the importance of the role they do or clarifying a situation for them.” 

Public speaking coaching is essential

Although she started learning on the job, she says she was fortunate early in her career to have a very good manager that realised for her to progress she needed the confidence and the clarity when she spoke publicly. “ He put me on a course that not only allowed me to understand the importance of content but also gave me the confidence to believe what I was saying.”

When Julie started her career in the early 1990s PowerPoint wasn’t widely used but it soon took over the presentation space. She has watched it use change and notes her own transition from using it as the speech, heavy in copy with the odd photo.  Now its key points and photos, maybe video to make it come alive.  In many ways it has come full circle to support the speech element of the presentation only.  But this has at times been a painful transition, she still sees many that aren’t great and has recently made moves to change this in her current role as a General Manager of Marketing.  She recalls one disasters with PowerPoint.

“ It (The PowerPoint Deck)  was fine when I was at work. I embedded a video and it worked brilliantly every time I was at work but when I took that PowerPoint presentation to the conference centre, I discovered the video wasn't imbedded, in fact it was a hyperlink and without Wi-Fi that hyperlink did not work !”

Public speaking skills when hiring staff

Although Julie hasn't consciously looked for hiring staff with public speaking skills and the ability to present well, she says she has been able to tell in the interview.  The skills are put to excellent use in the high pressure situation of an interview.

“…in an interview situation if they came across clear; enunciated well, got their point across, demonstrated with good examples and really made me believe them, I think that was demonstration of good public speaking skills and it gave me the confidence that if they could do it in a high-pressure interview situation they are probably good public speakers in real life”

But if a staff member didn’t display the skills needed, she has never hesitated to pass on the favour that her early manager did for her, and put public speaking training in their development plan.  Many of them didn’t think they needed them as they didn’t perceive they were ‘public speaking’, but Julie notes they come in useful when dealing with ‘strong internal stakeholders’.  If they had to represent the company it was critical that they had good public speaking skills.  Getting the training with an external provider, that specialise in Public Speaking coaching and training meant the staff member had the confidence to speak with someone who is there solely to help them.

Return on investment when spending on public speaking training

Julie says ‘there definitely is a return on investment, obviously the satisfaction of the staff member and the confidence that they gained from that course. I think the real return on investment though is found not so much from the presentation course but if they hadn't gone on it.  You don't realize how damaging a poor presentation is!  Lost revenue particularly in a sales environment or an environment where you're pitching to clients, be it sales or marketing because you just find out you didn't get the business but you don't know why.  Having the confidence and presenting well you soon learn that you would've won a lot more deals. I think the other time that return on investment really comes to light with public speaking is convincing a board or selling a story, that will lead to future growth for the business.  So it's not an immediate return on investment but it's the opportunity to present a strategy well that will then lead the company to have new revenue streams in the future.’

She agrees there's a correlation on a personal level with a person’s ability to convey ideas and speak to larger groups and with career progression and income.  Julie elaborates ; “To get a promotion you need to enunciate a concept really well or to demonstrate your worth to your boss which can often lead to a pay rise.   It can certainly lead to achieving KPI targets and thus any short or long-term incentive program that you might be on. But far more important is the fact that you might close more deals through having good presentation skills or to my point earlier about being able to enunciate a strategy and then have the confidence to get internal stakeholders on board to help you deliver that strategy in a way that will lead to revenue for the company’

It is in the area of dealing with internal stakeholders and other departments that public speaking skills are often under-estimated.  This alone makes it worthwhile for companies and employers to invest in the training for their staff.  It’s what she terms as a soft investment, the benefits aren’t necessarily obvious. But the lack of investment will certainly show up eventually and often at great costs.  Public speaking and presentation skills are so vital in today's virtual economy that the benefits are every day, every meeting but particularly obviously when you're presenting to a wide audience or very strong stakeholders.  Julie concludes that public speaking training is “.. a gift that keeps on giving..

Networking - simple tips to make it easier

Speech Marks Diana Thomson Networking Tips

Speaking up at Networking Events is simpler than you think.


Networking events or events and meetings with a networking element can be really off putting to many people, because they don’t know what to say, don’t know where to start or how to introduce themselves.

I often hear “I am OK once I get going but….”  insert excuse “I would rather hide in the toilets than speak to strangers/ I wait until someone talks to me / only go with someone I know…”

Firstly ‘You are not alone’ this is a natural reaction to a room full of strangers.  The key is to be prepared and have a few strategies prepared.


Who’s there?

Find out if there are any potential clients or connections attending.  Figure out who they are, search or LinkedIn and even contact them to say you hope to meet up at the event.  If this feels to bold maybe try to write a list of who you want to meet. This will keep you focused and will get you prepared for the next step.

Don’t arrive late.  

That’s not Mrs. Manners just talking.  Arriving on time and showing that you value the event, the event organisers time, are keen to meet people is worth the effort.  It also gives you a chance to meet people beforehand an event starts and say let’s catch up after the speaker/ dinner if you want to.

Who do you talk to?

This is another common problem. You may have to play social detective.   If at all possible find someone you recognize, however if they are in deep conversation wait until you can be welcomed in.  The easiest thing to do is look for a group of three or more.  This way one person can say hello to you, the person talking can continue un interrupted and the third can listen.   Look for a group where someone isn’t very engaged, their face or body language will indicate they are open to a new person.


Now it’s time to use the prepared mini speeches you have in your tool box.

Small Talk and introductions – the Escalator Pitch

Groan I hear you say?   Ice breakers are often small talk in disguise but keep it relevant if talking to strangers.   Best option “Hi there I am XYZ this is my first time at this event I am really impressed with it so far, what about you?”    Something like this, is open friendly, positive and asks them an easy to answer question.


Elevator Pitches are a useful basis for the introductions you need to do at Networking type events.  I believe they should be the basis not the fall back of choice.   Elevator pitches are great if you are job hunting, a sales person or are speed dating.   Escalator speeches maybe more useful.  Escalators are slower are usually more social and can travel at different speeds but take longer.  So is your networking event introduction.  Its more fluid, two or even three ways.  But if your goal is to meet you potential clients or customers then you need to keep it on track.

Have some great stories of the company success (or personal success) Use the company language and tone.  There is no point sounding like a BBC presenter if you are a McDonalds Employee.  Live and love the brand. 


Smile and the whole world smiles with you

It’s true, it works a charm and cost nothing. People will be more welcoming and think more positively of you if you smile.  You only have 10 seconds to make a good first impression, so even if you don’t say anything they will at least remember your smile.

Everyone likes talking about themselves

It’s true, because it’s easier to talk about ourselves than others.  So be the one to ask questions and find out about what they do, after you have impressed them with your self-introduction.

Remember that in general men like highlights, achievements and sports talk.  Women lean more towards people you know in common, things you have in common and current events.


You can prepare for this if you are going to be in a male or female dominated event.

Networking at a Networking Event

If you are going to an event that is promoted as a one.  Be even more prepared.  Have business cards on the ready, a phone charged to take photos to post to social media or exchange contacts and make appointments.  Ask for the attendee list if it isn’t given to you in advance. 

Post Event

In our digital world, this is now an essential step.  Send the Linked IN request, follow their business on Facebook or them on Instagram, share something they are promoting.  Go again, that’s right you need to attend the event again and even again before you get a strong association.  Monthly meetings are great for this so get them in your calendar and attend them.

Networking is a contact sport

Like any sport you can learn and train to get better at it, you can just ‘pull on your big girl pants’ take a deep breath and say “I can do this”.   Reward yourself afterwards.  Like any form of public speaking there is an element of muscle memory.  The more you do it the easier it gets, you make get rusty, but you can get back in the flow.  You can also use social events as practice both for your mind set and your introductions.  Practice smiling, looking at people, answering questions well and saying prepared escalator pitches.   You will be surprised how quickly you settle into them andbuild your confidence.



Speaking of TED Talks

Speaking of TED Talks

I have watch many TED Talks, some four times! I am a fan of the platform, they are all people speaking and making presentations about an idea worth spreading.  It would be fair to say its my primary source of video content consumption. It alone makes me aspire to make Vloggs and videos. It has made me realise that it’s not only me that has discovered they can speak in front of a huge audience if they put in the practice and have a great message. ( see )