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Public speaking coach specializing in helping people with public speaking anxiety. “All great speakers were bad speakers at first.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Seven questions that will help if you are unsure

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On the first night of my public speaking course, I tell people the story of my epic public speaking fail. You can read all about it here. The short version is that I had a panic attack in front of the senior executive team of the organisation I was employed by. Six months later, I joined Toastmasters. Twelve years later, I became a public speaking coach.

I tell this story to every new group without hesitation. My clients have a fear of public speaking. It is a perfect way to start…

And it's costing you and them dearly.

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This email arrived in my inbox today,

Hi, I am terrified about public speaking and the panic attacks that come with it! I go to great lengths to avoid these situations, and it’s having an impact on my life. Is this the sort of course that can help me? Thanks.

I highlight it not because it is unusual but because it is typical.

Nearly 90% of people who sign up for our public speaking courses report that they actively avoid public speaking. And almost half of them say that a fear of public speaking has affected their career. Some have…

Self-talk that actually helps

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You are a bundle of nerves. You have an important presentation to give. You have been dreading it for days. You barely slept last night, and you can feel your heart pounding and the panic rising.

You look in the mirror, smile, and repeat three times, “I am a calm and confident speaker, and I am going to be amazing.”

Instantly you feel calm and reassured. Two hours later, you give your presentation. It is a huge success!

That’s great! If positive affirmations work for you, by all means, keep using them. But if instead, you have an inner critic…

And why being an extrovert is not always an advantage!

Free photo 2404811 © Brandon Tucker —

People often assume that extroverts have an advantage in public speaking. Intuitively it sounds logical. Extroverts love the limelight while introverts shun it!

But my experience coaching people with public speaking anxiety, suggests something different. For a start, I don’t believe there is any clear relationship between personality type and public speaking confidence.

Only a small percentage of my clients are extreme introverts. And some are extroverts. They love to talk — until they have to get up in front of an audience! Chatty, bubbly people can become hugely self-conscious as soon as they have our full attention!

Similarly, I…

And four principles that will help you do so

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Think back to the last time you made up an excuse to back out of something you had committed to. Was it yesterday? Last week? More recently than you would care to admit?

The trigger for me to write this article was a recent experience. I run public speaking courses for people with public speaking anxiety, and I have had a lot of demand for regular, monthly sessions for people who have completed one of my courses. However, making this work has been challenging.

Ten people committed to coming to the November session. Many had even paid in advance. On…

If only I had realised earlier that public speaking was a skillset, not a natural talent…

Artwork commissioned by the author

When I was eight years old, my teacher taught the class to play the recorder. She told us one day that she was forming a recorder group, but I decided not to join.

Several weeks later, the teacher announced that the recorder group would be playing for the opening of the new school hall. That sounded cool, and so I asked if I could join the group after all. She gave me a piece of music and told me to practice. But she warned me that I had missed too much and it would be almost impossible to catch up.

And you probably haven’t read these tips elsewhere!

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There are plenty of useful articles about public speaking, but many of them repackage similar tips. Remember to pause; practice your presentation thoroughly; maintain eye contact; focus on your audience; tell stories; and so on. Don’t get me wrong — it is all great advice! But I am always looking for fresh insights.

In this article, I have put together five less-known tips. Some of these I have discovered through my own practice and all of them I have put into effect or tested for myself.

Tip One — Try Elongating Your Vowels to Slow Down

A lot of people speak too quickly when they are nervous. The traditional advice…

How to find the preparation sweet spot

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Few people can engage an audience without preparing and practicing. Even presenters who look like they are speaking ‘off the cuff’, have usually prepared thoroughly— or have presented the same material many times previously.

When I first started as a public speaking coach, I stressed the importance of good preparation. But I noticed that some people would still turn up unprepared. And they often started their presentation by telling us that they hadn’t prepared.

I realized that they were using this as a ‘get of jail card free card’. If they told us how unprepared they were and it didn’t…

And showed remarkable insight

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The best speakers are usually great storytellers. Stories can help inform, entertain, persuade, or inspire. They capture our attention, help us understand, and evoke emotion. We usually remember stories more easily than facts. Stories can support other content, or they can form the basis of a speech.

Since 2016, I have been running a public speaking course at a local girls’ high school in Auckland, New Zealand.

The girls who sign up for the course are amazing. Only 14 and 15 years old, they already recognise the importance of gaining public speaking skills. …

It can be, revealing, reassuring, and motivating

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Many years ago, I watched a video of myself presenting. I couldn't bring myself to view it for months because I knew how bad it was going to be! Partway through my presentation, I had lost my way and hesitated. I dreaded watching that video but when I finally did, it was fascinating — because the hesitation was barely noticeable. And I realised that I had held a distorted view of my performance.

When I first started coaching, a few clients would ask me to video their presentations. I thought this was a great idea and so I extended the…

Catherine Syme

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