I know, it doesn’t have quite the same ring as ‘Harvard Business School’, but with schools returning this month, it made me think about my own schooldays when one of things I realise we were never taught was how to become a good public speaker or give presentations.

I did leave school knowing how not to do it – which was to stand at the front, with a bright red face, trembling voice, feeling like a fool.

Many people have told me they had a similar experience of feeling awkward or embarrassed if they were asked to ‘come up to the front’ to address the class… or worse, the whole of assembly, which could cause serious (and lasting) damage to your mental wellbeing.

What I have learned since leaving school about giving presentations?  Well, what I would tell my 15-year-old self is:

  1. Speaking To Yourself is normal. The trick is to switch your inner voice to sounding like the mates who like you (ie. sound supportive and ok about things) than the ones who are mean  (who sound belittling and ridicule you).
  2. Be Prepared.  Mentally prepare something in advance if you can, rather than having to make it up on the spot.  Remember that the number ‘3’ is useful when you have to structure a talk quickly – if you can, think of three points rather than just one.  Watch my video on the ‘5-Minute Method’ about how you can structure a talk in just 5 minutes.
  3. Keep A Healthy Sense Of Perspective.  This isn’t life or death (even if it sometimes feels it might be).   It is just speaking for a brief moment in time – you will get through it ok, particularly if you have done the previous two steps.  Think about what the worst possible outcome of this talk/embarrassment/adrenaline rush could be… and then realise that even if the worst possible thing happened, you’d manage to cope with it.  Then think about what is the best possible outcome – and what you can do to make that outcome even more likely to happen.

Would my younger self have listened to these pearls of experience?  Who knows?  But I would have definitely spent less time as a red-faced adult in the world of grown-up presentations if I had only learned it all back then.

If you would like to improve your presentations or public speaking skills you can book a ‘Discovery Call’ with Caroline Hopkins to find out more about how she can help you.