Category: Public Speaking

Don’t Make an Enemy of Your Best Friend.

The Pensive Buttoner pic

What is the worst thing a guy can do to his best friend?

Ask him to be the Best Man at his wedding!

He will have to make a speech fitting for the occasion and also find a tuxedo that fits. He will lie awake night after night wondering what to say and worrying about it.  It will totally occupy his mind for weeks. As the time draws near pimples will start sprouting on his face from the stress. Everyone else’s preparations for the wedding seems to be going smoothly except his speech.

Finally the day arrives, the guests look splendid and happy but the best man cannot enjoy himself, it is the worst experience of his life. He is sure he will make a fool of himself, no one will find his jokes funny.

Fight or flight mode kicks in, all the blood drains from his brain to his muscles in readiness to run like hell. His memory, starved of oxygen and blood shuts down and he completely forgets his opening lines. His mouth is so dry not a word can come out. Poor guy!

My advice: Don’t make an enemy of your best friend by asking him to be best man at your wedding unless you provide him with an experienced speaking coach.  If you ask me, I know just the man for the job. He makes speaking in front of an audience an exciting and fun challenge. He can provide your best man with guidance on gathering content, structuring and delivering his speech. And perhaps most importantly, how to make it really captivating by weaving in anecdotes and stories. The audience will love it and he will be the second most popular guy.

For workshops and 1:1 specialised coaching:




An Analysis of How Oprah Skilfully Integrates Storytelling Into Her Acceptance Speech.

Being an experienced TV talk show host, actress and producer, Oprah has the charisma to deliver a compelling speech. What struck me is how she owns the stage. She makes it look easy and natural suggesting her preparation was meticulous.

She opens with a vignette, a brief personal recollection and in typical storytelling style sets the scene – 1964 on a linoleum floor in Milwaukee. Its simple, personal and evocative. Her confidence fuels a desire to want to hear more. In just a few lines she has captured the audience’s attention and created anticipation.

Eloquently portrayed, Sidney Poitier is the protaganist of Oprah’s opening story. She adds a strong visual element by vividly describing him and infuses her description with passion, expressing what she felt at the time. She does this very economically by using a single and strong white tie/black skin contrast.

As with any good story there are obstacles that need to be overcome and challenges that are faced. Oprah delicately refers to this saying that when she was a girl how rare it was to see a black person being celebrated and honoured for outstanding achievement. Also saying that she is the first black woman to receive the award implies many difficulties were encountered along the way.

The resolution of her story is a dream come true. The story began in 1964 and we are brought to the present moment. She is now the one being acknowledged in the same way as Sidney Poitier was back then and she takes responsibility for being a role model.

Oprah’s acceptance speech has a message:

To maintain hope for a brighter morning and noboby having to say #MeToo again. To illustrate this Oprah goes on to tell the story about Recy Taylor. A story she chose because it is relevant to her message. She keeps the details of the story down to the absolute essentials, imparting only what is necessary to get her message across, it is pleasantly devoid of fluff and padding. While telling this story and indeed throughout her whole speech variations in her tone of voice is masterful.  The way she says, “Just walking home,” is light and airy yet strongly contrasts with how she adds emphasis and force to the word kill in, “They threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone.”

Again she adds relevance to the story of Recy Taylor and brings it closer to us by announcing that Recy had recently passed on.

She tells us how women’s personal stories of abuse have culminated into the wider #MeToo movement and the collective story has trancended race, religion and politics.  She emphasises that, “Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.”

Oprah skilfully integrates stories into her speech to get her message across and leaves a lasting impression.

Public Speaking:  A Soft Skill That Needs a Solid Structure.

Public Speaking: A Soft Skill That Needs a Solid Structure.

Pace, coupled with a clear structure  is the secret to putting complex ideas into a format that is easy to understand.

Proper pace is needed as there is a delay between the words being spoken and the time it takes for them to be absorbed and understood.  Attention to diction and pronunciation helps to achieve a suitable pace. The narrative must be interspersed with pauses to give it space and allow it to breathe.

A structure that follows a sequential and logical format will free the minds of your audience to follow and be absorbed in what you are saying.

Here is an example of a structure that could be used  when you are unexpectedly asked to, “Say a few words,” on a topic you are familiar with but only have 10minutes to prepare.

Structuring Your 2 mins Speech. 


State:                           Your claim/argument/point of view/stance.

Explain.                      Why? Validate your claim.              .


Main Point :               The essense of what you are saying.

Support material for main point: (Backup your claim with facts, statistics, quotes or stories).

  • Point 1:              Reinforce your claim with evidence.
  • Point 2:
  • Point 3:


Wrap it up with a skillful conclusion. Reinforce your message in a memorable way.

An example of the structure being put into practice.

State: Paragliding is the most amazing thing you could ever do.

Explain: Who would like to fly like a bird? Leonardo Da Vinci did. In the 1500’s he designed and built some magnificent flying contraptions but was not quite able to realise his dream. Today anyone can learn to fly. Simply enroll for a beginners course at a paragliding school and within a week you’ll be doing a solo flight from a height of 800metres.

Main Point: Paragliding  is a skill which requires understanding and collaboration with the forces of nature. The air that surrounds us.

  • It brings with it an appreciation and respect for Nature.
  • Being in the mountains is beautiful and healthy.
  • The camaraderie. With my licence I could go to places like New Zealand and join up with groups going out for a weekend of camping and flying.

Conclusion: Paragliding besides being exhilerating requires total awareness to what is going on in the present and the ability to adapt to an ever changing invisible force-The Wind.

If you aim at creating something extraordinary and making it clear and understood, contact me on or +32 498 523 649 on how to put business storytelling to work in your organisation.
Elon Musk Drives His Point Home.

Elon Musk Drives His Point Home.

Last Thursday in sensational style Elon Musk unveiled the Tesla electric truck. After driving the futuristic truck into full view of the audience he stepped out from the driving seat amid enthusiastic cheers-worthy of a rockstar. At first he seemed bit overwhelmed and not knowing what else to do threw his arms in the air. As the audience quietened down he got rolling with his presentation extolling the virtues of his new truck. He did not disappoint and the truck appeared to give birth to a sleek new roadster. Using feisty language and adding a dash of exaggeration he made his point, “The point of doing this is just to give a hardcore smackdown to gasoline cars,” and went on to say, “Driving a gasoline sports car is going to feel like a steam engine with a side of quiche.”

His language is hip, peppered with humour and he makes lofty claims which leave little room for interpretation. Musk has shown he is Mr. Sustainable and a guy who walks his talk. If all he did on stage was burp he would probably get a rapturous applause. He opts to use playful language and colouful metaphors. Before the unveiling of the truck he tweeted, “This will blow your mind clear out of your skull and into an alternate dimension.”

His passion and vision are clearly reflected in his speech and reveals his adventurous personality.

“I Hit the Ground Running.”

“I Hit the Ground Running.”

Idiot or Idiom?

“I hit the ground running,” sounds to me like an answer to, “What happened to your face and why the broken arm?” Taken literally it makes little sense yet the figurative meaning suggests much more than the five words that make up the simple phrase. Idioms are an oddity of language that have been collected over time and communicate meaning, depth and brevity. Quite simply, it can conjure up a positive plan of action, a determination to pro-actively get on with a new project or way of life. An effective way to communicate meaning. The literal meaning may sound painful yet it is a positive statement. This perculiarity and efficiency of words to communicate meaning make idioms particulary useful to a public speaker.

Beginner’s Luck?

Beginner's Luck.

In 1980 I had completed my military service and landed my first job in Johannesburg repairing typewriters. I was 22.

After four months of training I was ready to enter the field as a customer service engineer for IBM. Suited up and carrying an attaché case containing my tools I arrived at my first customer. Through a combination of nervousness and inexperience I struggled to find the bug and fix it. I broke a sweat, loosened my tie, the clock was ticking and the customer wanted to use her machine. I was representing IBM and I didn’t want to look incompetent but felt my pride and credibility sinking down into my socks. My pager kept announcing that more customers were being added to the queue of those already waiting.

I took out a vital part of the machine and apologising to the customer for the delay said I would need to go back to headquarters, just a few blocks away, to get a new part. OK. At the office an experienced colleague had come across the same problem and explained how to solve it. Back at the customer I replaced the same part I had taken out, found the bug and easily fixed it.

Not two days later, my boss received a glowing letter from the customer about the incident. She complimented on the efficient and friendly service that had been rendered. To get a letter from a customer was a rare thing it boosted my value as an employee and even more so because it was on my very first day out.

After all the excellent training I had received I felt I had failed as I was not able to identify the problem and spend ten minutes to solve it. The letter surprised me. Beginner’s luck? I think so. I have no other means of explaining it.

Do you think there is such a thing as beginner’s luck? Tell me, what are your thoughts on why beginners can sometimes excel beyond those with even years of experience? Leave a comment.

To Gain Clarity-Remove Clutter

To Gain Clarity-Remove Clutter

In 1998 when living in Sun Valley near Cape-Town my ceiling nearly collapsed because of the amount of sand that had been blown in under the roof tiles. Capetonians call it “The South-Easter” A strong, persistent, onshore wind, whipping up beach sand and driving it into every conceivable nook and cranny. The entire city gets a thorough sand blasting.

In Cape Town city centre the wind becomes an incessant gale force as it is channelled and accelerated through the buildings. Cyclists and pedestrians struggle to see through the flying grit and keep their balance.  The South-Easter can howl continuously for days.

Locals have nicknamed it “The Cape Doctor.” It also brings with it a beautiful mantle of cloud which gracefully rests on Table Mountain. Kite surfers and windsurfers welcome the strong steady wind and can be seen skimming across the waves at incredible speeds. But most of all when the wind dies down fair weather descends on the Western Cape and the air is crisp and clean for all.

The legendary Cape Doctor clears all pollution and pestilence.

Turbulent times present challenges but there are silver linings during the process and the satisfaction of having clear skies and clean air is mighty sweet.

When the fear of change, the unknown and the prospect of having to make sacrifices are preventing people from moving forwards, a well-articulated story could make all the difference. I’ve seen it work time and again by leaders like Barack Obama and Steve Jobs. Sometimes even a simple anecdote will do. Claims made in stories must be backed up but a story will provide the inspiration. Inspiration is the fuel for motivation, a key to unleash latent potential and the sauce to make a vision happen.

If you aim at creating something extraordinary and making it clear and understood, contact me on +32 498 523 649 on how to put business storytelling to work in your organisation.

Stories to breathe new life into Detroit.

A city creating a new swirling red thread that runs through all aspects of Detroit renewing outdated perceptions.

Mike Duggan the mayor of Detroit has appointed a journalist and long-time resident of Detroit, Aaron Foley as Chief Storyteller.

Aaron Foley’s message is clear, “I firmly believe that the value of a city is measured by the character of its residents, and Detroiters are worth more than pure gold.” He goes on to say, “We’ll be enterprising stories from off the ground, with the goal of amplifying things we don’t always hear about. I want to finally debunk some of the myths that have been clouding the city for years”.

The position, believed to be the first of its kind in the US, was conceived to give Detroiters a way to connect and discuss issues that don’t get covered by the city’s traditional media, and part of a dedication Duggan and Foley share to create a “meaningful and impactful ways to give Detroiters and their neighbourhoods a stronger voice.”

“The biggest challenge has been trying to paint a full picture of Detroit, scars and all, in short time constraints. Like during panel discussions where you have to share the mic with a few others and only have a sum total of 15 minutes of discussion. Or during interviews where you have to boil an entire city down to a soundbite or two.”

Need help in finding and creating stories for your organisation? My speciality is using storytelling for effective communication.

Chief-Storyteller Detroit article here

Charisma, Essential To Have In A Public Speaker’s Repertoire.

confident-business-womanCharisma, the ability to attract, charm and influence people is often thought of as a mysterious indescribable gift bestowed on only a privileged few.

The etymology of charisma is kharis from the Greek meaning grace, beauty, kindness and kharisma, meaning  favour or grace.

Christian contexts have often referred to charisma as power entrusted to an individual by Divine favour for the good of the Church. It is not surprising then that charisma is associated with having a supernatural gift. It may look as if a charismatic person has some superior magnetism and unique talent but as research and scientific study suggest, charisma can be learned.

Each person’s own unique brand of charisma is developed using a combination of skills learned through practice and application.

5 Strategies for Boosting Your Score on the Charismatic Calibrator.

Authenticity. Take a genuine interest in people, ask questions, listen to their needs and concerns, remember their names and details about conversations.

Appearance. Have a neat appearance pay attention to detail. Act at ease yet supremely confident.

Clarity. Practice good annunciation, use pauses, metaphors, stories and anecdotes to create a visual component. Whether you are delivering a speech or having a conversation make your dialogue easy to follow and understand.

Conviction. Speak passionately and believe in what you say. Look at the people you are talking to.

Humour. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Enjoy yourself during the conversations you are having and when you are on the podium. Smile. When appropriate be lighthearted.

Any number of virtues contribute to a person having charisma. To be charimatic one does not have to acquire all the traits, by tweaking and adjusting behaviours and building on strong points in one’s character an aura of charisma is radiated.

Charisma strategies when learned and applied will improve the quality of your public speaking,  interpersonal relationships and transform you into a people magnet.

How to Give Constructive Feedback for a Speech.


Helping a speaker to refine and improve their public speaking skills requires paying close attention and listening carefully.

When evaluating a speech keep in mind that the primary goal of the exercise is to empower the speaker, to acknowledge their strong points and give practical tips on how to improve. The overall tone of your critique should give value to the speaker’s efforts by being helpful and constructive. It is a personal opinion on how you experienced the speaker’s performance. Avoid speaking on behalf of the audience.

Discuss with the speaker beforehand if there are any points for which they would like special attention. Ask for some background information and what are their objectives Remember the speaker’s name and use it.

An effective critique can be structured using the following criteria:




Attitude: Did the speaker portray a confident attitude and begin by capturing the audience’s attention? Was the delivery rushed or did it have an agreeable pace and rhythm? How did you feel about the speaker’s stage presence? Keep a look out for authenticity and credibility. Did the speaker show that he/she is knowledgeable about their subject and was the topic relevant to the audience?

Construction: Was the speech well-structured with a clear introduction, body and conclusion? Were the ideas ordered logically and were there smooth transitions which allowed the audience to assimilate all that was being said? At the end of the speech were you able to simply define the purpose of the speech? If visual aids were used were they used appropriately, were they clearly seen and how did they add value to the speech?

Expression: Expression is the driving force behind the speech. What sort of hand gestures, facial expressions and movement on the podium did the speaker display. Did the speaker use vocal variety to add substance to his/her delivery? Most importantly, what was the emotion that the speaker conveyed?

Note down points while the speaker is talking so that at the end you can formulate your observations into a coherent structure. Select only the most relevant points. Restrict your recommendations to areas where it is clear that with a slight adjustment the speaker can make a significant improvement.

Keep your critique compact and beneficial. Demonstrate your recommendations with specific examples. Be candid and don’t give praise where it is not due.

Conclude by telling the speaker what you liked most about their speech and offer praise for their efforts. Reflect on how you can improve on gaining mastery in giving constructive feedback and continually strive to improve your observation skills.

How to Manage Public Speaking Anxiety.


The skills in giving a great presentation lie in preparation and practice.

What are the most common fears of giving a presentation?

* Fear of what people might think.
* Fear of how one looks.
* Fear of losing the thread.
* Fear of being vulnerable/showing weakness.
* Fear of being insignificant/lack of self-confidence.
* Fear of people losing interest.
* Fear of being in the limelight.
* Fear of feeling intimidated by the audience.
* Fear of making a joke and people not laughing.
* Fear of the power of the moment.
* Fear of failure.
* Fear of success.

10 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Giving Presentations.

1) Goal.
Get a clear idea of how you want your audience to feel at the end of your presentation and keep this in mind during the preparations. What exactly do you want to convey? It is also important to determine beforehand how you will feel during the presentation.

2) Know your audience.
Find out who will be attending and include references appealing to their specific interests.

3) Construct your presentation.
It is important here to imagine yourself actually doing the presentation. Where is the venue, what does the interior look like how will it be when the auditorium is full? Will there be a microphone, handheld or lapel model? How will the lighting be? How will you be dressed, what sort of hand and body movements will you be making to reinforce your overall message. How will your voice sound? What sort of visual aids will you be using and where will they be placed?

4) Act confident.
Even if nervous, start the presentation with full confidence in a clear and controlled manner. Prepare an intro that captures the audience’s attention. Invite curiosity, excitement, mystery, shock, amazement, the audience will love it.

5) Content.
Use logic and a coherent organisation. Make references to the sources of quotes. Research the subject adequately. When using visual aids make sure they can be clearly seen, always speak to the audience and not to the screen or object.

6) Emotion.
Be sincere and convey a strong sense of conviction. Show your own excitement about what you are talking about. Allow the audience to really feel what is happening, use personal stories and humorous examples to illustrate a point. This will keep your presentation interesting.

7) Conclusion.
Maintain a sense of confidence while wrapping up with a powerful conclusion that sums up the entire presentation. The end is what your audience is mostly likely to remember. Make sure it sticks.

8) Practice.
Practice from beginning to end using all the props. Ask someone to watch you and make a recording. Listen to feedback. Practice until notes are no longer needed. Practice adding expression by refining variations in voice, volume, rate and tone. Speaking in a clear voice will hold the audience’s attention.

9) Speaking skills.
Polish your skills by getting acquainted with Toastmasters International or a Speakers Association. Watch videos of famous speeches, comedians and presenters. Anyone can do it.

10) Breathing.
Before speaking keep your breathing steady. Feel a sense of gratitude for the having the privilege of doing the presentation. Having done a thorough preparation the presentation will flow and if any disturbances occur you are better equipped to deal with them. For now all you need remember is your opening lines.

The key to overcoming fear when giving presentations is to build confidence. Knowing what you are going to do and how you are going to do it will make the experience enjoyable.