Blog Archives

Straight to video: put thyself in the story

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Time to premiere (unleash?) another video. This cinematic masterpiece is aimed at public speakers and media spokespeople.

It’s all about the value of putting yourself in the story. World Vision CEO Tim Costello does this unfailingly. You should too. Watch and learn what we mean.

So much depends on your spokespeople’s ability to present persuasively. On their public speaking skills hinge your donations, members, staff and policy decisions. So…when was the last time you developed your messages and presentation skills?

media training australia

A book for our time.

If you want you and your team to be better presenters book a Speak Savvy workshop today. Call Brett 0414 713 802. And download our Speak Savvy the free eBook.



Behold the public speaking pyramid

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book for public speaking

Read this, get savvy, speak better.

There’s a lot of public speaking advice out there (our new free eBook Speak Savvy for instance) and no wonder – many people loathe the thought of a quick presentation to workmates. A keynote presentation to 1000 peers is enough to render many mute and let’s not even mention speaking to media.

That’s a shame because presenters who are engaging, confident and knowledgeable are seen as smarter, better leaders and are more likely to get their way compared to people of equal experience and IQ who cannot command attention. That’s showbiz.

So what makes a “good public speaker” “good”? Well we took a cue from nutritionists who – like the Egyptians – created a pyramid long ago that still gets referred to today. Say hello to the public speaking pyramid.

public speaking advice

It all starts with knowledge. Note the lack of whole grains, dairy or legumes in this pyramid.

The good news is that being a strong speaker is all based on knowledge. Many speakers and speaker trainers tacitly believe that it’s possible to compensate for a lack of real knowledge and specific experience with some YouTube videos, a loud voice and a silly ice-breaking activity. It isn’t.

One of the best presentations Brett ever saw was delivered by a woman with no PowerPoint, no audience activities, no dramatic pauses and certainly no honed TED-style personal stories. She hadn’t taken our Present Savvy workshop.

public speakign trainer australia

Deb with late great Joan Kirner, former Premier of Victoria.

The speaker was Debbie Kilroy and she spoke from the heart from her own personal experience about a topic that held 1000 people enthralled – women in prison. She didn’t even move from behind the lectern but her knowledge and expertise was so compelling, authentic and unique that she killed. (Showbiz talk for “excelled”.) Knowledge works – that’s why it’s the base of our public speaking pyramid. You need multiple servings of this.

Knowledge is more than facts – it’s what you and you alone can explain. It’s your experiences and perspectives. As we emphasise to our Present Savvy participants, if your content is compelling, robust and valuable nobody regrets the missing videos, dramatic pauses or audience participation. Nobody misses the entrance and exit music when the speaker is smart and helpful. So be smart and helpful.

Consider this range of response.

So how was the speaker today, dear?

Option A.

Super confident and he had all these cool graphics but I don’t know what makes him an expert in waste water treatment. We all knew as much as he did. 

Option B

Yeah – pretty good.  Not exactly a bundle of laughs but there was nothing about waste water the guy didn’t know.  I learnt some stuff for sure.


Stories & examples

public speaking stories

Stories work for grown ups as well as they do for kids.

Your knowledge needs to be brought to life. It must be transferred; given colour and be made comprehensible. Great public speakers liberally pepper their stagetime with examples and stories which are selected to be both representative, memorable and moving.

Of all the content you deliver on stage, your stories and examples are most likely to stay with audiences after the show. Good speakers take time to find examples that hit home with audiences. Note – the stories don’t have to be about you. They needn’t be long – they might be more a personal reflection or reminiscence.

Do you use examples or stories? Do they illuminate? Have you practiced how you tell them? We guarantee every speaker we train that we can improve their stories and examples.

Why stories? Empathy is in short supply. Humans presume their own lives to be complex but others peoples’ situation to be simple. The right story or example will reveal nuance. It might drill down and highlight the moment something changed. Stories and examples, like this one from leading introvert Susan Cain might inject some humour or humanity. It should offer you a way to explain something beyond just straight talking. Stories help your messages sink in.

Consider this range of response.

How was that speaker at work today dear?

Option A

Not bad. Total expert in her field – nothing she didn’t know about recruiting staff but I don’t know exactly how any of it was particularly relevant to me.

Option B

Not bad. Total expert in her field – nothing she didn’t know about recruiting staff. She gave us this case study of a business that is a lot like us. The company went from employer of last resort to an employer of choice. There was definitely stuff I can use.


Engagement & Exercises

public speaker australia

Doing sometimes beats talking.

Speakers and presenters have a message to get across. Otherwise why even bother? To get your message across you MUST engage the audience. Many public speakers are too meek to take control. Get over this self-imposed limitation. It can be as simple as a quick audience poll or as extravagant as having 1000 people form teams to build constructions out of pasta. (Dried not fresh.)

Audiences may claim to be tired of group exercises. Liars! Appropriate, well explained, well executed activities leave audiences enlivened. Exercises break up slabs of talk and allow people who have different learning styles to thrive. Engaging exercises showcase the speaker’s prowess as a presenter and elevate your contribution from speaking to presenting. Exercises make your contribution more memorable. No engagement = no attention. Note – the exercises must relate to your content and message somehow.

Consider this range of response.

“So how was the conference dear?”

Option A

Good. One speaker was talking about how hard it is to come to Australia as a refugee.

Option B

Good. One speaker was talking about how hard it is to come to Australia as a refugee. She did this thing where she handed out forms to enrol your kid in daycare, rent a home and apply for a mortgage but instead of being in English the forms were 50% in English and 50% in Arabic and asked us to complete the forms. Impossible.”

Another example

“So how was the conference dear?”

Option A

We had this sales expert who talked about how important it was to have really great answers to frequently held objections from our customers.

Option B

We had this sales expert who talked about how important it was to have really great answers to frequently held objections from our customers. She had half the room come up with the objections and half the group come up with the responses. The responders had three minutes to come up with their answers and we voted on which group had the best responses. Honestly – the difference between some of the responses to the same objections was horrifying.


Audio / visual

The ante has been well and truly upped in this regard. There are some super slick videos and infographics out there being used to full effect by presenters. Undoubtedly they can be the icing on the cake but they are no substitute for knowledge, examples and stories and engagement.

powerpoint mistakes

A picture is worth a thousand words. It should not contain 1000 words.

The use and abuse of PowerPoint is an old chestnut but like the weather everyone complains but nobody does anything about it. If you use it (and you do have a choice) use it lightly to illuminate, clarify and entertain. We have plenty of tips in our free PDF eBook: Speak Savvy.

If you depend on videos to bring home your point make them A) your own B) not utterly familiar C) relevant to your message D) short.

I place audio / visual at the top of the public speaking pyramid – it’s a bonus not a basic. Yet most presenters will spend far longer on their PowerPoint than refining their stories or devising an engaging audience exercise.

You stand more chance of moving someone with an exercise than a slide.

So how was that speech you went to?

Option A

Pretty good. She played that video of the gorilla and the basketballers. They all use that. Then she played some American TV ad to get some message across about collaboration. It a bloody commercial for a mobile phone – who cares?

Option B.

Pretty good. She showed this video from one of her workshops. She interviewed participants before and after about teamwork. She turned some absolute lone wolves into collaborators. Maybe she could do something with our team.



The icing on the pyramid cake (pardon the mixed metaphor) is stagecraft. ‘Serious’ speakers – those who land big fat speaking fees – have made much of stagecraft including: pauses, mime, roaming, whispering, costume changes, props and chants.

If and only if you have

  • knowledge,
  • stories & examples;
  • engagement & exercises;
  • audio visual;

all sorted then and only then can some cunning stagecraft help lift you to the speaking stratosphere.

presenting about climate change

Ok – some gimmicks work pretty well. For former Vice Presidents.

I have seen (endured) speakers who come with sherpas laden with paraphrenalia. Home videos, props, role plays, songs and dances.

This is a trait of the non-expert who covers a lack of real experiences and smarts under an icing of showbiz. I am all for showbiz – but as the dessert, not the main course.


So how was the conference dear?

Option A

There was this sort of ‘motivational’ speaker woman – my God! She cried, she sang, she came out wearing this glittery ball gown. She talked about her childhood and her corporate career but I’m not sure how recent any of that was. Some of us were wondering afterward – what exactly was she here for?

Option B

There was this woman – my God! She was amazing. Quite theatrical – she showed us all these pictures of herself growing up around the world. She sang a little song but what I got out of it was that collaboration is built from four key shared values.

book for public speaking

For anyone who speaks to other people as part of their work.

If that’s given you food for thought download the free PDF eBook Speak Savvy.

It’s full of ways to be a great presenter on stages small or large.

And find out what two of our training workshops can do for you. Speak Savvy is for those wanting to bask in the media spotight. Present Savvy makes you a savvier presenter to audiences big or small, clients and stakeholders..

– Brett de Hoedt, Mayor of Hootville.

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Speak Savvy the Zimmerman way

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Brett’s back on radio and his interview with executive director of the Australian Retailers Association Richard Zimmerman holds some tips for anyone who finds themselves in front of a microphone.

media training tips

Mr Zimmerman is good talent.

Richard is an old hand and showed it from the minute Brett made contact the night before. He called from the airport, confirmed the time, double-confirmed via email and provided a landline and back- up mobile number. What a pro.

Listen to the interview as you read through the observations below.

0.53 Opening remark. Richard starts the interview and immediately asserts himself. He is keen to clarify something from the outset and does. This gives him control. Control is good. Reasonability: He immediately states that ARA is uninterested in Saturday penalty rate reforms. This reasonability will disarm many listeners.

2.15: Disagreement: Richard wastes no time challenging Brett’s assertion that retailers have a choice to open.

3.10: Puts himself in the story. “I was talking to a guy yesterday…” Always good to demonstrate your involvement, experience and connections. This creates authority.

media training

This retail chappy seems happy with his terms and conditions.

3.50: More control, assertion and reasonability. “I want to make this clear…”  Points to Monash Uni research to underline the justification for his argument.

4.50: Anticipates audience reaction: He is keen to avoid alienating listeners who defend junior staff. He knows this in advance and spends time to clarify his stance.

5.55: Positions his argument as being all about creating employment – not employers.

7.14: Global comparisons demonstrate expertise and authority.

Score: Confident, competent, engaging, reasonable: 8/10

talk radio

Hootville is on the SoundCloud. Tune in. Now.

By the way – all of Brett’s show is available via SoundCloud.

You really should meet Lucy Perry.

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Speaking at a Commonwealth Bank event for NFPs last year Brett was hugely impressed by CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia Lucy Perry who delivered a presentation that ranks as the best of its type.

“I train people in marketing,” he recalls. “I present about marketing. Lucy Perry gave the best NFP marketing presentation I have seen. Including mine. Damn her to hell.” Hootville spoke to Lucy about marketing and communications:

Do some NFPs forget that they are in the marketing game whether they want to be or not?

My team runs a dedicated communications and fundraising company on a business model. We don’t run the hospital in Ethiopia. We FUND it. So our team here focusses on marketing and fundraising all day long! We don’t get dragged into the mechanics of program delivery. I have always treated this as a world class company, delivering awesome communication to a targeted audience. I think it is a mistake for not-for-profits to think they are a poor charity that has to beg for everything or that they compete with each other. Get the marketing right and charities can access support that wasn’t even up for grabs before they made the needs of the organisation accessible and rewarding for the right people.

The many faces and hair colours of Lucy Perry.


You’ve got lots of work to do. Why do you leave the office to speak face-to-face with people? What does this achieve?

Great question. There are several million good reasons to go keynote speaking. Here are the top five:

1. My speaker’s fees bring in a LOT of funding our work in Ethiopia. My entire speaker’s fee goes to the charity so that long after my keynote is delivered, the impact of those funds will have ripple effects in Ethiopia for years to come. My public speaking is now a significant income stream for Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia – up to a quarter of a million dollars a year. Enough to fund one of our regional hospitals in Ethiopia.

2. Speaking engagements spread the word about what is essentially a niche charity but I package that up with other subject matter that conference organisers can’t get enough of. You think you’re attending a speech about social media? By the end of that speech, you’ve learned a lot about social media but you’ve also seen examples which illustrate the plight of our patients and you’re inspired to take action. It’s a win-win!

3. I have met some of the most fantastic people at some of the best conferences in the world. The other speakers at these events have become important contacts and good friends. I have also learned from seasoned professionals like Bernard Salt (he gives 150 speeches a year) on how to hone my delivery.

4. People in my audiences blow me away. I have met so many awesome humans after I have delivered a killer speech.

5. It’s fun. That’s one of my rules for everything. It has to be fun. I find keynote speaking a lot of fun, I learn a lot from the people I meet and I enjoy entertaining people. I truly hate the hour before a big speech, but after that it’s all fun.


What makes your presentations work so damn well?

I think my presentations hit the spot because I take people on an emotional roller coaster. I make ‘em laugh, I make ‘em cry! I make ‘em laugh again. I keep the pace really nice and fast, I plug my speeches full of stories and have learned the art of emotional storytelling. I sometimes cry when I speak about the patients in Ethiopia. Can’t help it. But it’s authentic and part of who I am and the journey I take my audience on. I never have notes and only speak to slides of images – usually photographs that I have shot myself. I’m pretty confident that there is no other speaker like me in the world. I guess we are all unique!

What role does media coverage play? Is there much interest?
We reach more than 2M people through traditional media every month. This is in addition to our social media reach of more than 20M a month. Given that our core donor profile is professional women who are aged 40 – 70+ traditional media is still an important part of the communication mix. A piece on ABC Radio National is GOLD and will net more donations than a Facebook post.

marketing speakers

Dr Catherine Hamlin. Worthy of a knighthood.

What role does direct mail and print-based comms play for you?
Any good fundraising professional will tell you that if you use cross platform campaigns (email, traditional media, social media AND direct mail) you will have a higher return.

We have two major appeals each year and these are delivered across all platforms including direct mail. So our key support database of 20,000 will see our two major appeals in their inbox, their newsfeed and in their letterbox. If we are on a winner, they’ll also catch an interview on the radio or see a story in a major metro paper.

I think that thanking our donors and retail customers is absolutely essential and while I am the boss, we will always send our donors and customers hand written thank you notes. No matter how big we get!

This is where print media and good old fashioned snail mail are essential. Our volunteers write these thank yous and take the time to personalise each note so that it is meaningful and heartfelt. We are nothing without our donors. Thanking them is an essential part of our relationship with them and print media is the best way to do this.

How the hell do you get such fantastic engagement on social media?
Why thank you! I was forced to get my head around the Facebook algorithm very early on because as a start up, we had no budget. Facebook was free and so it was an important communication platform to wrangle. When Facebook makes changes to it’s policy and announces it to business page admins, I take note! I adjust our Facebook content to maximise the algorithm and make the most of organic reach.

In a nutshell, that means creating original, sharable content that people find sociable and entertaining. Surprise and delight is a handy tool. People love to see something unexpected and humour goes a long way. Users don’t expect a charity curing catastrophic childbirth injuries to be funny or fun. We mix up the humour with spine tingling stories that get the most engagement. My rule of thumb is that if a post made me cry while I was writing it, it will make the followers cry and we have a winner! There are a lot of other little tricks for making the most of Facebook organic reach and I try to use those wherever possible.

More about Hamlin.


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This man needs Hootville. You do too.

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As Australian media trainers we were so … impressed … by Ryutaro Nonomura’s impassioned press conference performance that we decided to make a 46 second video ad utilising the remarkable display. The basic premise: don’t leave media training until it is too late.

For those of you not following Japanese political meltdowns (perhaps due to family commitments, work pressures or indifference) suffice to say that the citizens represented by the MP were outraged that he’d spent $40,000 of public money on visits to the local spa. Clearly the criticism hurt.  Enjoy.

It’s an extreme example but a good one – by the time you need media training, it’s too late. Many clients contact us for Speak Savvy 101 training and confess that they have been considering such media training for years.

In that time, media opportunities are going begging. Bad form. And then of course there’s always the chance that media will come knocking on your door with awkward questions. Message to CEOs and boards: stop waiting, get savvy.

Speak Savvy 101 is delivered across Australia by Brett de Hoedt who recently made an Australia-wide appearance from a small studio in Melbourne courtesy of ABC-TV’s Weekend Breakfast. Isn’t it smart to hire a media trainer who appears on the media?

Speak Savvy 101 is aimed at media spokespeople and anyone who presents or speaks to stakeholders. Lots of people hire him.If your media spokespeople need training contact Brett de Hoedt of Hootville right now. 0414 713 802.

media training al gore

500+ campaigners. 1 media trainer. 1 tart. Long story.

If we’re good enough to talk media at Al Gore’s Climate Reality event Hootville might be good enough to train you. We’ve also trained the Australian Conservation Foundation, Climate Commission, Berry Street, Our Community, University of Melbourne departments, Bush Heritage Australia, BirdLife Australia, Inner South Community Health,  Baw Baw Shire, Marriott Support Services, Environment Defender’s Office, National Family Violence Prevention Legal Service & more. Smart people, tough issues.

Hootville has media trained them all – CEOs, board members, senior management teams, young people, people with disabilities, homeless people, people with English as a second language. We can probably handle you.

People think we’re pretty damn good.

And if you’ve been mature enough to not watch that video yet – here’s your last chance. More on Speak Savvy 101 right here.


Breaking: Public Speak Savvy 101 in Melbourne

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Looking for a media training workshop for your spokespeople? Hootville Communications has decided to host a public Speak Savvy 101 workshop in Melbourne – our first public workshop for at least five years and our second ever such session in Melbourne. It shall be held late June / July. Full details to come but here’s what we know:

  • small, strictly limited group of like-minded people;
  • pre-workshop preparation and homework;
  • unlimited 12-months of back-up coaching
  • rather very nice CBD venue;
  • 10-4pm;
  • lots of interaction and rehearsal;
  • lunch on us and please stick around for a drink afterwards;
  • video camera to ensure everyone is on their toes;
  • personal attention to your issues, organisation and audiences;
  • advice on media targets and story angles you are currently ignoring;
  • comprehensive notes;
  • lots of examples both good and bad.
media trainer Brett de Hoedt

"What do you mean some readers won't want to come? Turncoats!"

Trainer is of course former journalist, broadcaster and media trainer Brett de Hoedt (left) who trains Australian Conservation Foundation, Berry Street, Australian Climate Commission, Landcare, Youth Affairs Council Victoria, St Vincent Institute, City of Ballarat Multicultural Ambassadors, Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Service, LG Pro and dozens more each year to much acclaim.

The pace is challenging, the style informal and the curriculum practical:

WHAT THE MEDIA WANTS: what it takes to get the media profile you seek.

COMMUNICATIONS COMMANDMENTS: five principles to guide all your communications.

KEY MESSAGES and SOUND BITES: selecting and delivering them.

PRE-INTERVIEW PREPARATION: questions to ask, issues to resolve, conditions to apply beforehand to avoid poor performances and nasty surprises.

FAQs: Preparing strong answers for common questions and repeat issues.

PERCEPTIONS: understanding how the media and your audiences perceive you and your issues. Getting to know your audiences’ perceptions, anxieties, pre-conceptions and hot buttons.

PECULIARITIES of the various media channels: print, TV and radio. 

DAMAGE CONTROL: How to minimise damage during tough times.

TAKING CONTROL, ignoring questions to deliver what you really want to say. (We’ll also work on deciding what you really want to say and saying it in the most effective way.)


Express your interest with a quick call to Brett: 0414 713 802 or email us.