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public speakers – thought that you don’t want your audience to think #3

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#3 Get to the good bit

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Cut to the chase!

We recently watched this TED talk which we suspect is a career highlight of the
presenter Tasha Eurich. As per TED and TEDX talks everywhere, countless hours of preparation physical, mental and spiritual were invested in a very brief, high-pressure presentation.

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Enough with the build up already, already.

Despite having just 15 minutes to speak– on perhaps the greatest platform she will ever get – Eurich wastes the first four minutes before offering anything of value.

That is too long for a 45 minute presentation let alone something as short as this. Inexcusable.

The first three minutes are vital. KPMG partner and high-profile demographer Bernard Salt does not waste a breath before launching into his presentation. He delivers knowledge, humour and an audience-specific reference within 60 seconds. The audience has barely settled in their seats before they have received some value. Bingo!

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‘Value’ is a word you hear a lot today in relation to marketing, content marketing, public presentations.

The value you offer has to be clear to you and the audience. Stop with the overviews, the introductions and the thankyous. Forget any apologies for seeming a little stressed / tired /flustered.

Deliver some value. That might be in the form of a story, a fact, a contention, a gag, an audience participation exercise just don’t wait for the big finish.


Public speaking – 11 thoughts you don’t want your audience to think

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Too few public speakers make the most of their opportunity and very few in Australia take any public speaking training. It’s easy for public speakers to think that their presentation went well as very few audience members express their true feelings. Event managers are often more concerned with punctuality and logistics than content, so presenters can live in a bubble.

However if we delve into the minds of audience members we’d often find thoughts like those featured in this series:

Thoughts you don’t want your audience to think.

Whether you speak to conference rooms or board rooms, to policy advisers or prospects, avoid these thoughts by attending our upcoming our public Present Savvy workshops or book your own today.

Thought #1: “Duh!”

public speaking training

Tell them something they don’t know.

There’s a fine line between explaining what needs to be explained and teaching people to suck eggs. Many public speakers are worried about bringing the audience along with them so they explain everything from the ground up. They give background, they show organisational flowcharts, they treat audiences as students rather than fellow professionals. Don’t do this.

A client of ours recently ran through a presentation that she was planning to make to a room full of nutritionists. The thrust of the presentation was about how a low socio-economic school compensated for the poor nutrition kids were getting at home through their breakfast plan and other means.

Our client opened up by explaining the link between good nutrition and good student learning. You know the deal – as a well fed tummy provides the ability to concentrate so students get the most out of each and every class. That’s fine but she went on to explain this in great depth and at some length in the context of a 30 minute presentation.

I gave her feedback that a room full of nutritionists do not need to be told of the benefit to students of a healthy diet. They already get it. The nutritionists really wanted to learn about her school’s program so they could steal ideas and recreate its success.

Be careful not to tell your audience what they already know. It takes only a couple of minutes for an audience to sense that you are underestimating them. This is usually interpreted as a sign of disrespect and they disengage accordingly.

Of course you may have to cover some old ground or find some common understandings but liberal use of phrases such as: “you already know this but…” or “I hardly need to tell a room like this that…” show that you understand and respect them. It also makes audiences feel smart.

Hootville is running a public Speak Savvy workshop Wednesday November 11 for everyone who needs to improve their public speaking to audiences of 1 or 1000. 

Thought #2: “Is she ever going to shut up?” 

Public speakers need to find a way to involve their audience whether they want to or not.

public speaking training Melbourne

Make them believe you care about them.

I like to have some degree of continuous interaction with an audience which can take the form of short, sharp questions such as:

  • Has anyone else here experienced that?
  • Anyone here in violent disagreement with what I just said?
  • Has anyone read that book/seen that documentary/used that software?

Your audience can respond via a quick comment, a show of hands or with a low murmur. It’s a small way to show that you give a damn about your audience and you just might learn something from their response that you can reflect in your presentation. You must find a way to let people in your audience participate. Q & A at the end isn’t enough.

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A book your audiences will love.

Serious about being a better speaker? You should be. Better speaking = better career.

Download our free PDF eBook Speak Savvy and book in to our workshop Present Savvy.

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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?

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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.

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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

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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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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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using pop ups to boost subscribers

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Using pop ups on your website to promote subscriptions and the like evokes a common response from nonprofits: “Ooooh errr. We couldn’t do that. Pop ups are so annoying.” It’s much like television commercials. “Oh I can’t stand television commercials. So annoying, so loud, so interuptive.” So much bollocks. If they are soooo annoying why do people tune in by the million to commercial TV and radio stations?  And why do TV and radio stations risk offending the public? Because it works for them and it’s the same for pop ups on your website.

example of a successful pop up

Using a pop up like this boosts subscriptions. (Doesn't Squiggle look authoriative?)

If you truly believe in the value of an eNewsletter, Twitter or Facebook surely you’d want to promote them often and boost subscriptions? That’s what the pop up is for – to encourage actions from visitors. Do not rely on ‘organic’ growth – consider adding a little fertiliser to the soil via a pop up.

You may not want to subscribe the visitor to anything. The desired action may be to have the visitor book a seat at the annual gala, download the latest annual report or to write a letter to an MP. The principal remains the same – grab their attention and make the ask.

Keep in mind that your pop up will appear to people who have voluntarily visited your website – they must be a bit interested in you to begin with. So why presume that they will be horrified to have a pop up tell them that they can get a special discount by booking a course with you before the end of the month? They may well be chuffed. Right people, right place, right time.

Nobody complains about seeing a listing on the real estate website for a home in their price range in their preferred suburb. “How annoying!” We thinks not.  

If you use a popular content management system such as WordPress you have many pop-up technologies to choose from. We chose Pop Up Domination but there lots of others. This gives you templates which you tailor and then control. How often the pop up appears, to whom, on what pages, after how long are all up for grabs. We had our nerd install the software after which we were able to create and deploy the pop up.

pop up advice

A simple pop up helps boost Crikey! subscriptions

Tips to help you use your pop up for good not evil.

1. Set the pop up to appear after the visitor has had a chance to look around and like what she sees. Perhaps 60 seconds or so. Don’t be pushy.

2. Never set the pop up to appear only when the visitor is leaving a page which is plain annoying.

3. Set the pop up to remain unseen by the same visitor if she returns to your site within seven days of the first visit.

4. Be playful, helpful, funny in your pop-up. It’s a commercial after all, so don’t order people around – persuade them, you smoothy you.

5. Change the pop up regularly both in terms of the content and the pages on which it appears.

6. Remember a bland website with little to offer will not encourage anyone to subscribe or take action you recommend regardless of the quality of the pop up.

We bang on about this endlessly in Online Savvy 101.

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