Public Speaking Lessons from the Professionals

On Saturday 18 April I attended the Professional Speaking Association LIVE Conference; a great opportunity to hear fabulous speakers, learn more about how to build a speaking business, get more speaking tips, connect with other speakers and to celebrate achievements of individuals in the industry.

It was fascinating to witness the variety of different speaking styles, all engaging in their own way and all true to their own unique approach. I love the opportunity to learn by observing other speakers so here are some of my take-away tips from the event:

Have a Great Title

Whilst many people don’t give much thought to their presentation title, it can be the difference between whether you have a few folk turning up or standing room only. At the PSA conference there were nine experts (including myself) giving a variety of different ‘Meet the Experts’ sessions and the titles definitely helped delegates know which sessions to attend.

Your title will attract your audience if it:

  • promises a benefit e.g. Discover How You Can Become the GO TO SPEAKER
  • offers a story e.g. How a Single Mum Became a Super Solopreneur in Under 12 Months
  • includes a number e.g. 5 Steps to Crisp Communication
  • encourages curiosity e.g. The Surprising Truth About Top Salespeople
  • makes people not want to miss out on knowing e.g. 3 Biggest Mistakes of First Time Leaders

Have a Great Introduction

A well-crafted and well delivered introduction can ensure that your audience eagerly welcomes you to the stage in anticipation of what’s to come. On the flip side, a poor introduction can make it harder for you as a presenter to win over your audience.

I always advise my clients to write an introduction for their presentation, ensure it is in font large enough to read and provide it to the meeting organiser/MC prior to the event. In addition take a hard copy with you on the day in case the person introducing you doesn’t have a copy. It’s not always possible to ensure that you have a great introduction (although professional speakers will insist this is in their contract!); however, providing a copy to your host shows you are professional and prepared and ensures you are more likely to be introduced in the way you want to be.

Your introduction should:

  • explain what the topic is (give a hint of what’s to come without giving away it all)
  • explain why the topic is important for this audience
  • establish your credibility and why you are qualified to deliver this talk
  • avoid exaggerated hype and clichés
  • be short and punchy

Tell Great Stories

The Professional Speaking Association is filled with wonderful storytellers and the speakers at the convention were no exception. Every speaker on the main stage shared stories that engaged us and reinforced their points. But it was Simon Bucknall’s closing keynote that reminded me of the importance of finding the value in our ordinary stories. We might not think our stories are interesting or relevant but there are messages in all stories and it is the stories that may be slightly uncomfortable to share that are likely to resonate best with our audience.

Simon asked the question ‘What story have you left untold?’ This particularly resonated with me and has inspired me to share some of my untold stories in my new keynote speech.


As we all know, a poor PowerPoint presentation can send an audience to sleep. But even a good PowerPoint presentation is not required to engage an audience. This was superbly demonstrated by Steve Head who shared his tips for building a speaking business. Steve used vocal variety, body language, shared relevant content and interacted with the audience to ensure that he kept our attention for his entire presentation.

PowerPoint is great if it is used specifically to help the audience gain a deeper understanding of your content but you should craft your message first and then think about which visual aids will best support your content, rather than the other way around.

Let Your Personality Shine

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, each of the speakers at the conference were very different but all true to their own style. Audiences don’t want to see a carbon copy of someone else when you are presenting so it is crucial to let the authentic you shine through. The more you speak in public and test out your material the more you will be able to develop a style that works for you. Trust yourself and go for it!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction.

Mel's book 'The Authority Guide to Pitching Your Business - how to make an impact and be remembered... in under a minute!' is available on Amazon. To find out more go to or follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_