Eight tips to become a brilliant public speaker, from one of the best coaches in the business.
Top executive coach Vic Bryson shares her hard-earned advice on how to command an audience.
What was your public speaking journey?
I was a professional actress for 16 years; first I was speaking other people’s words and was firmly convinced I had nothing to say. Then I started improvising and started saying things that I thought somebody might say. Finally I started saying stuff I wanted to say.
So my personal journey wasn’t around how to hold a space, or looking confident, it was recognising that I had thoughts and opinions inside me that had legitimate value to the world.
Do you think everyone has the potential to be a great public speaker?
I think everyone has the potential to have extraordinary impact.
Great public speakers come in many guises. The ultimate test is, did they affect their audience in a significant way?
Name three of the most typical issues your training addresses.
2. Remembering what you’re going to say.
3. Connecting with the audience.
Do you think the evolution of presentational software is a help or hindrance?
I’m glad it’s there and I’ve seen it used, with images, really creatively and usefully, but I’m appalled by the way we misuse it a lot of the time. Slides filled with text are really acting as your notes and are no help to our audience at all.
Name three of your all-time favourite public speakers…
It changes all the time — but currently…
- Tim Minchin
Check out this commencement speech for the University of Western Australia in 2013…
2. Greta Thunberg
3. Ayishat Akanbi
… and the characteristics that made each of your choices stand out.
Humour is a big one for me, I always appreciate a laugh. Humility goes alongside that, and compassion. A message that is thought through and avoids cliché. Being specific. And not being afraid of the big concepts. Oh, and brevity.
How do you think technology can help in developing public speaking skills?
Seeing a recording of yourself can be transformative. You see yourself as the world sees you. Most people are incredibly surprised and pleased that they come across so well, when inside they feel they’re floundering.
You need not name names here, but describe one of the most dramatic transformations you’ve seen in public speaking ability — and what made the difference?
A participant who started glued to her powerpoint presentation; we’d seen the back of her head for most of it. We took away her laser pointer, put her through some exercises that let her access her creativity, and then she blew us away with one of the most dynamic presentations I’d ever seen!
What I think made the difference, in her case, was she suddenly gave herself some kind of internal permission. She was free to bring her whole personality to her message, instead of following some rules she thought she needed to stick to.
“I always appreciate a laugh. Humility goes alongside that, and compassion…”
Vic Bryson is from Maynard Leigh Associates, where she works to help both individuals and organisations benefit by unlocking their people’s creativity, confidence and empathy.