Case Study: Confident Presentations

Clients contact us to get help with communicating better during her presentations and delivering confident presentations. The burning issues vary. We once had a client one of whose worries was what to with their hands during presentations. Others are afraid of the tech, what to wear or how to produce a decent presentation off the cuff.

In this case study, Gloria* hired us to provide her with professional feedback. She was already a capable public speaker. This is just as well because giving workplace presentations had grown into a more frequent occurrence as her career had progressed.

She wondered: “What can I do to grow from an adequate speaker to a confident one?”

Many of her colleagues commented that her presentations were “Good”. At first, Gloria was pleased with the compliment. Then, she got a little bored of it.

What Was Already Working

After observing her in action and meeting for a few, practical sessions, we discussed what Gloria was already getting right, which provided a boost to her flagging confidence:

  1. She was well prepared and knew her subject inside out.
  2. Her material was well structured, with a definite introduction, development, and conclusion.
  3. She converted some of her material into PowerPoint slides, which she used as an outline to guide her and remind her of any definitions and facts her presentation contained.
  4. Gloria usually provided handouts with a summary of her presentation and other useful resources.
  5. She always properly introduced herself, her topic and the talk.
  6. Gloria talked in a clear, audible voice, at a pace that allowed her audience to absorb the information she presented, but not too slow as to bore them.
  7. Gloria nearly always allowed time for questions and feedback at the end of her presentation.

The Gap Between Average Presentations and Confident Presentations

Gloria told us that she would soon be delivering more prominent presentations in front of larger audiences. In these talks, she would be expected to persuade and motivate, as well as simply inform. An ambitious woman, who took pride in her professional development, Gloria didn’t want to be merely adequate, she wanted to deliver impactful, confident presentations. she wanted to be glorious!

How to Raise Your Presentation Game

So, as well as some general advice on How to Become Better Presenter, we helped her increase her skills using the following seven tips. We hope you will find them helpful too.

  1. Inserts pictures and diagrams instead of text where possible. Uses text much less often.
  2. Intersperse your talk with time for discussion and exercises, giving your audience an opportunity to interact with both you and each other.
  3. At key points throughout your presentation, ask your audience for input. Pivot in response to their points.
  4. Instead of standing off the side, and directing your audience to focus on the slides instead of you, take centre stage, using the slides as support for your presentation. They must not become the presentation.
  5. Instead of basic PowerPoint slides, try Keynote, Prezi or Canva.
  6. Ends your presentation not only with a definitive conclusion but also a call to action.
  7. If you’re trying to motivate people, check out our expanded blog post: 7 Specific Techniques for Motivational Speaking.

Gloria is now much happier, as she began to integrate each of these elements, one or two at a time, as her confidence grew. We’d love to work with you in a private space so that you are fully prepared and super confident for your upcoming presentations.

If you’d like to be fully prepared and super confident for your next big presentation, get in touch.

*Name has been changed to protect our client’s privacy.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

7 Specific Techniques for Motivational Speaking

Motivation speaking suffers from a bad reputation on this side of the Atlantic as a little flashy and shallow. But it ‘s simply one of the main types of public speaking in a professional environment. Informative speaking is employed to educate our intellects. The purpose of persuasive speaking is to influence behaviour.

Motivational speaking strives to inspire our emotions.

Motivational speaking has several applications in the workplace. A leader might use it when conveying a sense of mission or vision, and the need to pursue long-range objectives. It can also encourage people during times of change or stress. Perhaps its most prominent use is when acknowledging contributions, individuals or teams.

A motivational talk both connects with and challenges an audience. Its message is positive and points to benefits rather than problems. The speaker ‘s body language is enthused and empathising. And their point is crystal clear, even simple, shown in the use of short words and sentences.

7 Specific Techniques for Motivational Speaking

Attention Grabbers Not only at the start of the speech, but scattered throughout, there will be humorous stories, rhetorical questions, unusual facts, and inspirational quotes.

Bonding Language A motivational speaker will talk in terms of you, me, us, we, and take examples from common experience.

Rhetorical Devices Alliteration is when a speaker picks words in close proximity that start with the same letter or sound. Triads groupings of three in overall structure and sentence rhythm are also popular.

Vivid Pictures A motivational speech is full of metaphors and analogies, colourful language and vivid words that appeal to senses.

Economic Language As well as scrupulously avoiding jargon and clich√©s, a motivational speaker will guard against the incursion of ‘filler ‘ words, phrases and sounds, like um, just, like, you know and sort of.

Dramatic Gestures Good motivational speakers will act out their verbs, images and stories, use facial expressions, and even use silence/stillness to increase expectations.

Active Energy A motivational speaker will use the active voice where possible, and will end with a call to action.

None of this is magic. More than anything else, it comes with a combination of passion and practice. So get in touch for some coaching to help develop your motivational speaking style.

The passion, however, you have to provide for yourself.

Confidence in Public Speaking with Toastmasters International

Toastmasters International is a not-for-profit organisation that empowers individuals to become more effective communicators and leaders. It was set up in the U.S. in 1905 by Ralph Smedley to help young men initially to speak, conduct meetings, plan programs and work on committees in his local community. There are now 15,900 clubs in 142 countries worldwide. Men and women of all backgrounds are welcome.

Learning a new skill is always exciting but getting over your fear of public speaking can be especially daunting because in front of an audience you are at your most vulnerable.

Toastmasters’ clubs provide a supportive environment, a journey with similar people where you can learn at your own pace.

What to Expect at a Toastmasters International Event

They say that they best way to learn is by doing it in a fun environment. What we can guarantee at every Toastmasters meeting is that it won ‘t be dull and that it will be educational. There is a set structure. Each meeting lasts 90 minutes.

  • It begins with an address from the club’s President. The holder of this office changes every year.
  • We then allow 2-3 speakers to deliver a structured speech that lasts 5-15 minutes.
  • Next, there is a Table Topics segment, which teaches you to think on your feet.

Each week speeches are evaluated as is the entire meeting. On average, there are six leadership or speaking position-holders at each meeting. These are in constant rotation, so each member is constantly pushing themselves to learn a new skill. The Committee is made up of six people, which also changes every year.

What I’ve Learned

The most important skill I ‘ve learned is the art of listening. This is the hardest skill of all, some would say! As Stephen R Covey put it:

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

My first job was in the Export Department of Ulster Carpets. Everywhere I went, I analysed the design and colour of carpets. Now, as a Toastmaster, any event I go to I find myself examining how the person is standing, the structure of their speech, how they engage with the audience and the relevance of their message. Those are all skills that we learn in Toastmasters.

As I ‘ve been on the Committee for last year and taken on different roles at club and district level, I ‘ve learned many skills that I can transfer outside of Toastmasters.

This includes facilitating meetings, chairing other committees that I ‘m on, structuring agendas and keeping things running on time. Being a Toastmaster no longer just refers to a person who gives toasts at banquets and other occasions.

Local Toastmasters International Meetings

There are currently 6 clubs in Northern Ireland where I’m based.

  • Citi Group Belfast meets on the third Wednesday of every month at Citi Bank HQ (17:30-19:15)
  • Belfast Group meets on the second and last Thursday of every month at Europa Hotel (19:00-20:45)
  • Lisburn Group (mine) meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month at Lagan Valley Island Centre (19:00-20:45) check out our website and Twitter
  • Newry Speakers Group meets on the first and third Wednesday of every month at Canal Court Hotel (20:00-21:45)
  • The Mid Ulster Group meets on the first and third Tuesday of every month at Gortalowery House (19:30-21:45)
  • Erne Speakers meets on the second and fourth Wednesday of every month in Enniskillen (19:30-21:00)

Find your local Toastmasters group.

How Toastmasters International Has Benefited Me

I joined Toastmasters in August 2015, just two months after I launched my own business. Virtuali Admin Solutions This was no coincidence. I was literally petrified going to business networking events and having to speak in front of others even for a minute! I knew my fear of public speaking was really preventing me moving forward professionally and personally. After seeing an advertisement on Meetup for Lagan Valley Toastmasters, I decided to go along and have never looked back.

  • Two years later and thanks to Toastmasters, I ‘ve grown in confidence and no longer shy away from speaking.
  • Last September, for example, I gave a speech to some Queen ‘s University Belfast Modern Language students about graduate opportunities.
  • I also entered and won an Ulster Bank Dragons’ Den pitch through Women in Business’ The Power of 4 Programme. I would never have had the courage to even enter such a competition had it not been for Toastmasters.
  • I ‘ve been on Toastmasters Committee for this past year. I have also learned a lot about leadership, which is one of the twin pillars of Toastmasters (the other is communication). And I am very much looking forward to taking over the Presidency of the Lagan Valley Club from August this year.

Whether you want to practice a work presentation, business pitch, wedding speech or just want to speak for the fun of it, please feel free to come and join us. The first three visits are free. And we ‘re a very friendly bunch!

Find your local Toastmasters group.

Image credit: Blogger’s own (Slieve Donard, Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland)

What are Businesses Getting Wrong in the Recession?

Everyone ‘s falling about with worry. The recession has us all cautious about spending more money than we absolutely have to, taking on new staff, renting more premises or bringing in too much product in advance.

How can we hang in there? How can we thrive? How can we ensure that our largest and possibly most expensive resource is working to maximum capacity? Continue reading “What are Businesses Getting Wrong in the Recession?”

Confident Conversations Workshop 2.0


I like designing new workshops and working on new ideas as much as possible. So far, I’ve only repeated one course within the Queen’s University Open Learning Programme. That was my 1-day workshop called Body to Body: How To Communicate Without Words. Read about it here. Now, I intend to add to this repeated course hall of fame. On Saturday, 31 May 2008 I delivered a workshop called Confident Conversations: How to Talk in Any Situation. Or, as I called it my my post-workshop report blog, The Art of Talking Without Talking.

Continue reading “Confident Conversations Workshop 2.0”

Question: When is a Gift Not a gift?

Answer: When it’s a skill.

I teach and coach communication skills. Notice the word ‘skills’. Not gifts, talents, or even aptitudes. Skills. As such, they are ‘learnable’ by anyone.

As a trainer, I can show people, step-by-step, how to make presentations, negotiate, or run a meeting. I can demonstrate the way to make a first impression, write a report, and persuade your listeners… as well as listen to them.

I believe very strongly in the ‘anyone can do it’ philosophy of learning. But there was always one skill about which I hesitated. Charisma. It’s such a slippery concept to start with. We can generally agree on a few people who have it. But what ‘it’ is, we can hardly say. Continue reading “Question: When is a Gift Not a gift?”

Now This Won’t Hurt A Bit…

Last February, I held a one-day workshop at QUB entitled Body to Body: Communicating Without Words. It was the most successful course I ‘ve ever designed and delivered. With almost forty participants, we had to take-over surrounding rooms for the role-playing activities. That ‘s a nice logistical problem for a trainer to have! But it made me realise just why the shops are bursting with books on this topic. People realise its power. People get it and expect it in return.

Now the medical professionals are Continue reading “Now This Won’t Hurt A Bit…”