Key Lessons Learned In 10 Years of Public Speaking By Peter Dhu

Reflecting on the first 10 years of my business as a speaker and trainer, I have identified the 4 key lessons that I had to learn the hard way. Enjoy

  1. Be yourself – this is also called authenticity.

For too long, I tried to be prefect in my presentations and chastised myself when I made mistakes or realised that I had left out a story or some content. I tried hard not to stutter during my 7-hour workshop and during my keynotes. While my fluency is generally good, it is so hard for a person who stutters to be 100% fluent. Again, I would tell myself off and beat myself up. Then I gradually started to accept that I could not be perfect, and people don’t mind if I stutter. I relaxed and became more authentic and people accepted that and preferred that. How authentic are you? Is the audience seeing the real you? The sooner you let go and learn to be yourself on stage, the easier public speaking will be and the more effective you will be as a public speaker.

  1. Put the audience first – you are there to serve the audience.

I have a great story. A story of someone with a severe stutter now speaking, training and presenting for their living. I thought I was clever, motivational, an inspiration to everyone. Yes, I was very self-centred. As soon as I started putting the audience first and focusing on helping them in their journey, my effectiveness went up and the feedback became inspirational. How do you serve your audiences? What issues, concerns and problems does each of your audiences have? What are their goals, aspirations and dreams? And how does your message help them achieve these goals and outcomes?

  1. Arrive at the training venue early.

When I first started speaking, I was very casual and considered arriving 30 minutes before a presentation as being well organised and as being enough time. I soon found out that 60 to 90 minutes is a more appropriate lead time to arrive at a venue. Some of the things that went wrong for me were.

  • I arrived at the wrong venue, set up and no one came.
  • I could not find the venue
  • The equipment did not work as expected and there was not enough time to replace it or fix it
  • Some of my audience arrived 30 minutes early and decide to speak to me for the whole 30 minutes, preventing me from doing the level of set up I had hoped to.
  • As I started to set up, I realised that I had left something at home that I needed.

With 60 to 90 minutes, you can usually remedy the things that go wrong. How much time do you allow for set up when you are planning a workshop or presentation?

  1. Understand and manage audience expectations

One of the biggest causes of negative feedback from an audience, is when what they were expecting was not delivered. For the first few years I delivered the same content and the same stories to every audience, regardless of their demographic. As I progressed, I learnt that each audience was different. I started to take a more extensive brief from the person who booked me. I sent out pre-training questionnaires. I would interview 3 or 4 key stakeholders to see exactly what they were expecting. This in turn allowed me to tailor and target each presentation and each workshop to the audiences’ needs.  So rather than me delivering what I thought they might like, I changed that to what they wanted and felt they needed. How do you know if your content is hitting the mark?

December and January are the time that I focus on developing content and reviewing my skills. I also ramp up my coaching service. If you are interested in improving your presentation skills and feel that coaching would help you, do let me know.  Send me an email at: [email protected]


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