Five Tips for Writing (and Speaking)

Kate Mosse is an internationally renowned authorIn a recent piece on the BBC, Mosse offered an aspiring writer five “key” tips to writing a successful novel.

As I listened, it occurred to me that her advice is also useful for those who wish to improve their public speaking and presentation skills.

Kate Mosse

1. Do something every day

It is not reasonable (or, in my view, desirable) to have a speaking engagement lined up every 24 hours. But there are plenty of things that you can do on a daily basis to improve your public speaking and presentation skills. Many can be done in 15 minutes or less.  Some ideas:

  • Work on a presentation that you would like to give, even if it is not scheduled.
  • Read a good blog on public speaking – see, you’re already doing it! A good place to start is by clicking any of the links in my blogroll of public speaking and presentation sites on the left side of the page.
  • Pick up some tips by watching a speech on TED or YouTube.

2. Set goals

As we approach the close of 2009, it is good time to think about our goals for 2010. What are your public speaking goals? To speak at three or four trade conferences in your field? To land your first paid speaking engagement? To give your first speech at Toastmasters?

Give it some thought and then note down where you want to be with your public speaking in 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years. Then, start working toward those goals (see point 1 above).

3. Have a structure

Like a good Kate Mosse novel, every speech or presentation needs a structure: a beginning; a middle; and an end. You want a powerful beginning that capture’s your audience’s attention from the outset. You then have to develop your presentation and make your key points with appropriate supporting material. Finally, you want a memorable conclusion that wraps everything up nicely for your listeners.

4. Carry a notebook

Some of the best material that you will ever have for your speeches will come to you at the oddest times – riding on the subway, at the bank, in a restaurant. If you do not jot down your thoughts or observations at the time, chances are that you will forget them. I have been guilty of this more times than I care to admit.

If you carry a small notebook, you can capture your ideas when they occur and then return to them when you have time. You should also have a file (electronic or paper) where you can save your stories and ideas. You might see something interesting today that has no relevance whatsoever to anything that you are working on at the moment. However, a few weeks, months or years from now, those notes might prove to be priceless.

5. Be comfortable

If you are not comfortable when speaking, your audience will pick up on it. You will then likely pick up on your audience which will only increase your discomfort. So, how can you increase your comfort? Some ideas:

  • Prepare thoroughly. When you are prepared and know your material, you will be much more at ease when on stage.
  • Get a good night’s sleep. This means that you should not be finishing your speech in the wee hours of the morning of the day when you present.
  • Arrive early. Being stuck in traffic 20 minutes before you are scheduled to start is not conducive to a positive state of mind. Plan to arrive at the venue well ahead of schedule so that you are not rushed. Arriving early will also allow to get accustomed to your speaking environment, meet some of the people to whom you will be speaking and test your equipment.
  • Eat and drink sensibly beforehand. Avoid alcohol and, preferably, caffeine. Be well hydrated. Eat a banana.
  • Dress appropriately for the occasion.
  • If someone is going to introduce you, write out for that person the points that you would like him to say.

There you have it. Five tips about writing from Kate Mosse that should help you and your speeches live happily ever after.

Photo courtesy of Patryk Korzeniecki

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  1. Thanks John, the tips are very useful. I especially like the “Do something everyday” bit. One way that I practise this is to prepare for a conference call/sales or elevator pitch everyday. I try to ensure that my opening, 2-3 points & conclusion/call-to-action are in order.

    1. Hi Chitra, thanks for the comment. Big kudos to you for practicing the elevator pitch every day. Not many people have that kind of dedication. But it is precisely that kind of effort that could pay off handsomely at an unexpected moment. Who was it who said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity?

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

Andy Yen

CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

David Lindelöf

Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

Thomas Scott

National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

Eric Thuillard

Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

Diego Brait

Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

Be BOLD. Those two words got stuck in my head and in the heads of all those ADP leaders and associates that had the privilege to see John on stage. He was our keynote speaker at our annual convention in Barcelona, and his message still remains! John puts his heart in every word. Few speakers are so credible, humble and yet super strong with large audiences!

Guadalupe Garcia

Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International