Mom’s 7 Public Speaking Must Dos

July 2022:

Everything I know about public speaking I learned from my mom: Beatrice Murphy. Well, just about everything! I was twelve years old and in Grade Seven. My school was hosting its annual public speaking competition. It was my first experience preparing to speak in front of a large group — and I was petrified!

The speech itself came together fast. It was a story about getting lost in the woods and my lessons learned from the experience. I always loved telling a good story and putting it on paper was a joy.
The delivery of the speech was another matter. I was sick with anxiety! So, Mom willingly became my coach. Every night we’d gather in the dining room. I’d be “placed” at the far end of the room – “centre stage”, in front of the curtained window. She’d take a seat at the other end of the table in the space just inside the adjoining living room. That’s where the La-Z-Boy recliner was positioned. The perfect vantage point to critique my performance.
As I think back to what I remember from those many rehearsals, I hear my Mom’s voice and remember her explicit directions. Here’s what stands out:
1. Stand up straight:
Don’t slouch! Stand up straight with your shoulders back. And use your hands to help you stress certain points. Your body movements need to look free, flowing and un-planned.
2. Pause:
Take time to breathe. A little silence is OK. It gives people an opportunity to think about the story you are telling.
3. Make eye contact:
Scan the audience. Be sure to look directly into their eyes. This will help you to connect with each person individually. But don’t stare! Move your eyes from person-to-person every couple of seconds. If you’re nervous, start by looking at the people you know or the people who are smiling at you.
4. Make them laugh:
Or at the very least make them smile BIG! But don’t make them angry. They’ll stop listening if they think you’re trying too hard to be funny.
5. Enunciate:
Speak slowly, loudly and clearly. Don’t mumble or slur your words. And let them hear those consonants completely!
6. Don’t apologize:
If you’re nervous or lose your focus, don’t apologize. Take one deep breath. And continue. Only apologize if you’ve done something wrong!
7. Practice, Practice, Practice!
Some fantastic wisdom here! What about you? Do you present or speak to groups? Are you comfortable teaching content but sometimes struggle with facilitating an engaging learning process?

My mom passed away on July 20th, 2021. As I pause to remember the person that she was, I smile and give thanks for her guidance in shaping the person that I’ve come to be. I am who I am because I knew you, mom…

Gerard Murphy
President and Founder,
Barefoot Facilitation Inc.