I am passionate about making messages matter, that’s why I started my business in the first place.
It all began back in 2009. I had just relocated to Switzerland from a lifetime of globe-trotting because of career and family. I was looking for work in my field of conservation, where I’m a specialist in the communication of conservation messages. Agonizingly, I couldn’t find it, so I reinvented myself.
My lightbulb moment happened when I was sitting-in on a conference of conservation colleagues, watching them deliver horrible presentations. They were ticking every box for what-not-to-do when speaking in public: Reading from their slides, mumbling, speaking too fast, and on and on and on! A thought came into my head:
“Conservation is a crisis discipline. Wildlife and wild places can’t afford to have the people protecting them FAIL at public speaking…something has to be done about this and fast because these messages HAVE to matter!”
Fuelled by an overwhelming sense of urgency, I started a club based in a major conservation organization, called “Communicating Environment”. I wanted to test-drive if I could combine my two loves of conservation and the performing arts (theatre and dance) to help my colleagues “promote conservation through effective public speaking”. Guess what? It worked. I was all in and I was on fire!
Folks, there’s something very special that happens when you do work that you feel you were born to do. When all of the dots of your life align and everything that you have done so far connects to reveal your true purpose. Whoa!
My purpose is to help make messages matter.
This bright and shining clarity of my life’s mission propelled me to build what is now The Public Speaking School. A beacon in the stormy sea of public speaking, guiding you to live and breathe your message, so that it matters.
Across all of the people whom I’ve had the privilege of supporting over the years, I have discovered that there are three formidable drivers which make messages live in the hearts and minds of the audience. I want to share them with you so that you too can give your message wings:
Formidable Driver # 1 – Serve Realness
Just do you. Be yourself and show the audience who you really are and what lives inside you. Don’t give them a tense, breath-holding version of yourself where your stiffness, lack of connection to what you are saying and closed body language, repel the audience away from you. Learn how to: Breathe, take your time, listen to your words, open your body language and share yourself generously. These powerful choices will make your message stay in the room and will connect to the heartbeats of your audience.
Formidable Driver # 2 – Find Speaking Equilibrium
The audience cannot focus on your message if you are distracting them with any number of the following: Nervous energy, sound and word-fillers like “um” and “you know”, erratic movement without purpose, closed body language and frequent disconnection from the audience because you’re looking back at your slides. These are public speaking “no-nos” that will steal the focus away from your message.
Learning how to manage your nerves, clean-up your words, move with purpose, open your body language and stay connected to the audience, will bring you to what I call “speaking equilibrium.” This is a state of being, where everything about your speaking performance works harmoniously and nothing distracts. Your message is bright and pure and shines into the room. You get to this magical destination through guided rehearsal, which is a step-by-step process that takes you to a place of comfort where your talk just pours out of you. Knowing how to do this is key to making your message matter.
Formidable Driver # 3 – It’s Not about You, It’s About the Audience
This driver is a game-changer. When you understand that the talk that you are giving is not about your needs and interests, but instead about the needs and interests of the audience, you switch-up your game in public speaking. Untrained speakers will create talks which exclusively feature their own ego-driven agenda. They will focus only on what they want to talk about and will not consider what the audience actually wants to hear. I see this all the time with many of my clients, especially those from the academic and finance sectors. They will have thick slide-decks full of detailed graphs, images and dense descriptive text. [Understandably, this type of information is important for these fields, however, if this is all that is presented, the audience will drown in the depths of the data!]
All you have to do is put yourself in your audiences’ shoes. I know you’ve been there yourself, listening to a speaker ramble on and on with slide after slide of information. Tap into that memory and what you felt like while receiving that presentation and create your next talk from that point of view. As a member of the audience, what do you want to see, hear, feel and understand? What information is relevant to your needs and interests and how do you want to be engaged and involved? Learn how to create the content and the delivery of your talk from this perspective and you will be on your way to mastering the art of how to make your message matter!
Laura Penn, Ph.D. is disrupting the status-quo for public speaking. As Founder and CEO of The Public Speaking School, award-winning international speaker, author and professional speaker coach, she empowers speakers on camera, in classrooms, in boardrooms and on stages around the world, to deliver the best talks of their lives.