Successful public speaking

Master Public Speaking with the FOCUS! METHOD

The average person lists public speaking as one of their biggest fears, fearing it more than heights, small spaces, bugs, and in some cases, even death. Mark Twain quipped, “There are two types of speakers. Those who get nervous and those who are liars.”

Thankfully, the FOCUS!® Method addresses all the most common speaking concerns executives and leaders have when presenting impromptu or a prepared presentation, ranging from blanking out, not sounding credible, and deciding what information and message to convey.

The FOCUS! Method provides a way for both introverts and extroverts to “say less, and say it better” in all occasions – in meetings, interviews, one-on-one, and presentations with large audiences. It enables you to organize complex thoughts and ideas effectively, and then quickly deliver them in a way that is designed to be heard, remembered, and persuasive. It gives you a simple format to start, navigate, and end your message with, and therefore allows you to speak “off the cuff” about topics in which you are the expert. When you use this method, your anxiety will be significantly reduced, if not eliminated altogether.

Why Does the FOCUS!® Method Work for Public Speaking?

The science behind the FOCUS!® Method is the Rule of Threes and the use of hierarchical memory. The combination of the two creates a unifying theme that relates to all the key points in threes, which are easy to recall and easy to navigate.

The Rule of Threes is simple: the best way to structure things is in groups of threes, because psychologists and neuroscientists tell us that our sensory memory can hold one to seven pieces of information, but our favorite number is three. Think of your phone number—10 random numbers are tough. But 3 sets of numbers are easy!

Perhaps because three is the smallest number that is required to make a pattern—and a pattern works because it’s powerful and memorable and easier to embrace. We’ve seen this throughout our history: Newton’s three rules of motion in physics, the three-note building blocks in musical harmony, the structure of essays (introduction, body, conclusion), prizes in competitions (1st, 2nd, 3rd), acronyms for companies and organizations, traffic lights, and so on. It seems that everyone has tapped into the power of three. There’s even a website, that contains thousands of examples of threes.

So how can we apply this to making our speeches more memorable?

Well, first we must acknowledge and embrace the fact that our listeners are likely to only remember three things from our presentation. Therefore, it’s critical that we are intentional about what these three things are! When you create the content of your speech, develop a “headline” message, and three key sub-points, along with 3 simple supporting facts for each sub-points. The key is that you never ask listeners to remember more than the headline and these three clearly-stated key points. This combination of simplicity and repetition allows your audience to process the information and transfer it from working memory into long-term memory.

IMprove Your Public Speaking with the FOCUS!® Method

The FOCUS!® Method ensures that before you begin to speak in public you will:

  • Know exactly what your first statement will be.
  • Know what you will say to finish.
  • Know precisely which aspects of your topic you are going to cover.

First, tell listeners what your key point (“headline”) is and identify the three sub-points (in 3 concise sentences) you intend to address. This provides the listener with a mental “map” or preview of what you are going to say.

Furthermore, it immediately increases the listener’s attention by eliminating doubts about your position, how long you will speak, and which areas you will cover.

Second, address each of your sub-points, speaking spontaneously and in a conversational style.

Third, finish by repeating your headline and sub-points. This is the imprinting part; you imprint the message in your listeners by stating, validating and reiterating.

If you were to use the focus Method to answer a question, you would clarify and restate the question if necessary, then choose your headline. You would then write down or think of your three sub-points and deliver your headline and three points. Remember to speak spontaneously to each point and recap your headline and three points.

Where Can You Learn the FOCUS!® Method?

The Focus Method is just one of the transformational public speaking units in our Two-Day Commanding Presence: Advanced Communication & Presentation Skill Workshops. Participants will get a chance to create their own Focus Method presentations using current topics or issues and practice delivering them to other participants. We will record the presentations and provide 360-degree feedback.

Training for private groups in various formats: half-day, one-day and two-day formats are also available Learn more about our training here

Corporate Communication Skills Training for Business Leaders

10 Compelling Reasons to Improve Your Speaking Skills

Is speaking simply an obligation for you?

What if speaking could transform your career – and your life?

Your academic and professional success is built on a foundation of excellent analytical and writing skills. Without those skills you could not have achieved your present position. How well you speak will increasingly become the determining factor in your success.

You may already be a good speaker. If speaking has not been a requirement in your work – you may feel that you’re not a good speaker. In either case, I’d like to encourage you to look at speaking from a fresh perspective.

Here are 10 compelling reasons to improve your speaking ability right away!

1. Becoming a leader.

Leaders speak. It’s that simple. But there is a priceless secret. Leadership does not teach us speaking skills; speaking teaches us the essential leadership skills! When you speak you add an emotional component to your ideas; your listeners understand you at a deeper level.

By speaking, leaders share their values, ideas and their enthusiasm. It is only when you speak that we truly know what you care about and we are moved to action.

2. A new kind of learning.

Most of my clients have a passion for learning. The classical method of study, the “Trivium” requires us to first understand, second to analyze, and third to translate the information into our own words so that we have “ownership” of the concepts and ideas. Speaking takes the value of this method to its highest level; by speaking about your areas of expertise in the context of a wide range of listeners, you have the opportunity – indeed the necessity – of considering your best thoughts in even greater depth, and from many more points of view than you would have from simply writing.

I have the privilege of working with some of this country’s finest speakers; almost all of them acknowledge that as soon as they began to speak regularly they experienced a huge improvement in their knowledge and understanding of their subjects.

If you are passionate about your topic and want to become an acknowledged expert – there is no better way to achieve this than to speak regularly.

3. Contributing to your organization.

When we have achieved a measure of security in our own careers, we have the opportunity to shift our focus to adding value to our organization. This contribution requires continuous and effective discussions with people at every level, both inside and outside of our organization. Your ability to eloquently and persuasively present your ideas and to encourage and inspire your colleagues will distinguish your unique contribution.

4. Helping others.

Mentoring and encouraging your team members and your colleagues is rewarding for everyone, as well as for your organization. Mentoring requires exceptional listening skills, and the ability to communicate our understanding of our colleague’s challenges and opportunities. We write to communicate what we know – we speak to communicate what we understand and what we care about.

5. Improving key relationships.

Your success at work, perhaps even your enjoyment of your work, may depend on one or two key relationships. One bad relationship can take all the joy out of our work. Relationships that are not working will only worsen, unless one party takes the initiative to improve them. There are many strategies which have been proven to be effective, but they all have one thing in common – they all require an advanced level of verbal communication skills.

6. Achieving your financial goals earlier.

To rise through the ranks of your profession you must have a track record of successful projects and other accomplishments. To build on these achievements you must also be able to speak eloquently and persuasively to your colleagues, and potential clients. By focusing on speaking skills early in your career, you can change the entire trajectory of your progress towards success, and meet your career and financial goals five, or even ten years ahead of time.

7. Bringing enjoyment back into your work.

Four years ago, I began work with a new private client. “Jim” was 48 at the time, and a well known and successful litigator. Only a few people knew that Jim had always dreaded speaking. Jim suffered for days before speaking, and he always refused requests to speak at his association meetings, which caused some colleagues to think he might be arrogant. After only three months of working on his communication skills, Jim was able to address his colleagues at a trial lawyer’s convention for the first time. His presentation was a huge success. It was truly a joyous experience for Jim, for his staff and his wife who attended the speech. The next day, Jim came to my office to thank me; he said, “Now, for the first time I know I can be the kind of lawyer that I dreamed about being when I was in law school!” There are thousands of “Jim’s” in your profession. When you master a few basic skills, speaking can be an exhilarating experience – and you can bring the joy back into your work.

8. Building your self-confidence.

Speaking is no different than most other skills – when we practice the basics, we get better. But speaking feels like such an intimate reflection of who we are. Sometimes we would rather not speak, than look and sound less intelligent and less confident than we are. Many people judge themselves harshly. We measure our ability by our worst performance.

So, here’s a little “tough love coaching” from me to you – you simply don’t know enough about speaking to know beyond a doubt that you cannot be an excellent speaker. Regardless of genetics, or culture, or personality type, if you want to be a really good speaker, then that is exactly what you can be. Read a little about it, listen to good speakers, and get some coaching. Just do it! Enjoy the benefits you deserve and enjoy continuous improvement in your self-confidence.

9. Being remembered.

In many cultures there are traditions which inhibit speaking. “Children should be seen and not heard”; “women are not supposed to speak in public”; “be silent in the presence of your superiors”; “nice people don’t speak like that”. In any case, whatever the cause, the tragedy is that many people are unable to freely share their thoughts and feelings, even with those people that love them. The custom of conversation is in decline. Family gatherings and family meals are no longer opportunities to learn more about one and another, as we focus away from our family and friends and towards television, iPods, and electronic games. I try to encourage everyone to nurture speaking and conversation in their daily lives in every way they can. It takes real commitment, and continuous and determined application, but the rewards are forever and our children’s children will thank us.

10. Building your organization’s reputation.

Your record of success may be amongst the best. Your firm name alone may command respect. But right now, today, and for the future, your organization’s success depends on the quality of each of the daily communications that your clients, colleagues, and potential clients have with each and every member of your organization.

Only a few organizations make the development of personal communication skills a top priority. Those who do, reap the rewards. There is a huge return on investment. Internally, you benefit from improved relationships, better briefings and brainstorming for important new ideas. There are better meetings, shorter meetings and fewer meetings. Externally, your excellent communicators are bringing in new business, nurturing existing business and establishing your organization’s unique reputation.

Your turn.

If you care to comment, or would like to share some of your personal experiences on speaking, Commanding Presence would love to hear from you

For more training on developing a Commanding Presence, managing anxiety, and increasing your speaking skills to the same high level as your writing skills then you should attend one of our Commanding Presence Advanced Communication and Presentation Skills Two-Day workshops.

The workshop is designed to improve every aspect of personal communication skills, from strategy and text preparation to establishing rapport and overcoming speaking anxiety.

Participants are recorded 4 times with feedback from the other participants and personal coaching from the workshop coach. Each receive a USB of their video clips along with a letter of analysis from the workshop coach.

Speaking with confidence

Tips for Speaking with Confidence

Personal communication skills and confidence go hand in hand for almost all professionals. Your academic education, your professional training, combined with your intelligence and positive attitudes, have made you a highly competent professional. Yet, only when you are able to communicate, especially verbally, and with confidence, your strengths can be manifested and appreciated. This is what we mean by personal communication skills. If you aspire to any type of management, mentoring or leadership role in your work, no matter what your area of expertise, your personal communication skills will determine how far you are able to go.

This article is written to address the challenges that face many professionals, whose reading and writing skills exceed their listening and speaking skills, who experience fear of speaking, and who strive to achieve a high level of confidence in their personal communication.

Listening and speaking skills not on a par with reading and writing skills

In the traditional professions — particularly law and accounting, there is a considerable gap between writing skills and speaking skills.

This gap can be explained in terms of the academic requirements and training in these professions

In the first place, those professions attract people who are intellectually curious and who have an affinity for rigorous academic and professional training. Most, but obviously not all, lawyers and accountants prefer to reflect on important issues and write and read about them — as a way of energizing themselves. Between academic and professional training, most lawyers and accountants engage in work activities in solitude. Furthermore, 90% of their studies and training are completed through the mode of reading and writing.

The corporate culture also plays a role in this disparity between writing and verbal skills

Lawyers and accountants typically spend a large percentage of their time speaking to their colleagues who are in tune with their own style and jargons, their tendency to use somewhat formal, written language is often entrenched.

There is less demand on a day-to-day basis for lawyers and accountants to “think on their feet”. Most of our clients tell us that they do 90% of their communication at a keyboard. Most lawyers value their early morning, evening, and weekend opportunities to keep up with their work — and so the habit of communicating in solitude and by writing is even more intensified.

Dire Consequences

The lack of Personal performance skills becomes an obstacle to further career advancement.

In the corporate boardrooms, where personal communication skills are in high demand, there are a higher percentage of extroverted professionals, many of whom have risen through the ranks because they are particularly good at verbal communication. In situations like this, traditional professionals feel that they are at a disadvantage. Their interest is not so much in becoming a “star.” But they feel that the level of their speaking skills does not accurately reflect their professional competence.

Failure in bringing in business

Many young lawyers are shocked to discover that professional competence is only the beginning. The ability to bring in new business is often the determining factor in a lawyer’s success. Most lawyers’ personality types are at odds with the idea of gregariously “selling” oneself. Socializing with clients and potential clients is often out of their comfort zones. It is not surprising that the legal profession is not noted for its sales and marketing abilities.

Marketing is one of the greatest challenges to a law firm. There is generally not much instinct for self-promotion – and marketing is seldom given the priority it deserves. Ask the marketing manager of almost any law firm in North America — and they will tell you, in no uncertain terms, how difficult it is to get lawyers involved in the marketing and sales process.

Good verbal communication is marketing. Arguments, proposals, ideas and advice all need to be “sold.” Sooner or later the potential buyer is going to want a “live” meeting. If the verbal communication doesn’t match the written material, the “deal” may be off! Indeed, without a high level of communication skills, a law firm simply cannot sell itself.

The good news is that by simply developing personal communication skills, you can achieve your sales and marketing goals.

Our Approach and the Commanding Presence Programs

Over 80% of our clients are subject experts and highly skilled in communicating through reading and writing. Our work is simply to facilitate the natural blossoming of these talents into live, in-the-moment, self-expressions. This may seem counter-intuitive — but for 25 years now we have been helping professionals to make the transition to highly effective speaking on a regular and consistent basis. When intelligent subject experts focus their attention on their speaking ability, they are able to combine their intellectual curiosity, discipline and their passion for the subject into an extraordinarily high level of personal communication skills. Once the initial transition is made, the growth is exponential.

The Commanding Presence Programs have been designed to implement this fundamental approach, along with a set of systematically developed techniques to address the various impediments in the development of personal communication skills.

Obstacles in Developing Communication Skills

The benefits of having a high level of personal communication skills and the dire consequences of not possessing those skills should make professionals wildly enthusiastic about developing those skills. However, many professionals have not yet been able to overcome certain obstacles to achieving their goal pf becoming a master speaker.

Over the past 25 years of working with lawyers, accounts, and professionals in various organizations, we have found that the following are the most common issues that frustrate them whenever public speaking is involved:

1. Fear of Speaking

2. Not sounding credible

3. Not being able to think “in-the-moment”

4. “Blanking”

In part two of the article, I will deal with each of these issues — and I hope to prove that every one of them can be relieved or eliminated very quickly.

These are just a few quick tips on developing a Commanding Presence. For more training on developing a Commanding Presence, managing anxiety, and increasing your speaking skills to the same high level as your writing skills then you should attend one of our Commanding Presence Advanced Communication and Presentation Skills Two-Day workshops.

The workshop is designed to improve every aspect of personal communication skills, from strategy and text preparation to establishing rapport and overcoming speaking anxiety.

Participants are recorded 4 times with feedback from the other participants and personal coaching from the workshop coach. Each receive a USB of their video clips along with a letter of analysis from the workshop coach.


Help! I Have to Speak in Public.

It is said that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death.

If you’re one of those ‘give me death but not a podium’ people, imagine for a moment never again having to be afraid of taking centre stage…never again being afraid of getting up or speaking in front of a group of people, never again delivering a weak message or muddied points, but instead having the confidence to say just the right thing at just the right time.

Sound too good to be true? It is…unless someone shows you exactly how to do it.

That’s right; there’s a method; there’s training and coaching, and there’s a way to practice. It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO, CFO, VP, Team Leader, Internal Auditor (or Prime Minister, Premier, on-air announcer, journalist, or movie star for that matter) ‒ anyone who needs to get up in front of others to say or explain something, can learn how to do it effectively…and just as effectively as the small percentage of the population who naturally shine in the spotlight. The rest of us however, need help.

With the proper training and coaching, we can:

  • formulate our thoughts so we can say less and say it better;
  • manage (aka reduce or eliminate) our anxiety;
  • put ourselves in a centered and powerful state before we speak;
  • pause to make sure our message has landed;
  • speak from notes in an authentic, conversational manner;
  • reveal the richness of our true character.

Many people also have fears about impromptu speaking. A survey of consultants, accountants, and senior executives in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom (2006 – 2020), consistently showed high levels of apprehension about unscripted speaking. The respondent’s primary concerns? Blanking or responding poorly in the moment. Not sounding credible. Not knowing if all the points had been made.

Luckily, the training and coaching used for speech-giving or for a formal presentation (i.e.; how to manage anxiety; say less and say it better; pause to make sure our message has landed) can also be applied to impromptu speaking. And as speech-giving, presentations, and impromptu-speaking share the same underlying challenges (1. You have a finite amount of information you can deliver; 2. You have limited time; 3. You must ensure the information you deliver can be transferred into your listener’s long-term memory), those challenges can all be met by using the Rule of Threes. Say what you’re going to say. Say what you want to say. Say what you said. If you are concise, your message will echo in everyone’s mind.

People who speak English as a second language with an accent face an additional challenge…one that is largely made in their own minds. ‘But I have an accent,’ they say, ‘and I’m really conscious of it when I speak.’

Here’s our take on that:

First and foremost, this land is a land of immigrants. Lots of people speak with accents. We are accustomed to it. More importantly, we respect those accents; we know the kind of brain power it takes to not only learn a new language, but communicate complex business ideas in a new tongue.

Second, just because you have an accent doesn’t mean you can’t deliver a potent message, give a dynamic speech, or lead impromptu talks in a compelling way. People get promoted, are elected, or succeed because they’ve learned how to get their message across, so unless your accent is so strong that you can’t do that, it holds no importance in your listener’s minds. Don’t let it hold any importance in yours.

So, stop being afraid of public speaking. No more excuses and no putting it off.

Get out there, learn the skills and get the right kind of coaching so you can become the powerful person you truly are.

These are just a few quick tips on developing a Commanding Presence. For more training on developing a Commanding Presence, managing anxiety, and increasing your speaking skills to the same high level as your writing skills then you should attend one of our Commanding Presence Advanced Communication and Presentation Skills Two-Day workshops.

The workshop is designed to improve every aspect of personal communication skills, from strategy and text preparation to establishing rapport and overcoming speaking anxiety.

Participants are recorded 4 times with feedback from the other participants and personal coaching from the workshop coach. Each receive a USB of their video clips along with a letter of analysis from the workshop coach.

4-Essential tips of public speaking

4 Tips for a Commanding Presence

Your public speaking ability affects so many areas of your life. It impacts how well people understand and commit to your ideas, it allows you to persuade, encourage and motivate people, it helps you to build relationships, both in your career and personal life. But it’s also one of the most terrifying things you might do in your life. Is that how you feel? You’re not alone. But don’t worry. Here are just a few things to help:

1. Identify your own strengths

Everyone has a different speaking style. And we all have our own strengths. Being a great public speaker isn’t about finding out what you’re doing wrong and then trying to fix them. It’s about finding your strengths and building on them to enhance your own unique speaking style. So take out a pen – write down what you’re good at, and try to enhance those qualities in your next presentation!

2. Speak from your own experience

“When you speak from notes, you’re going to sound like a robot.”

Do you agree with that statement? You might agree, or you might not. When we speak at people, saying “If you do this,” or “When this happens to you,” we instantly put a gap between ourselves and our audience.

But what if instead, we say, “I find that whenever I speak from notes, this happens.” Suddenly it’s a narrative, and we’re able to compare our experiences with the speaker. We’re engaging our audience.

3. It’s not about how interestingING you are, It’s how interestED you are

Imagine you’re talking to your best friend, but you’re scanning around the room, looking over their head. You would never talk to someone like that! But on a stage, that’s what many of us do!

Public speaking is all about eye contact and controlling the room. It’s about engaging your audience, reading them from moment to moment and adapting your presentation to fit their needs. Be interested in them, and they’ll be interested in you.

4. Speak interactively

Studies at Oxford University and the University of California studying conversation and understanding have figured out that there are three more modalities when you are talking to people. When you’re talking to people they understand you based on three things:

  • 7% Words/what you have to say
  • 55% Visual/body language
  • 38% Tone of voice

Turns out that in many situations the real meaning of what you’re saying is dependent on these two aspects, visual and tone of voice. If 55% is visual and you haven’t cultivated a habit of looking at people while you’re talking to them in a business context, you’re in a lot of trouble. You’re in a lot of trouble. Tone of voice is another issue.

The last is words. The question, how much of your professional development have you actually spent working at a conscious level on voice and visual? For most people at a conscious level, not very much. Of course, you develop the skill. It’s not an artificial skill. It’s something that we have innately. The good news is that you speak most effectively when you’re speaking interactively. Throughout your entire life you’ve been doing it, but for some reason, or for a number of reasons, people abandon this highly sophisticated communication skill when they’re in a business meeting and then they become a mouthpiece of information. They become a kind of robotic deliverer of text. Awful.

Did you know your tone of voice makes up 38% of how well someone will understand you? That’s a huge percentage! People decide who we are based on how we speak. But we all have a different tone of voice. Our perception of someone with a very nasal voice will be completely different from our perception of a person with a very deep, throaty voice. Identifying your natural speaking voice and removing any unconscious habits that may distract people from your message will instantly improve your public speaking abilities.

These are just a few quick tips on developing a Commanding Presence. For more training on developing a Commanding Presence, managing anxiety, and increasing your speaking skills to the same high level as your writing skills then you should attend one of our Commanding Presence Advanced Communication and Presentation Skills Two-Day workshops.

The workshop is designed to improve every aspect of personal communication skills, from strategy and text preparation to establishing rapport and overcoming speaking anxiety.

Participants are recorded 4 times with feedback from the other participants and personal coaching from the workshop coach. Each receive a USB of their video clips along with a letter of analysis from the workshop coach.

Participants will learn how to:

Master Eloquent Speaking

  • Think on their feet and respond persuasively and eloquently in one-on-one situations, meetings and large audience situations
  • Effectively use the Focus Method to communicate complex ideas and thoughts
  • Manage their fear of speaking

Become a Charismatic Communicator

  • Master charismatic communication skills, such as how to “be in the moment”
  • Make sincere eye contact
  • Speak effectively from notes
  • Utilize effective platform and meetings skills
  • Learn powerful gestures and movement while communicating
  • Effectively deliver financial and complex data and powerful PowerPoint

Rediscover the Power of their Natural Voice

  • Assess and evaluate their voice quality
  • Perform a wide range of exercises and simple practices to improve the warmth, resonance, and richness of their voice
  • Utilize exercises to improve their voice on a daily basis
  • Improve their diction with simple techniques
  • Manage their speaking anxiety with relaxation techniques​