• Dick Lam

Public Speaking – Know this, ditch the rest

Updated: Jun 19, 2019

Having delivered seminars, keynotes, short speeches, comedy acts and been MC over a few hundred occasions, I’ve often found moderately experienced speakers give a lot of tips or ‘techniques’.

There is nothing wrong with these ‘techniques’. But they often don't even help the symptoms.

It’s like telling someone who has a cold – “don’t sneeze”. The sneezing isn’t the problem. Telling someone to be confident when they are nervous isn’t useful.

Do a Google search for public speaking tips or ask someone and you might get:

“Project your voice more”

“Don’t apologize at the start or tell people you are nervous”

Slightly more advanced and they might say:

“Use Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic words”

“Start with a question”.


What have I found? I have found the key to speaking is only the following:



The rest of the tips help this. But they do not substitute for this.

A good story falls under this.

The Science of “Why” – some interesting reason why something happens.

A demonstration on stage which makes the audience experience and feel like they make the same mistakes as the person you demonstrate with.

All these are examples of something interesting, which people don’t know.

We can build any talk, presentation, training, seminar or speech around these 2 points.

Look at TED talks. Virtually all of them are focussed around these 2 points.

It doesn’t matter if you are nervous and bumble and forget things. If you tell people something interesting which they don’t know, people will love your talk.

Yes. There are factors which kill a talk. Can’t hear you. Too many Boring Slides. “Ums & Has” or distractions. Making the audience disagree with you.

These are just opposites of “Don’t know” & “Interesting”.

“Boring” & “Obvious” in one way.

“Don’t want to be interested” & “Don’t get it” in another way.

Other things are learned (such as inspiring, influencing, persuading) with this as a starting point.

Some examples on how to do it include:

The Science of….

… a 20 year study of monkey behaviour gives us the reason why we have failed to change our habits… and how one change in their diet cured it.

The Story of….

… your mother escaped to this country with you in her womb during the war, got arrested for selling drugs to pay for food and ended up selling Vacuum cleaners door to door to become a millionaire before losing it all in the GFC... here is the unconventional way I became a millionaire…

The Latest results are…. This is because….. I believe opportunities will be….

… $10 million profit… despite our project earning below the projected $ …. But from this, we’ve found opportunities here and here potentially tripling our profit in 2 years....

Let’s do a demo….

Getting someone on stage to experience what an audience member might go through… something not quite mastered (don’t know how to say or do it) and interesting (because your audience is thinking like the guy on stage)… with a realisation of how to do it better at the end (didn't know and interesting).

Or getting the audience to do it with another.

The Google Test (Could have guessed that)

When I coach people on their presentation and tell them it fails this test, they often argue – “But people don’t know this… they believe something else”.

I give them the Google test.

If I were talking about the secrets of public speaking and said “The key is to speak confidently and loudly. People will believe you more if you do!”

It’s true, people might not know that’s what you believe is key.

But it’s a point they could have guessed.

They could have “Googled it”.

So as a result, it was not unexpected. Argue all you like – but you’ve lost much of their interest in your talk unless can add to it (often with strong story or journey to learn that they didn’t know which is interesting).

Showing financial results? Yes. They might not be stellar or dramatic. They might not be high or low or are in the region of expectations. But what ‘insight’ do you have about it? To improve it? The risk to it? Did an initiative work? Where are there new opportunities?

These are all interesting things that people don’t know.

Are you a business tax accountant?

What does Google say about what a tax accountants do?

Now, can you tell more something not found on Google?

Like how exactly you helped that business recover $20K of tax from 3 tax returns ago.

How there are 3 common mistakes tax agents make with businesses.

Or a table of industry standard profit margins and where your clients stand now compared to industry standard.


There is potentially a 3rd point. But the above 2 are the key.

A 3rd point it would be about adding your ‘life and energy’ and the control of the energy of the audience.

People talk about enthusiasm, confidence, smiling.

That’s life and energy.

People talk about vulnerability. That is an ability to show others life and energy in a different way – to open up your life.

And Speed.

If you observe experienced TV hosts, you will notice they will keep things moved along (speaking 20+ words a minute faster than normal).

A good MC knows they need a pre-amble – slightly boring uninteresting formalities – which is not “don’t know” and “interesting”.

They will do it at speed – which then injects life and allows them to move the audience quickly without them being bored.

Comedy is often done at speed.

The speed itself adds life. It also controls the speed of your thinking.

Many speakers struggle to be MCs or become boring when moving away from a favoured topic, because they lack the ability to speed things up in flaccid territory.

I’ve even written this part to allow you to read faster.

Life and energy. For yourself and others.

Ability to use speed.

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