May 24, 2016

10 Tips for Speaking Effectively

By Kelly Marderosian, Consociate Media 

If something has “phobia” attached to it, then it’s probably not popular with many people. Public speaking falls into that category.

The fear of public speaking — glossophobia — is in the top 10 phobias and is even feared by some more than death. But public speaking doesn’t have to be so frightening.

The secret, says Beth Pedison Gibson, is to be well prepared. Gibson has more than 25 years of communications experience from the public and private sectors, including serving in the White House for President George W. and Mrs. Laura Bush. Before working in Washington, D.C., Beth was a communications leader at several large companies in Dallas and continues in that capacity, in particular for her husband Ken Gibson’s law firm, Gibson Singleton Virginia Injury Attorneys.

Beth shared these tips for preparing for your next public speaking event at a recent Gloucester Chamber of Commerce business training event.

Prepare for your audience.

Before thinking about what you want to say, always consider your audience. For formal speeches, actually call the inviter to ask detailed questions. For more casual opportunities, simply think about the answers and the types of people likely to be there. To prepare, know the full name of the group, the expected audience size, demographics and room logistics, such as the set-up, microphones, lighting and other details. Additionally, ask if media is invited to be aware if the comments you make could become public.

Determine your topic, importance and speaker.

Ask yourself these questions:

Topic – What would you like to say to this audience? What would you like them to do as a result? What will be most interesting to them?
Importance – Why should they listen? Will they become healthier, wealthier, or wiser?
Speaker – Why are you qualified to tell them? This should be very brief and often just your current or most recently past position.

Develop an appealing opening and a memorable closing.

In your opening, you’ll want to throw out a welcome mat. Put them at ease with the word “you.” Draw your listeners in by telling a story, asking a question, sharing a surprising statistic, an interesting quote, observation, or allusion. The phrase, “What most people don’t know,” always works!

For your closing, avoid introducing new thoughts. Simply tell them what you’ve told them. End with strong words, such as “you.” You can also include a memorable scene, sharing a personal philosophy, praise your audience’s role, take a look at the big picture, tell a humorous story or ask strong rhetorical questions.

Use a simple organization.  

A formula for a successful message is as follows:

—Tell them what you’re going to tell them in the opening;

—Tell them in the body;

Tell them what you’ve told them in the closing.

Share your stories, but have a point.

Stories are a great way to connect with people. Remember to be brief when telling a story and only include the relevant details. Humor is a powerful tool, but only if it has a clear point. Keep in mind, telling a long joke is risky to keeping your audience’s attention. 

Remember that delivery counts.  

Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor emeritus at UCLA, did pioneering work on the importance of nonverbal messages. He found that when delivering a message, 7 percent is words, 38 percent is voice and 55 percent is nonverbal. This does not mean that your content is not important. It means that when your delivery and your words are in conflict, people trust your body language.

Maintain regular eye contact with your audience and smile often. Use good posture and keep your hands at your side while resting. Keep your weight balanced whether standing or sitting. It’s okay to look at your notes and pause often. By the end of your speech, you want your audience to like and trust you. 

Use your voice to convey enthusiasm.

Speak as if you are smiling and even mark smiles in your notes. Anger is rarely effective.

Project your voice. When you think you are speaking loudly enough, think about the people all the way in the back of the room. Additionally, speak more slowly than you would normally and consider lowering your pitch. Pause often during your speech and use silence to your advantage.

Lastly, ensure your breathing is under control. Practice breathing beforehand by sitting comfortably and breathe in and out to a count of 10, seven times.

Handle questions with courtesy and confidence.

You do not have to take questions at the end of a speech, even if you’re invited. If you want to end with impact and not dilute your message, you can always invite questions privately after the conclusion of your speech.

If you choose to take public questions, these tips work well, especially when dealing with the media:

—Limit time for questions up front;

—Use an open palm to call on someone as opposed to pointing;

—Rephrase questions as needed;

—Answer to everyone;

—End with a strong final statement.

To prepare for questions, you can jot down difficult questions you may be asked and practice your responses beforehand.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

You have to practice to improve. Practice your speech in front of a mirror, record it, or invite family and friends to listen in. You should practice a minimum of five times; once a day for five days works.

Be at your best.  

Get plenty of rest the night before your speaking event. Wear clothing that you feel good in and that photographs well. Arrive to your event early to avoid stress and to allow yourself time to visit with your guests beforehand. Lastly, check yourself in a big mirror immediately before you speak.


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Developing Your Personal Brand

Compiled by Stephanie Heinatz and Kelly Marderosian

Have you Googled yourself, lately? No?

Go. Do it. Do it now.

The results there, my friends, is the first hint you have at your digital presence, your brand, your identity most people see first.

You may or may not realize that you have a personal brand already. If you have a Facebook or LinkedIn profile your name probably comes up on the first page. Perhaps you are listed in the phone book or you have recently been mentioned in a local news article. All of these things are part of your personal brand.

Blogs, websites and social media make it virtually impossible to prevent anyone from creating a personal brand, whether they want to or not.

What you can do is ensure you are shaping your brand.

According to Forbes, less than 15 percent of people have truly defined their personal brand and less than 5 percent are actually living it on a daily basis.

Personal branding requires work and self-awareness, but the end result is well worth the investment in time.


Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands and defining oneself as a leader, a thought leader. The concept of personal branding suggests that success comes from self-packaging.

Take one of our personal favorites, Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of VaynerMedia. He has developed a unique brand for himself, helping people build businesses.

Right after college, he took his family wine business and grew it from a $3 to $60 million business in five years. This led him to become an entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist, author, blogger and a prolific public speaker.

His work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Fast Company and the Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. If you’ve ever listened to or watched Gary Vee, you know he’s raw, straightforward and will tell it like it is. He’s authentic and people like that.


So what can you do to create your own personal brand to ensure you are being portrayed the way you want to be? Understand and be your authentic self. Your personal brand is your story. It should answer these questions:

—Who are you?

—What are your goals?

—What do you stand for?

—What do you believe?

—How do you want to change the world in your life and in your business?

Identify your brand.

Your personal brand is made up of many elements. It’s how you dress, what you say. and how you say it.

To start identifying your brand, ask people who know you well to describe you. It’s similar to when I tell someone’s story, I ask them three words they would use to describe themselves.

This helps me clarify how they want to be portrayed as an individual. Identifying skills, qualifications, quirks and flaws is also part of the equation to blend with values, purpose and goals.

It’s important to keep in mind that when first defining your personal brand, you may not get it right the first time. Or even the second time. But that’s okay.

Live your brand.

Are you living your brand every day? Your brand isn’t a facade. It’s meant to be a snapshot of who you are, what you believe in, how you live your life, what’s important to you and the types of problems you enjoy solving.

People want to do business with people, not companies. Think carefully and be purposeful about your daily communication with co-workers and peers. These people have the power to influence your brand and your conversations with them are just as important as your communication with your boss or a client.

Your brand helps serve as a mission to help guide you to the next phase of your career and helps you focus on your strengths. When you live your personal brand it gives you credibility and validates that you can be trusted.

Recognize that your voice has power.

Take up offers to speak publicly. Write thought leadership articles. Participate in interviews. These may sound like big things, but the simple act of sharing information on social media gives you the opportunity to share your thoughts and your voice and it exhibits confidence.

With that being said, keep in mind that what you share online sends a message and will be there for a long time. This doesn’t mean everything has to be sterile or business focused. You still want people to see you living your life. Every status update, every tweet and every picture you share contributes to your personal brand. Ensure what you share is purposefully and mindfully chosen.

Think of yourself as a brand.

Your reputation is your brand or your trademark. When people think of you, what do you want people to associate with you? Once you discover how you want your personal brand to be perceived, you can be strategic about it.

As human beings, we are constantly changing as we learn and grow. This means personal branding is ever evolving, which means personal branding is something that requires maintenance. So as you change as a person, your brand changes.

Share yourself with the world.

Being vulnerable can be scary. Will people like you? Will they criticize you? Through vulnerability comes confidence. I like to think everyone has something unique to contribute and share with the world. Your message may not be meant for everyone, but you never know who you are inspiring with the information you share. Once you develop an understanding of your true self, then you can go out and share your value with the world.

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