About the Author

Who is Robyn
Robyn Braley is committed to helping Rotarians grow their clubs to become better equipped to help people who need help. He has led two club teams that were awarded RI PR Awards and served as the District 5360 PR Chair. He has been a Rotarian since 1999.

Rotary Speaker
Robyn draws from his experience as a Rotarian and as a Communications Professional to share ways to more effectively tell the Rotary story to your community. He starts by asking the questions, "Is your club ready to grow, and why does it matter?" The ultimate focus is on attracting new members.

He is available to speak at District Conferences and Rotary leadership training institutes. Content also applies to other not-for-profit organizations.

Free Content for #Rotary and NFP Use
Please use any posts for Rotary District or club Newsletters. Include the profile at the bottom of each article, Robyn's headshot and a link to this blogsite. Let him know and he'll promote it to his social media followers.

Contact him at robyn@unimarkcreative.com

Monday, 10 August 2015

Does Speaking to a LARGE or Small Audience Scare You Silly? Intimidated? This post is for you!

People expect to be entertained while they learn.

At some point, every leader must speak to various sized groups. If you regularly: 

  1. Chair meetings
  2. Must  move people to action through an uplifting speech
  3. Share good or bad news with employees shareholders, congregants or club members
  4. Give reports or describe compelling personal or group experiences to an audience

Leaders must acquire basic public speaking skills as a function of being a leader. If any of the following profiles describe you, public speaking ability is a required skill. 


Ø  Lead service clubs like Rotary
Ø  Own a business
Ø  Lead industry or community associations
Ø  MC business or community events
Ø  Chair meetings of any type
Ø  Participate in politics at any level

Make Them Cry!

Public speaking success comes through engaging your audience. However, to get to that point, you must remove distractions of all kinds.

If you are a Rotarian, you have heard professional speakers, politicians and various business leaders talk to your club who were powerful presenters and masters at technique. 


"If your club is like mine, you have also heard a single mom tell how her life was forever changed because of the support your club gave to a community program that fed her family or provided other help.

As she spoke, you heard sniffles and saw tears being wiped away throughout the room because what she said came from her heart. Be authentic. Be yourself. What this post offers are practical tips that will help the real you shine through.

Checkered Past

I started my career as a High School Drama teacher. Then I became a broadcaster before beginning my career years ago as a brand and media specialist. Along the way I have been a concert artist (Gospel), record producer and video producer. As a media specialist, one of my areas of expertise is media performance training.

I borrowed from different areas of my experience to develop a seminar called Public Speaking; Raising Your Game.  The 90 minute seminar breaks public speaking into 8 C’s. I’ve taken excerpts from each section.
·         Context
·         Confidence
·         Credibility
·         Control
·         Communication
·         Content
·         Continuity
·         Conclusion

Own the Room

Scope out the room. Whether it is a board room or a large conference hall, walk through it. See the area where you'll be speaking as the people at the back will see it.

Clap your hands or speak a few sentences to get a sense of the ambiance in the room. See the platform as the audience will see it. Know where you will be standing or sitting when introduced and the route you must take to get to the podium or centre stage. Make the room yours.

Brian Brown at a Rotary event
Check out the microphone(s) and media support. Make sure it is all working. Get the facility or the event technical people to solve any problems. 

Do not ever find yourself starting your presentation by speaking into the mic saying, “Is this on? Hello? Can you hear me?" Don't be flipping the mic around to check the on off switch. Just don’t do it.

If PowerPoint of video plays a key role in your presentation, call the technician one or two days before the event. At a minimum, get to the venue early enough to test it out. Sometimes technology is not your best friend. That is why you need to make the tech person your best buddy.
Robyn Braley speaking to a leaders 
group at Buildex Calgary

Body Language

As a media coach, I am often called by various media to analyze the body language of political leaders during TV debates whenever there is an election. What politicians say through gestures, body positioning, tone of voice, eye contact and other elements often tells more about them than what they actually say.

Following one such debate a few months ago, I wrote a LinkedIn Pulse post providing a synopsis of the various leaders before and after a provincial debate. 

During the 2015 Canadian federal election I was interviewed by talk and news radio host about how to read body language during TV debates. 


Click on these links

Hand and other body gestures can distract as much as they enforce what you are saying. Don’t chop, flap, slap, twiddle, slice, dice, suppress or flail.  Google communications tutorials showing the right things to do.

Eye Contact

We’ve all sat in discomfort watching a speaker read from a script while periodically looking up at the ceiling or the back of the room and then back to the script. The other trait is to read from the script and occasionally look up furtively at noone particular in the audience and then repeating the agonizing routine for 20 minutes.

From the stage of the Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary, AB
Here is a trick I learned as a Gospel singer. When the stage lights are up full in an auditorium seating 2,500 or more, you can’t see more than the first 2-3 rows of people because of the glare.

You must work hard using your physical tools to engage people at the back of the top balcony even though you can’t see them.  Here are some tricks that work with any sized audience.
  • Divide the room into 5 sections; 4 quarters and a 5th section in the middle.
  • When you start speaking, identify a friendly face in each section.
  • Alternate speaking to those people when you lift your eyes from your notes.
  • As you get into a flow, engage other people.
  • Count 1-1,000, 2-1,000, 3-1,000 making direct eye contact. Don’t go to 5,000 because you will creep out your audience. Try it.


Speak Up

Without getting too drama “teachy,” every talk has a rhythm, pace and beat. Slow your delivery. Control your delivery.

Here is a tip I provide my clients when doing media coaching. Tune in to a public broadcaster in your area. Match the pace of the speaker. 

Parrot them by saying exactly what he or she is saying at the same time. You will be amazed by how slowly they talk. 

Do the same thing with a talk radio and then a music entertainment host. They will talk a bit faster as they communicate with different audiences. However, they all speak slower than they would in a normal person-to-person conversation. 

Mic or no mic, speak louder than you would in conversational speech. This will give you confidence and provide credibility. Talk to the people in the back of the room.

Why not go to New York

Go through the notes for your speech and determine how best to deliver key information or sections. Think it through. What are the most important points?

As a drama teacher teaching acting, I used a simple exercise to emphasize the many possibilities of delivering a single line. I still use it in my seminars.

Say, ‘I’m going to New York” 20 different ways. You may not add or subtract any other words.The following 8 will get you started.

  1. Say it fast, say it slow 
  2. Change the meaning by emphasizing each word in a different way
  3. Say it with your back turned
  4. Say it while walking from the room, then into a room 
  5. Walk into the room, stop, turn, and say it. 
  6. Say it loud, say it soft. 
  7. Say it while laughing, crying, mad, sad, happy or with maniacal hysteria.
  8. Walk into the room, sit down, cross your arms, stare into the distance, and deliver the line.
And don’t forget pauses. Pauses can be your friend. Use them judiciously.  Pause for effect.


Content is What You Have Say

Every speech is a story, and every story has a beginning, a middle, and end. Successful speakers learn how to engage listeners and absorb them into the story daring them to want to say, “and then what happened?”

Successful stories trigger the imagination of the listener. Emotional connecting points are achieved through sharing personal anecdotes from your experience through illustrations that provide a common ground.

Appealing to the senses through describing sights, sounds, colors, smells, shapes, textures and feelings begins the process of helping listeners paint a picture in their minds. Help them see it.


PowerPoint and Videos

How many presentations are negatively affected because there were too many slides, too much information on the slides, or in the end they were irrelevant to the story? The audience simply tunes out. 

This can be a killer. Only use powerpoint content that helps tell your story. Pictures that tell stories are number one. One picture can evoke strong emotions in ways that words can’t.

If a statement is needed, keep it to one or two sentences. Five to six bullet points will be remembered longer.  


Choose a font that is easy to read. Use colors judiciously. I will be posting an article about effective powerpoint production in the near future.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

I can speak without notes. However, even if I am giving a two minute intro of a speaker at my Rotary Club, I hand write a script in long-hand or short phrases. The process helps me ingest the key information and focus on the key points.  

Brent Barootes
For longer talks, start with an outline. If you know your subject, that may be enough. However, if you need a written script, use it. However, don’t be tied to it.  

Don’t be afraid to rehearse your presentation before a mirror or a friendly observer may or may not be your spouse depending on your definition of friendly!

My friend and colleague, Brent Barootes, is a sponsorship specialist and the President of the Partnership Group. As a Rotarian, professional speaker and author, Brent speaks to business, government and not-for-profit groups and conferences across Canada.  

He has a regimented process that he goes through to prepare even if he has given an address many times before. He starts preparing three to four days out. The day the event before he goes through the entire presentation in real time while using his PowerPoint. He uses a full length mirror to review his body language. 


Why Not Record it?


If the speech you are about to give is a really big deal, why not record it a few weeks before you have to give it? With amazing free audio recording programs like Audacity, you can record your presentation, export it as an MP3, and play it back as you exercise or travel.  

If you give the speech on a regular basis, after you fine tune it before a couple of live audiences, you can sell CD's after your events. 

Great speaker but hidden meaning

To Podium or Not To Podium

If you need a podium, use it. However, while a podium is meant to help the speaker and provide focus for the audience, it can also become a crutch. It is also a physical barrier between you and the audience. 

How many times have you listened to a speaker who was standing behind the podium who had placed their laptop on top of it so they could see their powerpoint notes. With shorter speakers, all you could see is the top of their head.

Young professionals who attend Ted Talks, business conventions, entertainment or even religious presentations are accustomed to speakers roaming the stage using a hand held, lavaliere or cheek mic.

I found these two photos online. If this is your club, please forgive me for using them. 

These photos were taken at the same Rotary Club, perhaps during the same meeting. The lady above looks animated and engaging. I'd like to hear what she is talking about. However, the podium takes away from what she is saying.



Perfect photo demonstration
I am drawn to the speaker at left. Right away his physical presence suggests authenticity and engagement. 

Try rehearsing with and without a podium. Exactly the same presentation will come across differently once you physically open up to the audience. You will also relate to them in a different way. Ditch the podium if you can.


Video Monitors are Cool!

If you speak without a podium, your PowerPoint may provide all the cues you need. You won't need a place for notes. 

However, it is distracting to the audience if you interrupt your flow to repeatedly stop to look at the screen for your next prompt. It becomes annoying.

Here is the solution. Set your laptop on a chair in front of you where it is easy to see the screen. I have a wide screen model that works in a pinch. 

Better yet, ask for a TV flatscreen to be available to hook up to your laptop. You will learn how to use it efficiently and the audience won't even know it's there. 

I'll Speak to Your Group

That’s it for this post. If you feel this is information helpful and would like more, book me to speak at your District Rotary Convention, business or not-for-profit conference, leadership development conference, or to work with your staff contact me. 

What we say is too important not to say it well enough to be heard so the information will be absorbed. Speak up!

What Do You Think?


Please comment below. Did you have a scary experience speaking to a crowd? A funny experience? Do you have further tips? Tell us what you think!

Robyn Braley is a marketing specialist, keynote speaker and writer. He is also a Rotarian who is passionate about Building the Rotary Brand. Robyn has led two teams that received the Rotary International PR Award. He has also served as the PR Chair for District 5360. 

Contact Robyn

Email: robyn@robyntbraley.com   LinkedIn Twitter: @rtbraley_rotary 

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