Public Speaking or The Grim Reaper, Which would you Choose?

Public Speaking or The Grim Reaper, Which would you Choose?

People’s biggest Fear is Public Speaking. The anxiety involved in Public Speaking on a global scale is a fear that stretches across Gender and Geographical boundaries. I wanted to get into the gritty details behind what makes a good public speaker, how do they enthrall an audience while delivering a message with real impact. Why? Launching our startup BlueChief Social over 2 years ago was an unbelievable experience, along the way I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I mean a lot of mistakes while speaking in front of groups, investor panels, large crowds and/or an audience.

Losing BlueChief lots of potential money/funding, getting nervous leading me to sweat profusely in front of crowds and/or on camera and not really having the confidence to radiate my message without talking too fast or at minimum confusing the audience.

Through this blog I wanted to share with you some of the top speakers I have seen in Ireland and further afield, showcase some fantastic articles and videos highlighting how to become a polished public speaker and share some of the top tips we’ve been given along the way while offering a few suggestions on what has made me a better public speaker.


“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you can speak, you can influence If can you influence, you can change lives.”

~Rob Brown, Author, Speaker


Fear of Public Speaking > Fear of Death

Public speaking is the thing we fear more than death – something I would never have guessed. 75% of all people suffer from speech anxiety and both women and men are equally affected. Where does this come from?

There are numerous articles out there that all highlight the same issues – Fear of judgement by others, being the centre of attention, feeling nervous, comparing yourself to others, previous failures – it is a really difficult thing to do and skill to learn. Putting yourself out there, knowing that no matter what, you will be judged, knowing people may not like/agree with what you have to say and being an isolated figure at “the top of the room” only works for some people.


For those of you out there that need that push in the right direction and who aspire to be a confident storyteller who can hold a room – I really hope the following helps.

Public Speaking

How to Speak so People Listen (Tedtalk):

I’ve attended many events and heard some fantastic speakers over the last 2 years. Speakers who’ve had the audience in their hands, you could hear a pin drop when the spoke and they just owned the stage and your undivided attention.

Recently I was asked to give a talk at the Inspire 2015 conference at the University of Limerick.


It was a great experience and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Ireland rugby captain and Munster rugby star Paul O’Connell was the keynote and although he was really impressive and quite the polished speaker it was two other speakers who stood out. It was my first time meeting Alternative Miss Ireland Sinead Burke and she was unbelievable. Her voice, her tone, the way Sinead got the message across to young people about being different, I could not help but be inspired. On the same day, I met Richard Lynch from ILoveLimerick. Richard is one of the most enthusiastic and encouraging speakers I will ever meet and we were lucky to have him as MC for the day. Richard public speaking is like Lionel Messi playing Soccer – It was something he was born to do. Richard inspires, motivates and engages an audience. Solid guidelines for any public speaking engagement you may have.

Another fantastic storyteller in Ireland’s startup scene is Paul Hayes. Paul runs Beachhut PR, does MC at a lot of Startup Events across Ireland, he has indirectly educated many people like me so much, from just watching him in action on stage. Paul is one of these Public Speakers that is alway himself no matter who the audience is or what event he is at, he asks the tough questions but also adds in humour and it just works. The audience is always waiting for what is next and it is a real skill to keep people’s interest peaked for so long. Take a look at one of his videos here. You can pick up real tips from people like Paul from watching their body language, the way the hold a room and the way the speak to guests. Observational learning is essential to excel at Public Speaking.

My favourite speakers on an International scale are always changing, at the moment it is Gary Vaynerchuk. From his attitude to how open he is to the belief he has in what he is saying controversial or not and he always talks from the heart – that really resonates with me. He gave a talk a few weeks back and I thought it was brilliant. Speaking to Entrepreneur Students at USC he nailed it…

Gary Vaynerchuk

Gary Vaynerchuk at USC 2015 Video

Ed Fidgeon-Kavanagh gives a “Presentation on Presentations or  PitchDeck 101” – I have learned so much from this. Practice, Practice and Practice being one of the key learnings but also Impact. How your story should be clear, concise and get you what you want. Whatever that “want” may be. – No wonder he is Ireland’s leading guy for Startup Presentations.

Another guy I have to reference is Connor Murphy, Connor is the Co-Founder of Datahug an award-winning Irish Startup and he had some very easy follow tips when it comes to public speaking or pitching an idea the first time we ever met.

  • Practice, Practice, and Practice.
  • Get away from the crowd and have some time alone before a big pitch.
  • Practice where ever you get the opportunity. – Schools, Colleges and even Mass!!!

Megan Washington gave a fantastic Ted Talk termed “Why I live in mortal dread of Public Speaking. Megan is one of Australia’s premier singer/songwriters. You should check out the talk here, I won’t ruin it. What I will say though is, Megan figured out her process for speaking in Public. A process that works and makes it more comfortable for her. I loved the talk because it is so thought provoking. – WHAT PROCESS CAN I LEARN, THAT WILL MAKE IT MORE COMFORTABLE FOR ME TO SPEAK IN PUBLIC? – a lesson I feel people really need to grasp on a personal basis.

Another Megan, Megan Dalla-Camina recently wrote a piece for the Huffington Post on Public Speaking with confidence, giving some great tips on how to prepare yourself. I really liked the tip on having a tool-kit for when you speak in public and also the simple advice of just breathing!! So many of us forget the natural things we do every day when weighed down with fear and anxiety.

To wrap this up, I want to give you some details on what I did to get better at Public Speaking and pass on some of the best advice I have been given.


How did I get better at Public Speaking?

  1. Visiting Toastmasters – I only went twice – It was The Process that really helped!!
  2. Practiced giving talks at Universities – A Smaller Audience with much less Pressure.
  3. Reading in Mass – It was uncomfortable and annunciation was key.
  4. Made a mess up & lost us lots of money -A Harsh Lesson made me improve my process! Don’t try this one too frequently!!!!!
  5. I once started “Rocking an Imaginary baby” at my first Video shoot (Swaying from side to side with my arms clasped like I was holding a baby, rocking it to sleep) – It was a really embarrassing lesson when the video went public – I was really nervous and it showed but it was an experience that will stay with me forever.
  6. Set down a major goal e.g. Talk in front of 10,000 people at the Web Summit – With a goal like that, small talks become a stepping stone to the big goal and don’t seem as daunting.
  7. Realisation – To reach the top, to Lead, you will have to talk publicly and with confidence.


Here are some of the Top Tips we’ve been given at BlueChief Social:

  1. Stretch out before hand and relax yourself – Big pose, big confidence, big Impact.
  2. Don’t forget to breathe!!!
  3. Practice, Practice, Practice.
  4. Surround yourself with people OR find some time alone (For me, I prefer to be around people)
  5. Say it to yourself over and over in your head.
  6. Engage the audience. Keeping attention is key.
  7. Observational Learning is essential. Learn from the best, what do they do?
  8. Manage your voice tone, practice your stance, find out what way YOU present!!
  9. Start by speaking in front of smaller groups. Build your audience talk by talk.
  10. Talk from the head and the heart (Intelligence, Belief, Conviction and Clarity).

Remember more often than not – PEOPLE WANT YOU TO DO WELL!! Best of luck on your public speaking adventure from all the BlueChief Social team and I.

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