What 2016 Taught Me About Public Speaking?

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 13.07.58End of each year is always a good occasion for conducting some summaries.

2016 has been another very busy one for me.

When I look back at this year, I could think about how much time I spent away from home on many long and lonely business trips.

Instead, I decided to shift my focus and made a list of all the things that I learned through this experience.

  • For the first time in my life, I presented on a big stage in front of 200 people and..I really enjoyed it! All my experience as a small groups’ trainer paid off when speaking in front of a large group and it didn’t feel much different. I then delivered a short workshop to 80 people in London which I also purely enjoyed. Something that just 4 years would have made me struggle to sleep at night proved to be enjoyable!
  • It turned out that delivering webinars is not very different from doing a face-to-face training. It requires the same amount of preparation in terms of the content, but more focus on a number of words chosen to describe the subject (the time was limited to 20 minutes) and more control of your own emotions.
  • I discovered that I can pass my knowledge on public speaking and organise practice sessions that people are willing to attend
  • I realised that with enough of enthusiasm and dedication I could teach other people to become successful speakers/trainers
  • I learned that during the most difficult time in my private life I could control my emotions and deliver a successful training

How to make 2017 the year of learning?

Every day brings opportunities to learn but it’s great to stop and check if we are actually doing it. And if the answer is ever ‘no’ then I always ask myself what I can do to learn more.

What areas would you like to improve?

If you are not sure, research various learning opportunities – whether this will be classes where you can master your public speaking, financial skills, improve your fitness or discover a new hobby.

If you want to grow and feel more satisfied with your development, put yourself forward to any learning opportunities that come your way. For instance, check any training that is offered by your company, local council or your friends. You may not know why you are doing it to start with or do it for another reason but it will pay off at some point in your life. I did public speaking course 4 years ago because I wanted to improve my communication skills during the business meetings. Little did I know where this will lead me!

Try to fill in gaps in our own understanding. Search for the answers to questions that you ask.

And finally, don’t expect different results by continuously doing what you have done so far.

When you learn, you grow and when you grow you feel fulfilled and that your life/career is going in the right direction.

I will finish with the quote which summarises this article well. It’s from one of my favourite Tedtalk presenters: Ken Robinson.

‘Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them; they’re not just lying around on the surface’ 

Think Yourself to Speaking Well


I have recently finished reading a little but powerful book.

It’s called ‘As a Man Thinketh’ and it was published in 1903 by a British writer James Allen. The book is less than forty pages long but on every single page it sends a very powerful and clear message – learning how to manage your thoughts will put you in more control of your life and help you accomplish the things that are important to you.

I really believe that we are much more than what we think we are. By simply learning how to choose more positive and empowering thoughts and rejecting those that makes us feel scared, unworthy and weak, we can become more confident in our abilities.

The author compares our minds to a garden. Whether cultivated or neglected, things will grow in them. If gardens are cultivated and kept free from weeds, flowers and fruit grow. If neglected, weeds will start taking over and no seed will grow.

Looking after the garden requires self-discipline and practice. The more time you spend doing it, the better you become at it, the easier it gets. However, hard work is required right from the start.

It’s very easy to get nervous before the speech. All the natural fears of unknown, failure and being rejected kick in with twice the power.

I try my best to not allow myself to think negatively about the upcoming, arranged speaking events. Whenever the discouraging thoughts somehow manage to find the way into my brain, I quickly find the ways of distracting them with something more empowering – that is, for instance, reminding myself about the amount of time spent preparing for the talk, imagining the best possible outcome -seeing myself delivering an amazing and powerful talk or recalling all the other successful speaking experiences that I had in the past.

As the physically weak man can make himself strong by careful and patient training, so the man of weak thoughts can make them strong by exercising himself in right thinking. To put away aimlessness and weakness, and to begin to think with purpose, is to enter the ranks of those strong ones who only recognise failure as one of the pathways to attainment; who make all conditions serve them, and who think strongly, attempt fearlessly, and accomplish masterfully.

Every action starts with a thought. The first step to becoming a successful public speaker is to decide to become one.

Despite your fears.


My passport got stolen but…


Do you believe that all things in life happen for a reason?

Yesterday, my passport and mobile phone got stolen in Barcelona. I spent 3 hours at the police station trying to get a document that would allow me to fly home after a busy week of training. However, even with that document, I was refused at the airport to board the plane. The embassy of my country is now closed until Monday and after an unsuccessful search for any alternative, the only thing I could do is to go back to the hotel from which I checked out earlier that day.

Quite scary and shocking experience if you ask me..

Being stuck in Barcelona meant that today I had a full day for myself. I decided to go to Park Guell – one of my favourite places in the world. I sat there for hours underneath a tree, reading an amazing book, listening to my favourite album and admiring beautiful views – something that I always wanted to do but never had time for during all my previous visits to this city.

While sitting in the park, I observed people, who were capturing few photos and then quickly moving to the next place. I saw teenagers, mums with kids and middle-aged couples taking endless selfies and portraits with two-seconds-long, big smiles on their faces.

And I couldn’t stop thinking…

What is going to happen with all of these photos?

The owners will probably:

a) post them on Facebook the same day making some of their friends wish they could be somewhere else right now and therefore feel a bit dissatisfied with their lives

b) watch them a few years later wishing that they could live the past again

c) forget about them and the place itself since what they really focused on was technology rather than the real beauty of this amazing location

Yesterday was not the greatest days of my life, but if those unpleasant events didn’t happen I wouldn’t experience and learn something very special.

Today taught me a very important lesson – to slow down, make time for myself and enjoy every beautiful moment when it actually happens.

Because that’s where the real beauty, happiness and peace can be found.

How to Look Confident When Speaking?

Today I found a brilliant and well-researched infographic on how to look confident.

Confidence and effective public speaking go hand in hand therefore I am sharing this graphic here.

I love it because in the sources it mentions one of my all time favourite Ted talk – Amy Cuddy – ‘Fake it until you make it‘. If you haven’t seen it, do check it out!

I have tested Amy’s approach several times in the past before any big training or presentation (last time 3 weeks ago when I had to present in front of 200 people) and I can say with all honesty that it works. I also played this video during the public speaking course that I recently organised in my company and was told that one of my colleagues used this technique before their first ever conference speech and won the award for the best speaker of the event! Now that’s what I call a result!

Enjoy the read! 🙂

Source: http://www.success.com/article/how-to-look-confident-even-when-youre-not

How to look confident

The Most Beautiful Song About the Fear of Speaking


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Emeli Sande: Read All About It

Emeli Sande “Read All About It “

You’ve got the words to change a nation
But you’re biting your tongue
You’ve spent a life time stuck in silence
Afraid you’ll say something wrong
If no one ever hears it how we gonna learn your song?

So come on, come on
Come on, come on

You’ve got a heart as loud as lion’s
So why let your voice be tamed?
Maybe we’re a little different
There’s no need to be ashamed
You’ve got the light to fight the shadows
So stop hiding it away

Come on, come on

I wanna sing, I wanna shout
I wanna scream ’til the words dry out
So put it in all of the papers,
I’m not afraid
They can read all about it
Read all about it, oh


Yeah, we’re all wonderful, wonderful people
So when did we all get so fearful?
Now we’re finally finding our voices
So take a chance, come help me sing this

I wanna sing, I wanna shout
I wanna scream ’til the words dry out
So put it in all of the papers,
I’m not afraid
They can read all about it
Read all about it, oh

Why Are We So Afraid To Sing in Public?

singing picture

Apparently, I used to be able to sing.

I was recognised at school as the one with a wide vocal range and was asked to join the school’s choir. Most of the members of my family are good and confident, casual singers therefore, it probably wasn’t a surprise for my parents that I also had that ability. While at the choir, I took part in a couple of competitions and we even won some awards.  However, this didn’t come easy to me. Whenever during our rehearsals I was asked to sing a solo, I felt extremely shy, self-conscious and nervous and most of the times, because of all these negative feelings, I would end up singing out of tune and laugh nervously.

This reoccurring laugh was making my coach think that I wasn’t serious about signing and there came a point during my ‘signing career’ when I was no longer asked to do solos at rehearsals. During the school times, I never actually sang a solo in front of the audience. And that’s despite the fact that somewhere deep inside I always dreamt about doing so.

This fear that I would end up laughing uncontrollably or sound very awkward prevented me from even trying to sign solos at the karaoke competitions that used to be extremely popular in my home town in Poland. I didn’t mind signing in a group (only after specific amount of alcohol hit my blood stream) but whenever I would be asked to stand up to sing I would avoid it like a fire.

Just over a year ago, my friend organised a karaoke party at one of our local Chinese restaurant in the UK. Chinese karaokes are different than Polish. Polish ones usually happen in a pub and you stand right in the middle of the premises and have a large and not very understanding (to say the least) audience. If they don’t like it, they will definitely show it since my nation has a great tendency of expressing especially negative emotions in a very straightforward way. 🙂 In contrary, if you want to organise Chinese-style karaoke, you hire a small, private room and the only audience that listens to you are your friends.

I didn’t drink that night but since most of the people that I was with were hesitant to sing, I somehow decided to take the microphone in my hand…

I sang one of my all-time favourite songs ‘Don’t speak’ by No Doubt (yeah, I know! Funny choice of a title for someone who encourages people to speak! ).

I closed my eyes and started signing..

There was something absolutely amazing in hearing my little, shy voice in this tiny room after so many years! I started very quietly but soon realised that, for my ears, most of the notes sounded fine. I increased the volume slightly…

I actually sat throughout the whole song in the corner of the room as I couldn’t stop my knees from shaking and had big goose bumps on my skin. I was so surprised to see that the longer I went for, the more confidently I sang and the more smiles I saw on my friends’ faces.

I suddenly found myself smiling too! I was starting to have fun and the moment I realised it, I felt pure happiness! I even got little ovation when I finished which was amazing and made me blush like my nation’s favourite veggie – fresh beetroot 😉

Someone chose the next song and asked for a partner to sign it with. It was Queen’s ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ and, to my complete surprise, I found myself running towards our little stage. When the first notes hit, I started dancing uncontrollably (yeah, I can look a bit mad when I do that!) and singing my heart out. I absolutely loved it!! It is fair to say that this was one of the most liberating experiences in my life!

I smile when I write this as it’s one of those moments in my life that I will never forget. Those unforgettable moments are usually the ones when you decide that your fear will no longer stop you from doing something!

I know that majority of people don’t like signing in public. Yet, we sign our throats out in the car or in the shower! How come we can do that?

Because there is no one to judge us therefore we know we can’t be hurt!

We watch the singing competitions such xFactor or the Voice (come on, admit it!) because these shows are about pure self-expression and making your dreams come true. Don’t we all want that in our careers and private lives?

So why not many people go and get it?

I know why I didn’t.

I avoided singing in front of people because I was afraid to be judged. I was scared that I will not hit all the notes (read – not be perfect) and because of this, I would sound silly and embarrass myself.

The same fear stopped me from public speaking as I described in my initial blog post.

Most of us like to do things in which we are experienced or have a knowledge off. The things that we are familiar with. This increases the chance of making less mistakes and be as close to perfection as possible.

In any public speaking situation there is always an element of uncertainty – be it a question asked from the audience that we weren’t prepared for answering, the possibility that you will forget what to say, unexpected wardrobe malfunction or failure of presenting equipment.

What if we accepted that uncertainty is part of our life because it helps us learn new things about ourselves?

What would happen if we let our guards go and allow ourselves to fully express who we are and accept that perfection is not the ultimate goal?

I dare to say that we would most likely have a ball of our life!

Self-expression has many forms- laughing laud, dancing without feeling awkward, expressing your opinion (however original it might be) or perhaps openly showing your true emotions to another human being.

I believe that the real growth is about discovering our true selves and expressing it to the world. And the only way to do so is by challenging our fears and dancing with them rather than allowing them to limit us. They will probably never disappear as our brain is 2 million years old and is a master in constantly searching for danger to help us survive. But we can learn how to manage them!

Imagine what would happen if you did learn how to fight your brain’s primitive instincts and push your thoughts towards more positive, liberating thoughts?

I am absolutely certain that you would have a ball everyday of your life! 🙂

5 reasons why I loved watching Terri Trespicio’s TED talk

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I am a huge fan of TED talks!

Why? Because I love learning and there is so much we can learn from them!

If you have never heard of TED conference, check out their website www.ted.com.

The event takes place several times each year in a variety of locations around the world and anyone can apply to speak and share their idea on any subject. The only requirement is to prepare a maximum 20 minute-long talk which, once accepted, will get recorded and will be published online for anyone to watch.

TED talks are wonderful for several reasons:

  • learning new ideas on variety of topics ranging from physics, politics or ethics through to psychology, criminology or epidemiology 
  • hearing from top leaders such as Bill Gates or Sheryl Sandberg but also from ordinary people who just want to share what they learned about life 
  • getting tips on how to effectively communicate your ideas in front of the large audience

A couple of days ago, I watched another great one which I would like to share with you.

It was given by Terri Trespicio, a person that I didn’t know anything about before. She talked about this idea that nowadays, in the world where success is perceived as the ultimate way of happiness, everyone feels under tremendous pressure to have some sort of passion. And if you don’t find this one thing that you were supposedly born to do, your life will be perceived as failure.

You can find the full TED talk here.

I have to say that, despite understanding and apprehending the main idea, I didn’t agree with all of her arguments. However, what I really loved, was the way she delivered her talk and for me, this is the true beauty of TED talk!

You can listen to such a wide variety of different opinions, and regardless whether you agree with them or not, what you often gain from watching Ted are tips on how to speak in an engaging and interesting way about matters important to you.

So what’s so great about this TED talk?

1. It tells a story

Terri starts the talk by explaining her personal experience. She takes us back to her past where she was fired from a couple of jobs and felt useless. She speaks about her clearly painful and embarrassing experiences but she does it in such a funny and light way that you can’t help but smile or even laugh while listening. She is critical about herself too (‘I was such a mess, such a mess!’) and very openly speaks about her feeling of worthlessness – something that for sure many listeners experienced at some point of their life. This makes it easier to understand her main points and helps us get to know her better.

2. The delivery is effortless

When speaking, Terri is wonderfully relaxed. Whether you agree with her or not, her energy and positive attitude are contagious and it makes you listen until the end on ‘one inhale’. What also helps, is the fact that she clearly enjoys sharing her story and feels comfortable with herself (laughing from her own jokes is the strongest example of that).

3. It’s not a lecture

Throughout the speech, Teri uses many casual words like ‘you know’, ‘right?’ and ‘anyway’. This makes the speech feel more like a part of conversation rather than a monologue. What also helps emphasise the impression that she is having a chat with us, is the fact that she uses very plain english language with no jargon. She doesn’t try to sound super intelligent, she is just being herself. Listening to her is effortless and at no point I found my brain wondering somewhere else which often happens with worse talks. I enjoyed listening to her and I felt that I could continue this conversation afterwards.

4. The body language and the usage of space

Whether consciously or unconsciously, Terri used a lot of vivid facial expressions and gestures that supported what she was saying. This helped me think that the message she was delivering was very genuine.

On top of this, what also helped with maintaining my attention was her way of speaking – she modulated her voice several times by speaking lauder or quieter depending on the point she wanted to make.

She also used her stage presence very well, walking around the room rather than standing in one place. She maintained eye contact with the audience throughout her speech, was very good at taking tiny breaks before and after making the important points and had a good breathing technique which made her voice sound steady and firm.

5. Powerful ending

Most of Terri’s speech was about her personal experiences. Only in the last 3 minutes she delivered her final, powerful message. This was well planned because that’s when people are truly ready to not only listen but also make an effort to understand your point.

This can only happen when:

  • your audience had a chance to hear something personal about you, something that potentially they could identify themselves with
  • they had time to decide that they like you
  • you had a chance to entertain them and got them interested

You will not influence anyone if you simply focus only on telling people what to do. You will not persuade anyone to believe you if you won’t be truly honest with them.

And the only way to do this is to share openly your own emotions and your own struggles that you had to go through before you learnt something important about your life.

Just like Terri did.