Category: Public Speaking


Succession: For serious people you need serious planning 

When news broke of Rupert Murdoch’s decision to step down as chairman of both News Corp and Fox Corp, naming his eldest son Lachlan as successor, comparisons were inevitably drawn with fictional media mogul Logan Roy in the HBO drama Succession.

Brian Cox, the actor who brought Logan Roy to life in the series has since joked that Rupert Murdoch’s own succession plan had been inspired by watching too much of the TV drama. History doesn’t record, however, if Murdoch, like Logan Roy, despaired of his offspring’s leadership potential because they’re “not serious people”.

In real life, succession plans for senior executives should be a much more straightforward matter, but it is surprising how many companies are very poor at planning for a change of leadership.

The average business leader is also unlikely to be in their role for life. According to research from consultancy firm Korn Ferry, the average tenure of a CEO is only three to five years – and about 11% of newly appointed CEOs stay in the role for a year or less.

Succession planning

Clearly, succession planning is not something that can be put off, and plans need to be regularly updated to keep pace with a highly fluid labour market and an ongoing war for top talent.

Rather than a highly-charged power play, succession planning should be a continuous, transparent process – and not focused on just the top spot.

A pipeline of suitable internal candidates needs to be assessed and prepared to step into C-suite and C-minus-1 (or ‘V-suite’) roles, so that the entire management structure can be reset in the event of senior departures.

As executive search and advisory firm Russell Reynolds Associates notes, organisations are nearly twice as likely to have “an informal, reactionary approach to succession planning than a formal, proactive one”. 

The company suggests starting with the following key focus areas for CEO succession:

  • Define what you need in a CEO
  • Assess the potential of internal candidates
  • Assess the readiness of your potential CEOs
  • Make CEO succession planning a constant for boards

But good leaders are made, not born, so potential candidates for top jobs also need to ready themselves for joining the C-suite.

Key to this is recognising that leadership is about people and, by implication, about communication. Good leaders need to have a black belt in communication – from one-to-one chats with colleagues, to board presentations, to that big conference speech.

An effective succession plan should also take into account that we are all individuals. The process of developing leadership potential shouldn’t be a conveyor belt of identikit candidates, it has to constantly evolve, to keep pace with the changing social, educational and career backgrounds of each cohort of candidates.

CEO Succession Planning

One skill that will never got out of fashion is the ability to communicate well – to listen closely when others are talking, to show you care about what they’re saying, and to share your vision, goals and strategy in a compelling way.

And in an ever-more complex and fragmented business world, today’s leaders also need the ability to think on their feet – to have some improvisational skills.

Leadership candidates therefore need to develop their communication skills, in order to clearly articulate their personal vision of leadership. That takes effort, but the best leaders are able to make it look easy because they’ve put already the effort in. 

To paraphrase Logan Roy: “You make your own reality. And once you’ve done it, everyone’s of the opinion it was all so obvious.”

To find out more about how to develop your own or your employees’ leadership potential and communication skills, look into an Executive Coaching course with Dynamic Presenting.

Public speaking is for humans, not chatbots

Posted on 13th February 2023 in Emotional Intelligence, Public Speaking

Is humanity on the way to becoming redundant? If the worst predictions of science fiction are to be believed, then it would seem so.

From classic sci-movies such as Blade Runner (1982), and the Terminator and Matrix franchises, to more recent films such as Ex Machina (2014) and HBO’s serialised re-boot of the 1973 film Westworld, the notion of artificial intelligence (AI) that has become self-aware – and that views humanity as a threat – has been an abiding preoccupation.

A central theme running through all of these fictional narratives is a fear of technology and its power to either destroy or replace us. It is a fear whose origins lie in the dawn of the industrial age, and which has grown with successive industrial revolutions.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the spread of AI-generated artwork and, more recently, the use of AI-driven chatbots such as ChatGPT to write anything from poetry, to news stories, to programming code, to feature articles has generated a huge buzz – and more than a little concern.

Chat GPT Programme

Most recently, the ChatGPT chatbot designed by Silicon Valley firm OpenAI managed to pass the final exam of an MBA programme at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, according to a study carried out by academics at the institution.

Stories such as these are laden with anxiety. Are journalists and copywriters going to be out of a job? Will manufacturing and retail jobs disappear? Will artists’ and poets’ work be indistinguishable from that of robots? Are college students simply going to delegate writing their papers to a chatbot?

What such narratives often miss is the importance of the human element. While people have their flaws, especially when compared to AI or robots, their humanity is a great strength when it comes to creative thought and expression.

This fear of replacement is also experienced by people in management or leadership positions – and is amplified whenever they are required to stand in front of a lectern and speak to an audience. 

Does the speaker appear confident or unsure of themselves? Are they engaging, or do they lack personality? Are they fluid in their delivery, or halting and awkward? Are they, dare I say it, too robotic?

Of course, you could always engage ChatGPT to write the speech you have been wrestling with. And with advances in speech synthesisers and deepfake image technology, it would be tempting to get an AI-generated version of yourself to broadcast speeches.

But what this AI-driven approach to public speaking would be lacking is the human element. Delivering a compelling presentation is about telling a story that people find both interesting and relatable – and a key part of that relatability is you.

No technology can replace the boundless creativity of the human mind and the subjective nature of the human experience. No technology can effectively replace the complex chemistry of human interactions.

In a world where we have a growing reliance – sometimes needlessly – on technology, real human connection will become even more valuable.

As French philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard wrote in Cool Memories (1990): “The sad thing about artificial intelligence is that it lacks artifice and therefore intelligence.”

Just as theatre, television drama, and cinema use artifice to create compelling narratives, so the skilled orator can learn to make use of gesture, expression, tone of voice, and personal anecdotes to convey a human story that audiences will respond to.

As an audience, we want human frailty, vulnerability, power, stoicism, adventure. Honing your vision, strategy and message through storytelling will be as powerful as ever in the age of AI-assisted narratives – perhaps even more so. 

That’s where Dynamic Presenting can help you.

Written by Gavin Bradshaw

Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Relaxation techniques for public speaking

Posted on 12th October 2017 in Presentation Skills Training, Public Speaking

I read with interest in the news this week about BAFTA award winning actress Olivia Coleman’s stage fright. Who would expect an established experienced actress to be frightened in front of an audience? Performers always look so confident on stage, that’s their job right? Her anxiety was so strong that she undertook cognitive hypnotherapy to help her get over her nerves on the first night.

“Willy [Olivia Williams] is having a chat and a coffee, I’m back there squeezing my knuckles and going through the things of [chanting] circle of love, circle of love, breathe out love”. 

Stage fright or nervousness before or during a performance is more common than you think. Thank goodness more and more celebrities are now opening up about how they have dealt with stage fright and anxiety.

This should reassure the regular person in the work environment who is apprehensive of giving a presentation or key note speech. Its natural to feel nervous the last thing you want to do is fail in front of an audience.
I remember Emma Watson’s big speech at the United Nations. She did brilliantly, she spoke passionately from the heart and her speech was extremely well received by everyone. She did however admit being very nervous saying to Elle Uk ‘I was very nervous. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. It felt like: ‘Am I going to have lunch with these people, or am I going to be eaten? Am I the lunch?   

Most of us who are in management or leadership positions can’t get away from speaking in public. We need to present our ideas, talk to our teams, persuade, inspire and sell on a regular basis. So you’ve got to get over it or at least find a way to deal with it!

Q What can be done to overcome and or deal with stage fright / performance nerves?

Take lessons from professional actors and performers

Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Relaxation techniques for public-speaking

Actors and singers always undertake breathing exercises before rehearsals and before performances.
When we are feeling stressed and nervous we tend to breather shallowly. We breathe in sharply and we don’t breathe out properly. After a few breaths the lack of oxygen in our body exacerbates our nerves. It sounds simple but all you’ve got to do is BEATHE deeply and diaphragmatically and your body and mind will relax. Before any situation where you are potentially feeling anxious or apprehensive take 15 minutes to sit somewhere quietly and do some deep breathing.
Visualise yourself in that performance being hugely successful. See yourself relaxed, smiling, confidently walking that stage as people listen intently to your message. Practice, practice practice that visualisation until your sub-conscious believes that is what is going to happen.
Actors rehearse, rehearse, rehearse what they go to say and do for weeks before a performance. It’s all in the preparation. Make sure you are well prepared and know your material well enough. You don’t need to learn your presentation word for word, you just need to know the salient points and in which order and then talk naturally around those key points.

If you’ve done all of the above and you are still wracked with nerves. CHANGE YOUR STATE. Move your body. Do whatever it takes to change your focus. Bend down and tie your shoe lace. Go to the bathroom and make some shapes. Walk down the corridor deep breathing. Talk to someone on the phone about something completely different. Do some star jumps, yoga moves, whatever it takes to change your state from being frozen thinking about your nerves.

‘There are only two types of speakers in this world – 1. Nervous 2. Liars’ 

Rest assured that the majority of the planet feel the same as you when speaking in public. If you can practice the four techniques above I promise you will feel less fear and hugely more relaxed and confident. The less fear you feel the more your confidence will improve. And as you experience yourself wowing your audience you will lose your anxiety until you are totally relaxed speaking in public.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

Communicating with facial expressions

How to use facial expressions to communicate with your audience.

We naturally use the muscles in our faces to express how we are feeling and have some thousands of unique expressions that we use every day. Very often we are not in control of our facial expressions as they happen extremely quickly, immediately in sync with how we feel or what we are thinking.

As a public speaker / business presenter you must be aware of your facial expressions as part of your non verbal communication techniques. They can seriously enhance what you are saying, change the way the audience feels about you and change the way you feel about a situation.

All of our facial expressions stem from one of the six basic human emotions:

  • Joy – (happiness) – symbolized by the mouth turning upwards and the eyelids closing
  • Surprise – symbolized by the eyebrows arching and the eyes opening wider
  • Sadness – symoblized by the lowering of the mouth corners, the eyebrows descending and the eyelids drooping
  • Anger – symbolized by eyebrows lowering, lips pressing firmly and eyes bulging
  • Disgust – symbolized by the upper lip raising, nose bridge wrinkling and cheeks raising
  • Fear – symbolized by the upper eyelids raising, eyes opening and the lisp stretching horizontally.

From these basic emotions we create our own adaptations and variations of these expressions which are all totally personal to us. From large expressions through to micro-expressions, our faces can communicate so much about how we feel. We are very good at noticing even the subtlest of communication in each other so it is very hard to hide how we are feeling.

If we can learn to take control of our expressions as well as learn to read them we can control the outcome of a situation better.

Learning to read micro-expressions to develop emotional intelligence

Being able to read micro-expressions is the key to heightened emotional awareness. Spotting micro-expressions will give you an edge in any social or business situation as well as helping you see these expressions in yourself. When you recognise these expressions in people it will enhance your empathy towards them and will help you to see the human side of them. You’ll then know the best way to respond to that person in order to make the situation as beneficial for both parties as possible. The key to noticing these micro-expressions is the ability to be truly present and focus on truly listening (with eyes and ears) to the person you are talking with. If you are focused you won’t miss a thing. If you’re distracted, looking at your phone, thinking of dinner plans for the evening, worried about what they are thinking about you, you’ll miss it all.

Learning to use facial expressions to enhance your story-telling

We all know how boring it is to listen to somebody talk with a monotone voice and a deadpan expression. Using facial expressions to tell stories and to explain things to colleagues enhances the experience for the other person. As the person speaking it is your job to entertain, inspire, encourage, warn or whatever the objective is of your speech / presentation. Raise your eyebrows as you deliver the great news that sales are up by 30%. Half close your eyes and look down as you tell the bad news that the company didn’t win the pitch. Look sad when you are telling somebody they are losing their job. Without the right expression you can give the wrong impression. If you do feel joyful making them redundant you need to put on a sorrowful face to make them feel as if you are truly sorry for the situation. Control your expressions to control the message.

Learning to use facial expressions to change the mood in the room

The brilliant thing about controlling your facial expressions is that you can control how you are feeling. Smile and you will feel happy. Frown and you will feel cross. Sneer and you will feel disgust. How often have you walked into a presentation or interview where the person opposite you or people in the audience are staring coldly, or frowning or looking hard at you? This inevitably makes us feel uncomfortable, unsure and more nervous. By smiling at them and by softening your face you can change how YOU feel. Watch as the person opposite you slowly but surely changes they way they look at you to be more friendly and warm, which will in turn make you feel at ease so you can wow them with your presentation.

By learning to control your facial expressions particularly in circumstances where you have the opportunity to prepare, you can totally control the situation to your benefit.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

Storytelling tips

Storytelling Tips: Learn to Tell Your Story…

Posted on 27th July 2017 in Keynote Speeches, Public Speaking, Theatre & Drama

Storytelling is one of the the oldest and most alluring forms of communication. Human stories, engage emotionally as opposed to offering flat, technical, esoteric text or speech which most people will struggle to relate to. We identify with characters, scenarios and emotional responses. Journeys or adventures in other words.

All drama, stories and journeys require characters meeting challenges. Sometimes they overcome these obstacles, sometimes they don’t. What is intriguing and alluring for us – and why we love to watch films, TV drama and theatre – is how characters overcome their obstacles. Many different strategies may be used. The “How” is of more intrigue than the “What” much of the time.

Tips for Effective Storytelling

  1. Have a central or key message. Sum up what it is you want the world to think or do differently as a result of hearing your story. Just like a presentation or keynote speech there has to be a point to your story.

2. Be distinct. There are only so many different storylines out there. Some within drama and theatre assert there are only six or seven staple stories whatsoever. Yet the plethora of films on offer, for example, would have us believe that there are many more storylines. The lesson is to be purposefully as distinct as possible in the way you tell that story. There are filmmakers and artists who, even with the backdrop of

3. Be bold. Don’t be a lame facsimile of what has been done many times already or of what happens to be flavour of the month. Storytelling works best when someone takes a risk. Don’t be afraid to shock your audience..!

4. Be succinct. Hemingway’s classic six word mastery of storytelling manages to conjure characters, challenges and context that reside only in our imaginations. “For sale. Baby Shoes. Never Used.” Just like the very best advertising copy.

5. Be curious. Don’t set out to re-hash whatever others are doing. Instead follow your innate curiosity. What is it that occupies your thinking at the moment? How does that relate to your business objectives? Is your thinking congruent with those objectives?

6. Be aware that great storytelling evokes images, sounds, memories and emotions in the audience. And people tend to buy based on emotion, not cold, hard logic.

7. Do portray a problem-solution through your storytelling. Remember we watch drama to see how characters deal with situations and how they try to reach their objective. Think of your business as such a character within a landscape of narratives.

Storytelling is a Transferable Skill

Storytelling can work wonders for keynote speeches, presentations, pitches… It can be the difference between merely turning up and going through dull slides and being remembered because you had a story.

“Drama is like a dream. It is not real. But it is really felt.”

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

public speaking fear

Public Speaking Fear – How to Beat it…

Public speaking fear is also known as Glossophobia, a fear which so many people seem unable to cope with. Sheer terror is what many of us experience when faced with the prospect of any form of public speaking or a formal presentation in the workplace. Red face, red neck, sweaty hands, sweaty brow, trembling knees, tense shoulders, dry mouth, palpitations, short breath… The symptoms are pretty varied.

Fear of Failure

Many of our clients have been sick with worry days before a presentation or speech. The fear of failure – in this case often a fear of what others think – is a very common theme. Attaching this much importance to how others view us can be likened to the definition of ego in traditional Eastern mindsets – holding on to things as opposed to allowing everything to flow. Hold on tightly, let go lightly. It’s the latter part of that maxim we struggle with.

The great news for those who panic is that no planes will crash and nobody will come to harm as result of a mediocre speech or presentation. Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever died as a direct result of a poor quarter end financials presenation.

Also, nobody in your audience, be it a team brief or major keynote speech, wants you to fall flat on your face – everyone is supporting you and wants your speech or presentation to be brilliant – perhaps knowing this can strangely add more pressure to the prospect of a public speech for some people.

Vital to have a Key Message

The absolute, most important thing to have nailed down before opening your mouth is a key message. This equates to a need to communicate, a call to action, what you want your audience to think, feel, do differently as a result of your speech/presentation. It is the single most important component of your performance. In theory, you should be able to deliver an entire presentation with just one slide – your key message.

What is a key message? A short statement or question, using everday language that should be news to those hearing it. Deliver in person with the appropriate verve, passion, wit etc as befits your particular message and you’re well on your way to beating the onset of panic. At any fleeting moments of doubt or fretting about what others think, simply return to your message and all will work itself out.

Haven’t got a key message..? Then you haven’t got a speech or presentation that can ever work properly which makes it easier for nerves, panic and self-doubt to set in before and during the event and you really would be much better off emailing those boring slides…

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication


Fear of Public Speaking – The King’s Speech

Whatever your misgivings about public speaking, spare a thought for poor old George VI.  He was a highly private man called to a highly public role during one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history.  George spent his young years in the shadow of his glamorous elder brother Edward until he was crowned king in 1936.

The nascent technology of wireless radio had forced new responsibilities on to the King.  Before he had been expected to address occasional select gatherings of worthies and notables, now he was expected to address the nation.

Weight of Expectation

When called upon to address even a small room full of people, many of us feel the weight of expectation sitting on our shoulders and the terrible dread that we might mess things up in front of an audience. This is quite literally the stuff of nightmares: to be exposed in front of our colleagues as not quite up to it. With this mind it is little surprise that many people do everything they can to avoid any public speaking engagements. However, as we journey through our careers becoming more senior, the prospect of giving presentations and speeches increases considerably.

If it’s possible to get that worked up about a small presentation, one must suppose that George’s anxieties were of a different order given that he had to address the British public on the subject of war, a task made infinitely more gruelling by the fact that he had a stammer. This would seem to be fate demonstrating quite clearly that if nothing else, she has a sense of humour; our first war-time monarch of the broadcast age had a stammer!

Tackling the Fear

If you have seen Tom Hooper’s excellent ‘The King’s Speech’, you will of course know all of this already and without wishing to spoil the film for anyone yet to see it and do see it – it’s terrific,George VI tackles his fear of public speaking by consulting a speech therapist, Mr Logue, who turns out not to be a doctor but an actor. While the King is initially horrified to discover the man he thought to be a nice respectable doctor is in fact a member of one of the least reputable professions going, the acting profession, he is won around eventually. 

You may find your mind wandering down the same tracks as the King’s and wonder to yourself what possible use an actor could be. Well an actor’s job is to connect with audiences, if you’ve ever been to the theatre or cinema and found yourself captivated by a performance then you know what I’m talking about.  As Mr. Logue demonstrates in The King’s Speech, the skills actors use can be taught, even to someone as unprepossessing and in the grip of public speaking fear as George VI.

Dynamic Presenting

That in a nutshell is the whole point of Dynamic Presenting, to analyse your style of presentation, pitching and public speaking to locate weak spots and to help supplement these with skills and techniques which have stood the test of time.  So if you want a consultation fit for a King, even if your problems aren’t quite on the same scale as George VI’s, drop us a line and we’ll start with a chat…

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication

Public Speaking - Steve Jobs

Public Speaking – Famous Quotes from Renowned Speakers

The prospect of a public speaking engagement can be a real terror for many of us. Here are some words of wisdom from those who have been there and done it time and again and with style.

“People judge you by your performance, so focus on the outcome. Be a yardstick of quality.

Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” — Steve Jobs


“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw

Public Speaking Bill Gates

“What I do best is share my enthusiasm.” — Bill Gates

Public Speaking - Steve Martin

“Some people have a way with words and other people … uh … not have way.” — Steve Martin

Public Speaking - William Safire

“Is sloppiness in speech caused by ignorance or apathy? I don’t know and I don’t care.” — William Safire

Master of Arts - Michelangelo

“If people only knew how hard I work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” — Michelangelo

The paralysing fear of public speaking…

…or glossophobia as it is otherwise known ranks highly among the demons that we truly fear. It may be soothing to know that nearly all successful and impressive speakers have at one time or another also succumbed to that fear. It seems a natural human predisposition that evolves after a certain point in childhood – in other words it is learnt and adopted behaviour.

In order to counter this fear, time must be invested in effectively collating information, structuring content and crucially rehearsing the final delivery of any speech, pitch or presentation. It really is a piece of theatre so think of yourself as a showperson putting on a spectacle for an audience that really, desperately needs entertainment – not too hard to do when we think of how many dull, stolid business presentations we all sit through on a regular basis.

Sartaj Garewal is the founder of Dynamic Presenting – a creative, leadership development consultancy, adapting theatre training to create leadership programs for business.

Dynamic Presenting – Enabling Powerful Communication