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How to Make Your Public Speaking Rock by Paul Hughes

On December 8th 2021 we had the pleasure of having professional keynote speaker Paul Hughes as our guest in our webinar on how to make your public speaking rock. Hughes comes from a long tradition of Irish storytellers. He started as a teacher and while working with different kinds of groups he realized that there is unity in how to engage people, how to create emotion and how to connect people in a way that is relevant whether live or virtually.

How do you define public speaking?

Hughes explains that public speaking these days can be very different from the way we have learned it to be. Public speaking doesn´t have one right form but instead what is more important is what your speech contains. Public speaking is sharing your thoughts either live or online. It´s important to think: does your speech give facts? Does it tell a story? How can my audience relate and learn from what I’m saying? And most importantly, how can I learn to speak in a way that I can offer all these things to the listener? Everyone can improve their public speaking skills.

Public speaking doesn´t have one right form. What is more important is what your speech contains.

Hughes explains that you can decide what type of speaker you want to be. You can either be a speaker who is a ‘director’ or a ‘designer’. A speaker who is a ‘director’ leads the conversation from start to finish and is quite dictatived.  Or you can be a speaker who is a ‘designer’ who creates a path for the listener to follow with their own purposes and meanings; here you act as a facilitator for the listener. The key is to understand how you tell the story in different ways. Your main goal overall is to tell the listener’s story; not yours.

You can either be a speaker who is a ‘director’ or a ‘designer’.

What kind of public speaker you want to be?

Hughes advised to recognize the different types of speeches which guide the listener in different ways. When speaking and the matter of subject is meaningful to you, it will show. As in every speech you must have a structure and a reason to discuss about the subject. People who speak this way give the audience something to think about, and it serves the purpose the best. There´re basically two types of speeches: A) storytelling and B) a statement speech. Hughes recommends storytelling.

A) Storytelling speech – Hughes recommends this because it takes the listener on an emotional journey

1. Speak with intent

State the constructive and state the positive. In other words, say what you want, not what you do not want. So instead of saying, “Don’t be stressed”, say “Be relaxed”. When you understand this, it feeds into everything in your speech.

2. It doesn’t matter what you say, but how you say it

Emotions influence more than the logic we use to present. Speech as a journey from problem to solution is how you make others feel emotions.

3.Goal is to create trust with the two first steps

A Listener has to trust you, and this is the end goal that you want to reach with every speech. When the audience trusts you, you make impact.

B) Statement speech – In most cases Hughes does not recommend this because it is less engaging because it tells people upfront what to expect.

The structure of this type of speech is quite dry, lacks suspense, and therefore does not offer much engagement. It usually take the following structure.

-       I’m going to tell you what I’m going tell you

-       I’m going to tell you

-       I’m going to tell you that I told you

How do you become a public speaker?

 Here are some tips by Hughes that he mentioned:


Learn the ABC’s of public speaking.

A – Action. What is the action you want your audience to take?

B – Belief. Audience doesn’t take action if they don’t have something to believe in. Engage emotions!

C – Clarity. How do you make your speech simple to remember? How do you give make the steps as easy as 1,2,3?

Tips to rock your public speech:

  •   Breathe: it allows you to be present.
  • The more prepared you are, the more your anxiety turns into the excitement! Practice as much as possible. Competence leads to confidence.
  • Don’t learn the script, learn the structure & flow of the speech: this way you become fluent. To practice this, use visualizing techniques. (Great tip to this is on the webinar at 36:51!)
  • When you begin your speech: begin by offering value. Don´t begin with things listeners do not care about, like your job title, or list of achievements. The principle to understand is ‘the listener does not care about you until they know you care about them. So beginning by offering them value and only after a quarter way into your speech can you speak about yourself.
  • Slides/power points: think about every slide as a Tweet! You want to control the eye of the audience.


To watch the recording of how to make your public speaking rock, you can download it from here.

During the webinar, Paul also mentioned storytelling. If you are interested, you can read more about it here or watch the recording of the webinar on how to use storytelling to create a community

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