Standing on the National Press Club dias in front of esteemed guests including Federal Minister for Women Michaelia Cash was both exhilarating and  intimidating.

Truth is, I cannot recall a public speaking gig when I have walked on stage without a healthy dose of nerves.

There are many times throughout our professional lives, when public speaking skills can be the difference between making an impact or falling flat.

They come in handy when you’re asked to address the team at the office, the school committee or when you’re asked to give your first TED talk (because anything is possible).

We’re often told nerves enhance our public speaking performance and I believe this is 100% true.

We desperately need more women figure heads across society, so friends it’s time to get your public speaking hat on.



1/ Rewrite the script in ‘your own head.’


By this I mean the inner voice: ‘I’m no good at this, people are going to think I’m a dud, remember the time in grade six when they all laughed at me at assembly?’

The idea is to replace this negative talk by visualising a positive outcome.

The first time I returned to Live TV after a maternity break, I actually visualised the host of the show, Derryn Hinch patting me on the back, smiling and saying, good job! (slightly embarrassing confession, at least I didn’t imagine him saying: shame, shame, shame).


Pic – Social commentary on Sky News panel, 2016.

It’s a technique to back yourself and I feel it is absolutely necessary.

Imagine yourself speaking with confidence, visualise people looking engaged in the audience and even hear the applause at the end.

Combine this with replaying your previous life successes – your personal highlight reel, use the remote control in your brain to play them back as you prepare for your big moment.


2/ Forget the cliched rules of ‘public speaking.’


I believe we get bogged down by the so-called rules: shoulders back, open your palms to the audience, smile, breathe deeply, speak in a commanding tone.

For flip sake how do we expect reserved people to get past the first 2 minutes if they’ve got this contend with?

These skills are often the domain of the type A personality, extroverts and gun public speakers (and that’s fine) but for the rest of us it’s a different story.

  • Realise the audience or listener wants YOU. If social media has proven anything; it’s that people crave an emotional, authentic connection. We aren’t here to judge.

I once attended a conference and the person who seemed to resonate the most with the audience was the slightly awkward, eccentric Pete Williams.

Not the super smooth Swedish speaker.

Why? Because Mr Williams told stories with passion and didn’t intimidate the audience by his ‘perfect’ image.

After his talk, I conducted a quick random survey and he shaped as a crowd favourite.




 3/ Memorise your opening line.


This one is up for debate but in my experience when nerves hit you need a Plan B.

I always have a paragraph of information up my sleeve based on the topic I’m required to talk about.

It acts as a fall back and the talk or interview tends to flow after that.

Practical tips:

1/ Just like preparing for an exam, it’s the classic case of repetitive writing.

2/ Write your main point multiple times – then go over it until it’s locked in. Walk it into your bones.

3/ Don’t be afraid of back up notes.

My fellow Hinch Live panellists and I are divided on this – one absolutely refuses to lock herself into notes as she wants her comments to be off the cuff – it’s up to you but for me it works.

Don’t forget you can ask me as many questions as you like via social media or tap here to join, costs nothing and no spam

Pic – from last week’s City of Melbourne diversity panel. From left: Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley, Squareweave CEO Jacinta Carboon, Xchange CEO Caitlin Isles, City of Melb CEO Ben Rimmer and panel facilitator Martine Harte.

4/ Eye contact


Try to make eye contact with as many people  in the room as possible.

5/ The art of the pause.


Don’t talk right away.

Breathe and speak a little slower than you would normally.

6/ Prepare.


Never make excuses for your lack of preparation, respect the audience by preparing to your best ability.

7/ Give something to the audience who have paid good money to hear from you.


Provide something actionable for the audience to improve their situation.

8/ Walk your talk into your bones.


Particularly if your talk runs around 40 minutes.

This can help to release a little cortisol by walking the day before.

High levels of cortisol stifle creativity.

9/ Always have a back up plan if technology fails.


For me, a hand-held note work the best. There’s nothing like a few dot points on a sheet of paper to propel your confidence levels.

10/ Stabilise yourself with a quick meditation technique before stepping on stage.

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Martine Harte is founder of Engaging Women, a platform for social good.
She is a dedicated voice in the advancement of women & girls. Contact martine@engagingwomen.com.au.

Learn more about her here and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

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Posted in Career insights, Elevate your voice.