Reflections on Speakeasy Manchester

Rob Woollen @ SPKYThe first Speakeasy event in January was great, but having made a few tweaks I think we really we nailed it this Tuesday!

It was a fabulous event, and thanks again to the presenters, to Steve Carter (NLP guru) and of course Steve Livingston at Horwath Clark Whitehill for providing a great venue. There is a Linkedin group now called ‘Speakeasy Manchester’ and I may well start using this as a platform for sharing experiences at Speakeasy events, but here’s some to be going on with. For those of you who aren’t familiar yet with Speakeasy Groups, we have 4 volunteer speakers who present their business pitch to an audience of 12-24 people…and invite feedback on both the message AND the style of delivery. I facilitate and invite the occasional ‘guest contributor’ to join us, an expert in a particular aspect of public speaking/presenting.

The following comments are generic in nature, just some stuff that came out of Tuesday evening’s session. Really fun and relaxed, the safest of environments to get valuable, constructive feedback.


Lots of natural and likeable presentation styles on display, well done!


Passion infects the audience – transfer the emotion you feel for your subject to the audience and you’ll be a winner. Many people who present don’t appear enthused by their message – and if they’re not, why should their audience get excited?

Powerpoint Animation

It’s questionable whether animation adds anything to presentations. Too often it distracts and detracts from the message. Only use it if it ADDS something to the message you’re looking to convey.

Less is More

Be guided by the less is more principle. Make a small number of points really, really well. Avoid dumping data on the audience. PPT talks are a very bad medium for conveying detailed information. They’re much more suited to communicating MEANING and changing the way the audience feels and thinks as a result of your presentation. If you can persuade them to take ACTION after they leave the room, then you’ve surely succeeded.

Images are great

Use images wherever possible. They intrigue the audience, priming them to want to know their relevance. Limit the words and bullets you use – really limit them. Good copy editors slash, slash and slash some more, paring it down to the bone so the message is loud and clear.

People images work best.


Be aware of the pacing of your presentation. There should be a rhythm to it. Maintain the energy your talk creates. Remember, you’re taking the audience on a journey and they want to get to their destination sometime soon!

Most people talk too fast when they’re nervous. Try to slow down a little, more emphasis on good diction and remember the tremendous power of the PAUSE.

Magic of Three

You see it time and again in many forms – a beginning, middle and end structure. There was a Scotsman, an Englishman and an Irishman…(I love the one that explains how they walked into a pub, whereupon the landlord says, “What’s this, some kind of joke?”). Comedians often use a 3-part construct – “picture some of the great orators of history – Socrates, Churchill, John Prescott”. It culminates in a punchline, an ah-ha moment that provides an insight. You can learn from this and use it in your presentations. Set the scene and then provide the ‘light bulb’ moment, your ‘punchline’.

What’s the link with you?

Establish your link to the subject. If you can personalise it, that’s great. It sets the context for the talk AND makes it more authentic. It’s coming from within you. If you took that picture of the kids in Africa, we NEED to know!

Make it relevant to the audience

It’s fine it having meaning to you, but why should WE be bothered?

Setting up

Build up the problem as part of setting up context. If it’s about aid failing to relieve poverty in Africa, let’s have some figures. We want some proof to substantiate your claim. And if it’s a big figure (£2 trillion) what does that look like? That’s the equivalent of…

Establishing authority

You’ve got to establish your authority with the audience. If you’re Nelson Mandela your reputation precedes you, but for lesser mortals the audience needs to respect you as an expert in your subject. So establish your credentials, but not in a boring “we’ve been in business since 1934 and have 16 offices in the UK and 756 staff” kind of way. Better to do it through stories, statistics, great insights and personal experiences.


Play the status game, but within the ‘mid-range’. Taking the mickey out of yourself is fine (it makes you human and generates audience empathy) but take it too low and you’ll lose their respect. But keep it too high and you’ll come across as a know-it-all and too good for this lot.


Be aware of your position on stage. It’s easy to stand in the light of the projector or get stuck behind the lectern. A bit of movement is good, but do avoid trying to be a Tony Robbins when you’re naturally more shy. It’s better to be an authentic introvert with some amazing insights than a fake motivational whiz kid.

Engaging the audience

A bit of audience engagement is great, but be careful you don’t lose control of your timings if you’re on a short slot. Asking questions is all very well, but again you might not get the answers back you want and it can throw you.


Above all, try to have fun and be yourself. Give it 100% and don’t worry about fluffing your lines and losing your way a bit. Trying too hard to be perfect usually means you’ll tense up and make more mistakes. Just COMMIT to it.

Some great insights from Steve Carter (Noosa Training), summarised here:

Emotions start with a thought. Manage your thoughts better and you’ll be more ‘emotionally successful’.

Recall a time when you did something amazing, something you can be really proud of. Or choose a memor involving another powerful emotion, such as excitement, confidence. Remember what you saw, heard and felt, so you feel the feelings again.  Allow the feelings to expand as you re-live the memory.  If you  enhance the experience inside (make it brighter, louder etc), you will increase the intensity of the positive emotion.  Then afterwards (feeling greater), start to think of the ‘peak ‘ of that memory (the part that made you feel really good) and notice how that makes you feel.  Create a few of these (using other memories / positive emotions) and then think of all the ‘peaks’, one  after the other.   This will help you be in a resourceful, powerful state.  Remember you can also think of your ‘peaks’ throughout your presentation.

Your posture can be used to create feelings of confidence. Image a string running from the top of your head up into the sky, which is gently pulling upwards, making your posture more erect.  Then imagine roots growing out of your feet and into the ground.  Finally imagine ‘moving’ our thoughts down into the area behind your belly button. Notice how ‘grounded’ you feel.  It is a really powerful stance. Which also looks very confident to your audience, as an added benefit.  So you’ll look and feel more confident when you talk.

If  you feel nervous, check you’re in the above posture, and think of your 5 ‘peaks’.

If you feel nervous when about to speak, think of it this way – if you never had any reason to be nervous, that probably means you’ve always got a very small audience (possibly no one). At least if you’ve got an audience, you have an opportunity to sell your message, instead of no opportunity at all.

I hope to see you at a Speakeasy session soon – next ones coming up in Manchester on 23rd Feb and 9th March. Drop me a comment/e-mail if you’d like to attend.

Facebook comments: