Business Advice · 20 October 2021

5 Ways to Level up your Public Speaking

Communication expert, Janie Van Hool specialises in leadership development programmes and executive coaching. 

Agitated, listless, overwhelmed or in a constant state of ‘pandemic flux’; just a few of the many emotional states experienced by us all in recent times. But as a business leader (or owner) your role is to create the mood and atmosphere that inspires your listeners to connect with you and your ideas. You must somehow break through whatever emotion your audience may be feeling and land messages that lead your listeners to a new emotional state on the path to driving your business forward.

Becoming more skilled at public speaking is a life’s work for anyone that needs to influence others. No-one is born a brilliant presenter, but anyone with the dedication and motivation to reach their listeners can enhance their skills. Now developing our capability brings us a new challenge… we must be actors accomplished on both stage and screen. Our public speaking roles now require us to be as good on Zoom as in real life and this ability to flex our style and communicate online as well as in person means we need a more comprehensive toolkit.

Wherever you feel your strengths lie, here are 5 priorities to ensure that you are confidently maximising your communication opportunity and making an impact:

1. It starts with you

Presenting on Zoom or in front of a live audience is not natural to us. We know that the experience of being watched in a live presentation or ‘stared at’ on screen causes psychological arousal… meaning we experience feeling stressed. You can help yourself here by developing a routine that manages your energy.

Firstly, burn off raised adrenaline by taking a brisk 2-minute walk or something physical that raises your heart rate briefly.

Secondly, practice your breathing. Try breathing in for 4, out for 6 through your nose a few times. This will manage stress hormones and raise your dopamine levels to enhance a welcome feeling of well-being.

Make these actions a regular habit so you don’t add to your stress under performance pressure by trying to do something unfamiliar to you.

2. What must they hear?

Write down, or audio-record everything you’d like your listeners to take on board. Then strip it back until you have only one or two priorities to communicate. Speaking opportunities could be better described as listening opportunities – your listeners must be engaged so don’t overload them with information they can’t take in and won’t remember. The best speakers online and in person are the ones who know what to leave out, rather than what to put in. Be brave. Less is more when it comes to landing a message with impact.

3. Give them a reason to listen

Challenge yourself – is what you want to say what your listeners are interested in hearing? Whether in person or online, there is often a big difference between what matters to us as a speaker and the pressing concerns of the people listening to us. You can change this by asking people what’s on their mind, and then letting their priorities shape your presentations accordingly. Start with impact – tell them something, or ask them a question, that will pique interest. Build from there…

4. Get moving



Janie Van Hool is a prominent communication expert specialising in leadership development programmes and executive coaching. Janie teaches the art of communication, presence and impact to professionals in a range of organisations, from the construction industry to investment banking. As Founder and Director of VoicePresence, Janie has worked as a workshop facilitator and 1:1 coach for more than 20 years, enhancing the communication skills of executives and creating listening company cultures. She also has extensive experience in developing and delivering high potential leadership programmes for graduates – and teaches at some of the world’s top business schools including the Ashridge Hult flagship senior executive leadership programme. Janie is the acclaimed author of The Listening Shift: Transform your organization by listening to your people and helping your people listen to you (Practical Inspiration, 2021). The book explores the power of listening, which often flies under the radar when it comes to communication in business. It is the ultimate guide to learning how to cut through the noise and listen expertly. The Listening Shift draws on the learning and experiences she has gained as a RADA-trained classical actress, a voice teacher (she has an MA in Voice Studies), from her research into Performance Psychology at Edinburgh University, and from her years volunteering as a listener for Samaritans in the UK.