The Career Farm Grow Your Own Podcast - how to become a brilliant speaker - with Jeremy Nicholas

In this episode of 'Grow Your Own Career' podcast,  I interview the BBC TV and radio presenter Jeremy Nicholas. Jeremy teaches media training techniques to clients that he’s acquired from thirty years on TV and radio, and is also an accomplished host of business events working for clients such as IBM, Carling, Ericsson, Boots and Samsung.

I met Jeremy at the Professional Speakers Association (PSA), which I joined last year. Fourteen years ago when I lived in London I joined Toastmaters, which was fantastic for increasing my confidence when speaking in front of an audience.

Last year I decided I wanted to add keynote speeches to my skill set rather than just workshops (which I've delivered for years). I joined the PSA and tried out my "showcase", which is a chance to practice your keynote or speech.

I thought all I needed to do was just take out two thirds of my normal slide deck and deliver what was left.

Low and behold, that didn't work very well!

So I decided to really study the art of speaking, especially TED style speeches. I met Jeremy who is Chair of PSA London and thought immediately I could learn a lot from him, so I invited him to speak on my podcast and share his knowledge with you.

Wherever you are in your career, I believe being a better speaker is a key skill; whether you are presenting to the board, colleagues, your customers, clients, staff, at a conference, pitching for funding....  There are so many situations where good speaking skills can really elevate you as a leader or as someone who is professional and memorable.

You might be great technically but what if no one knows who you are or you struggle to share your ideas and opinions? Communication is key!

What did I learn?

  • A keynote is generally where you speak and no one interrupts! It's typically short - between 20 - 45 minutes
  • Delivering a workshop is very different from delivering a keynote
  • Don't do a new speech every time
  • The really good speakers do pretty much the same speech, tailoring it for the audience. Do your greatest hits! Use you your best stories and practice making them better and better. Put a topical or locally specific addition at the start, then your greatest hits and then do 5 mins at the end making it very specific to the audience on the day.

Top 3 Tips

People worry about what the audience thinks of you, they don't CARE! They are interested in 'what can you do for me'  - concentrate on your message.

The top tips:

  1. Your message is more important than your delivery
  2. There is no big secret to overcoming nerves - you have to - Practice, Practice, Practice
  3. Don't learn your talk verbatim, have 6x4 index cards with bullet points, know you content off by heart but not the words.

Your slides aren't your presentation

Powerpoint is a way of remembering what comes next.

Use pictures, NOT lots of words. The slides shouldn't make sense by themselves.  Consider doing a version of your slides with your notes to share.

Don't blight your talk by thinking about the people not in the room. You are the talk, not your notes.

An introduction is not a biography

Jeremy's formula for getting introduced with impact:

Ask the MC to introduce you by writing down an intro which says:

  • Who you are (don't say your name).
  • What you are talking about
  • Why we should listen...please welcome... your name! (this is when you walk on!)

Consider doing an outro - the MC can say you are available to chat, what your book is, you have a workshop coming up etc.... - much classier than you telling the audience all this - you are a speaker not a salesperson! Unless you really want to be?! Most people want to be a guru rather than a salesperson!

More tips

Have another member of your team introduce you, even if you are the same level

Stories anchor your message in their emotions, people remember stories more than facts.

Find time to watch other good speaker- at the gym why not watch a ted talk?!

Links - a great way to learn how to speak - how to get paid for speaking - to get Jeremy's very amusing newsletter and as a free gift you get his 'Million Tips on Public Speaking' Vol 1. Also on there are details of his workshops. Jeremy's new book is out this year: 'Talking toobox' - an ebook. It covers the 4 key elements of speaking:
- you
- your audience
- your message
- your delivery - lots of great talks


TED Talks: The official TED guide to speaking, by Chris Anderson

Taking Charge of Your Career, the essential guide to getting the job that's right to, by Camilla Arnold and Jane Barrett

Lend My Your Ears, Prof Max Atkinson

Talk like TED, Carmine Gallo


'If they are laughing they are listening'  Jeremy Nicholas


Thanks again to Jeremy for giving us his time to be interviewed.

Keep in touch

Don't want to miss a blog or podcast? Then join the Career Farm community to get regular updates.

Join to get updates