Things I Wish I Knew About Public Speaking

Things I Wish I Knew About Public Speaking

There is a very good reason why death and public speaking are the two most feared things in the world. People fear public speaking more because it is more likely that you might need to get up and speak somewhere today than dying. So what exactly is the fear about? What could possibly put the fear of death into you when you need to stand up and talk in front of a room of people?


I will never forget a day many years ago when I was asked to address a group of people at a breakfast. I wasn’t exactly sure what they wanted me to talk about, but the general topic was rugby. With over 12 years of professional rugby under my belt, there was a lot to talk about and a lot that you can’t talk about, so where do you start and where do you end?

I became incredibly nervous as I started speaking and because I had not prepared properly with notes and general guidelines I became more and more nervous as I progressed. 

It should be the other way round. You must be a bit nervous at the start as you are before a rugby match. Being nervous is your body telling you that you are going into battle and that you must be prepared. It is a good positive thing as it keeps you sharp and the adrenaline must help you deliver your best performance. 

On this specific occasion the fear got hold of me and I struggled to string two sentences together. There were a lot of uuhhms and aaahs that day. I managed to gather myself in the end but there is no doubt that everybody in the room felt a bit uncomfortable that day.


So what went wrong and how could I have prevented this from happening? Rule number one: BE PREPARED. Talking about rugby can be vague as there are five hundred topics I could have elaborated on. I should have prepared a very specific topic around rugby and rehearsed it over and over until I had it fully prepared. To have a keynote that is well prepared with certain visuals helps me deliver and keep my audience entertained. To this very day I still get nervous, and my heart starts pumping with adrenaline, but having that extra bit of preparation now allows me to channel this energy in a positive way.

Rule number two: know your audience. Who are the people you are addressing and what have they come to hear? My philosophy around public speaking is that I want people to walk away with something that they can use in their everyday life. If I can give one person in the audience one thing that might make a small difference in their life then I will feel that I have delivered a good keynote. The rest of the audiences must be entertained and feel that it was worth listening to. 

Rule number three: Tell a story. Somebody once said to me that people will forget facts, but they will never forget a story. I use stories in my keynote that explain certain principles. One of the stories I talk about is a 53 -3 loss to England at Twickenham. As the Captain of the Springboks that day I will never forget the game and neither will the Springbok supporters who traveled all the way to London for that game. The story behind the build up to that game is something that people will also never forget so I use that to nail the principle of Motivation and the fact that it is a short term solution that can never give you long term results. 

For more info on Debunking Motivation lets jump on a 15 minute call. Please follow my story on Facebook and LinkedIn. For any keynote speaking event, please look at my speaker sheet or contact me on

Please take the time to read the latest articles from my blog page:

Why Keynote Speaking and Debunking Motivation
Never Giving Up: The Art of Pushing Through

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