Kin Hubbard (1868-1930) US cartoonist said “Why doesn’t the fellow who says “I’m no speechmaker” let it go at that instead of giving a demonstration”.

I am often asked as to what tips I can give to people who are asked to make a speech. Most people fear public speaking more than they fear death, but I feel that if you follow some simple rules, everyone can be a great speaker, thus returning death to its rightful place at the top of “feardom”.

1. Always start your speech with “Four score and seven years ago …”.
This is the way that Abraham Lincoln started the Gettysburg address in November 1863, and despite the absence of the internet, twitter, facebook and other social media at the time, it is still ranked as the greatest and the single most remembered speech in history.

Source: United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division, digital ID cph.3a53289

If you speak often, and start all your speeches this way, over time people may start to identify you with this opening and forget that it came from Abe.

2. If you must practise your speeches, do so whilst standing naked in front of a full length mirror.
This way, when you do the actual speech and you are fully clothed, you will have much greater confidence knowing that you are completely dressed.

Practise naked in front of a mirror; Source:

Many speech coaches also advise that you pretend that your audience is actually all sitting there naked in front of you, which would give you an even greater shot of confidence. I advise against this last suggestion particularly if you are speaking to the local “Senior Citizens Association”, as it is hard to concentrate on speaking fluently when your brain keeps bringing up thoughts of ironing out creases.

3. Prepare at least 100 complex Powerpoint slides to accompany your speech.

Typical powerpoint

You should make sure that the images that you use have absolutely nothing to do with the topic you are speaking on at the time, but are eye-catching enough to make sure that nobody focuses on what you are saying. This is particularly important if speaking at a European conference, where most of the audience will believe that they are much more knowledgeable on any topic than the actual speaker, so it pays to distract them with pretty pictures.

4. Be cautious about not offending one specific ethnic or interest group that may be in your audience.

As it is hard to determine who is in attendance beforehand, it pays to ensure that you insult all of them without any bias to show that you are not a racist. You will therefore need to include in your introduction serious slurs to all religions, nationalities, ethnic groups, sexual orientations, genders, tradespeople, politicians, actors, musicians, children, the elderly, all professions and any other groups that can be identified, generally by the wearing of identical T-shirts.

5. Always use a lot of statistics in your speeches.

Large lists of numbers are always well received by any audience.
If you feel it really necessary you can even use some that are relevant to your speech, though this is not mandatory. Even though you should never have more than 50 of your 100 Powerpoints dedicated to long lists of numbers, do not assume that your audience will be able to speed read them all, so you must make sure that you actually readout all the numbers with no omissions.

6. To be remembered, it is important to leave your audience hungry for more.

It is therefore critical that you give them very little worthwhile information in case you slake their thirst and quench their appetite. In fact, the less that you tell them the more they will go away feeling that there is significantly more that they could learn about your chosen topic. In this way, by telling them nothing of importance at all, it will ensure that you will be remembered and talked about long after the conference is over.

7. Always overdress so that you can look and feel superior to your audience.

For example, if you are speaking at a conference of barristers it is worthwhile dressing like a High Court Judge, or if speaking to a group of politicians you should dress like a dominatrix or an arms dealer. If you are invited to speak at an IT conference, whatever you wear will not position you as being greater than a bunch of “IT nerds”as, since the movie “Social Networks”, they now occupy the highest levels of superiority.

Author: Contributor(s): Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd


8. It is better not to practise your speech beforehand as this will remove any spontaneity.

It is much better to just think about what you want to say as you are being introduced, and you should always have the same small printed card available to prompt you when speaking. This way you will not need to have different prompt cards for every speech.
This card just needs to say:

  • “Four score and seven years ago …”
  • I want everyone here to know that I hate …. (name all the groups, missing none)
  • Tell the rude joke that I heard at the last stag party I went to
  • Say nothing too interesting for 30 minutes including 20 minutes of statistics
  • Finish last 5 minutes with a flourish and promise everyone free beer if they applaud

I hope that this helps anyone faced with the prospect of public speaking. To keep stealing from Abraham Lincoln, just remember that “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”.


  1. Gary Fisher says:

    Excellent advice from one of the true Masters. Unfortunately, I read this having just finished my dinner, and the image of you practising naked in front of the mirror was too much for the stomach to handle, Les.


    • leshayman says:

      I don’t practice any more for the same reason.
      i am however worried that you were thinking of me naked … at your age you should get better images of nudity.

  2. Enrico Negroni says:

    Great hints, Les !

    About the third topic, the ppt one, how many ex colleagues we both know using about 100 slides and going to comment in detail any single box, any single item ? Fully powerpoint addicted !!!

    As for myself, I will never forget your speech to the SAP EMEA Sales force, in Nice, in 2003, when, wearing, at the end, a nice Borsalino you said, and did, “chapeau” to the team for the performance in 2002.

    That was absolutely great !


    • leshayman says:

      Thanks Enrico,
      I have to admit that I based these observations on my years at SAP, having sat through so many presentations that looked as though they had taken seriously this sort of advice.

  3. Frank says:

    you need 10 points (10 commandments)..
    #9 Don’t speak from the heart, as the audience will think you believe what your saying
    #10 Divert the audience attention by running around the podium, waving arms/hands, don’t leave your fly open, but a good scratch can be acceptable..
    Les, a twist on a good topic, obviously constructed after a few reds.
    rgds, Frank

    • John Connolly says:

      I think you should postpone your tips on good speech making until you have mastered the basics of the English language. And I quote, “…will think you believe what your saying…” The correct English grammar should be you’re saying (short for you are), not your as in the possessive version. For the moment, contend yourself with reading Les’ blog and stay well away from advice is my advice!

      John Connolly

      • leshayman says:

        Thank you for the English advice to Frank, but don’t you mean “… content yourself …” rather than “… contend yourself …” ? 🙂 Les

      • John Connolly says:

        Indeed I do, perhaps Frank will take my advice in the same helpful way that I have taken yours?
        I have a particularly acute dislike of the your vs you’re fuck up in the current Facebook, twitter bastardisation of the English language… perhaps English isn’t Frank’s native tongue, in which case I stand corrected, if it is, he should stand corrected. In the meantime I am content to be contended!

      • Frank says:

        John, English is very much my 1st and only language, and at times get excited in my responses to Les’ fine writings/words of wisdom, and I don’t check the grammar or spelling as one might if they are “presenting in a formal” environment. Les’ blogs and his audience are very much “family” in my opinion, and forgiving. Surprisingly, I’ve been acknowledged as a leading industry speaker, grammar errors and all..because it “comes from the heart”. In future I’ll be more careful in my comments to the family audience.

      • John Connolly says:


        I trust you see the incredible irony in my rushing headlong in to correct part of a sentence and misspelling myself… makes one feel rather foolish. I wish I could use the ‘straight from the heart’ excuse, but in this case it was straight from my big mouth which obviously contained my foot at the time. Please accept my apology.

      • Frank says:

        haha, 🙂 all good and in family spirit.

  4. leshayman says:

    Hi Frank … thanks for the extra 2 points … I like them.
    Actually constructed at a conference where I spoke first and then had to sit through some of the worst presentations that I have ever seen. I took notes and once I could escape back to my hotel room penned this piece … I didn’t even need alcohol.

  5. Mal Booth says:

    Hi Les,

    You’ve just summed up all the SAPPHIRE conferences I’ve attended in the last 17 years 🙂


  6. Michel Sérié says:

    Hi Les,
    I will see how much of those hints I can use tomorrow when speaking in Singapore about Innovation.
    i can practice naked or even worse, just with socks, as my wife is not going to laugh at me 🙂

  7. leshayman says:

    Just one note of caution … offering free beer in exchange for applause doesn’t work in Singapore … you have to offer free noodles like char kway teow. 🙂
    PS: Wives will always laugh at us naked, but silently.

  8. Tim Ebbeck says:

    Les…great synopsis and so very true…words of wisdom coupled with a GREAT deal of experince. Colin Sampson passed it on..
    Thanks for sharing.

  9. leshayman says:

    Hi Tim,
    Thanks for connecting. I got some of my comments from attending 15 years of Sapphire and having to be treated for ppt poisoning 🙂
    Love your photo essays on fb.

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