It’s 7am. I’m waiting in a hotel lobby, right outside the ballroom where I’m attending a business event. People start arriving, some walking and chatting in groups, some alone. Those who are alone have their heads down, looking intently into their smartphones.

I run my tongue over the insides of my mouth, trusting it will pick up anything stuck in my teeth. I unwrap a piece of gum, popping it into my mouth to calm my morning breath. I straighten my tie (looking at myself in an imaginary mirror), take a deep breath and walk in feeling tense, unsure and excited, looking around to see if I recognize anybody.

I see a small group to my left having a conversation and walk over to introduce myself. I extend my hand, play music in my head, mind map my sentence to flow, ensuring I don’t stutter and say, “Hi, I’m Shil. Can I please join your conversation?”

A lady smiles and responds, “Of course. My name is Laura. What do you do, Shil?”

My heart was racing, and I reply, “Hi Laura, I specialize in public speaking,” to which Laura beams, “Oh wow! I hate public speaking and I’m so happy I don’t need to do it!”

I want to explain my thoughts to Laura without lecturing her, and decide the best course is to grin with a cheeky, “Haha – not many people enjoy it!”

Laura’s reply is one I hear all the time, and there’s a misconception that public speaking is, well, public speaking! Most of us associate those words with formally speaking to large groups, presenting at conferences or delivering TED Talks, when public speaking is something we do every day. One of the most common forms of public speaking happens in meetings.


Every time we sit into a meeting, we are speaking to an audience. Whether it’s a weekly team update, AGM, Board or client meeting, regardless of the number of people involved, we are applying the same skills. Most of us would have been in a situation where we are asked to contribute and when we do, our heart starts racing, we feel anxious and vulnerable with everybody watching us as we speak. Managing these emotions and speaking confidently are the same skills we use when we are “public speaking.”  

Before we get a seat at the table for that meeting, we need to instill confidence that we belong there and that usually happens through an interview.

Job Interviews

When we secure an interview, we fist bump in delight because we have the opportunity! Days / hours before the moment, our mind bursts into overdrive and our nerves kick in. We know we’re going to be front of a panel, answering questions about the role, our application and why we would be the ideal candidate. Remaining calm, listening, thinking and having a conversation with strong posture, eye contact, body language and smooth sentence structure are all public speaking skills.

These days, interviews are often conducted online which presents a different speaking dynamic.


Presenting on camera has exploded in the last 24 months. Our tone, eye contact, language and demeanor are critical because they influence how we project ourselves. Once we understand how to package these elements and apply them to virtual interviews, meetings and presentations – it gives us an advantage by becoming a strong communicator. Whenever we present online, we are competing with world class production content such as YouTube and Netflix so, in addition to speaking well, designing creative presentations is a must have to hold our audience’s attention, just as it is when we are public speaking.

Presenting virtually certainly saves time and cost, however the human connection formed through an in-person presentation is something which I feel is difficult to replace.

Presentations / Pitching (in person)

Much of the work I do focuses on this space. Regardless of the industry we are in, presentations occur every day. I have personally experienced nerves, doubt, stress and crippling anxiety about pitching and presenting, and have met hundreds of others who feel the same. These emotions are heightened when we put pressure on ourselves to perform. Handling this pressure, controlling these nerves, telling stories and understanding how to engage the room are essential for successful presentations, and these are skills we learn through public speaking. The value of successful pitch / presentation is immeasurable – I have worked with companies who have secured multimillion dollar projects, and individuals who have cemented their authority through their ability to present.

To secure time to deliver a pitch / presentation, relationships need to be built and these relationships happen gradually over conversations.


One place for these conversations to occur is at networking events, which, can cause much anxiety! There is something unnerving about stepping into a room full of people, making small talk, creating meaningful conversations and holding our ground when we are asked typical questions about what we do and how busy we are (I call these comfort questions. I have developed a method of responding to these questions through creating a Storybook). Some networking events expect us to deliver our 60 second ‘elevator pitch’ (I prefer to call this a short story) which can be terrifying, however it’s a fantastic opportunity to cement yourself. There’s an art to crafting a memorable 60 second story, one which is delivered with gravitas and commands attention, just as there is an art to networking – and this art uses the same methodology as public speaking.

Once we deliver that beautiful story and become the epicenter of genuine conversation, we follow up by having coffee / lunch. 

Coffee / Lunches

These conversations often involve speaking in a public venue, surrounded by other people within ear shot of our conversation and that, is public speaking. Having a natural conversation, listening, asking questions and sometime being the person who can drive and guide the conversation – is a skill.  Understanding when to pause, link sentences, create segues and tell stories within these conversations is all part of – yup, public speaking! A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a client who has been asked to speak at his company’s end of year function – their town hall.

Town Hall

Town Hall style events are becoming more frequent, where team members are encouraged to share their ideas, experiences and stories. It’s an excellent way to bring teams together and I’ve been involved in Town Halls where you can feel camaraderie and connection, where different areas come together as one. They remind me of in-house TEDx events where crafting and delivering memorable presentations breathe life into an organization’s culture.

I once attended a Town Hall to watch my client deliver his wedding speech, to practice for the big day and often I encourage my clients to practice anywhere they can – even in everyday conversation. Refining how we speak in daily communication has a significant impact on how we present, and one example of this can be to consciously reduce fillers when we are having a conversation.

When I was having a conversation with Laura, I listened carefully. I took an interest in what she was saying and asked open ended questions to create conversation. When she asked me questions, I structured my sentences and created a Storybook – breathing, pausing and slowing down at the right moments, adding gravitas to what I said. Laura and I had lunch a few weeks later where we had a conversation and swapped stories, and she invited me to present to her team at their monthly catch up. Today, they are an excellent client who have transformed their view and approach to public speaking – reinforcing this wonderful quote by Roger Love, “All speaking is public speaking, whether it’s to one person or a thousand.”