Public Speaking: How do you prepare to truly connect?

25 July 2022

    Public Speaking

    Public Speaking.

    It’s just a conversation. Even if all of the words go one way, you’re still just talking to your audience.

    It’s inclusive, even collaborative.

    It’s not fully pre-determined, even if all of the words are.

    Tony Robbins outlines 6 key human needs:

    Certainty; Variety; Significance; Connection; Growth; and Contribution.

    Ponder these. An audience wants to feel involved, important, and to have developed somewhat from your presentation or speech.

    If you can satisfy most of these needs then you’ll have done a pretty good job.

    Which brings me onto the next point: The success of a presentation is all about how it resonates with the audience in the room. It’s not determined by how meticulously you prepare you slide-deck or agonise over your “script”- though, of course these can contribute to how well you’re able to relate to your audience. Your key message is important and must be entirely audience-orientated.

    The point is that so much money, time and creativity is invested into preparing the material for a presentation whilst the delivery is too often left to the last minute.

    From our experience coaching clients, there’s a tendency towards “psyching-up” before delivering. The focus being to ease nerves and get through it without any glitches.

    It’s too individualistic. It’s all about you and your presentation, rather than your audience and their needs.

    Let’s delve into a little physiological science- and 2 hormones in particular.

    Testosterone and Oxytocin.

    Bare with me. The findings might just turn how you prepare for a presentation on its head.

    These are the 2 key hormonal drivers behind the “Fight or Flight” and “Tend and Befriend” responses to high levels of stress- which public speaking can often bring about.

    Let’s take the more widely known response first:

    Fight or Flight (The Basics)

    • Part of the brain called the amygdala triggers this physiological response to stress or a perceived threat
    • Your heart rate and blood pressure increase.
    • Your muscles tense up in preparation for quick action- In preparation to fight or flee the scene.
    • The response is driven by the release of testosterone, lowering the impact of the stress hormone, cortisol.

    So, “psyching-up” exercises, like power poses, which increase testosterone levels and reduce cortisol, are great for building confidence, a sense of decisiveness and personal power in advance of a presentation.

    However, too much testosterone, and that sense that you’re going into a “fight” situation, will get in the way of building a genuine connection with your audience.

    It’s too aggressive and individualistic.

    So, what then?

    Let’s consider the lesser known “Tend and Befriend” response to stress:

    Tend and Befriend (The Basics)

    • This is a physiological response to stress that is more prevalent in women- based on the research of social psychologist, Shelley Elizabeth Taylor in the mid 1990’s.
    • The “tending” is about protection of offspring
    • The “befriending” is about seeking out the social group for mutual defence.
    • These are affiliative, as opposed to aggressive, competitive or individualistic behaviours.
    • These affiliative behaviours are driven by the release of more oxytocin- the “social bonding” hormone.
    • Oxytocin also has the impact of lowering stress.

    High levels of testosterone inhibit oxytocin release.

    It strikes us that this natural response is to be celebrated more widely and aspired to by all of us.

    In the context of public speaking, the more social bonding, connection and rapport building that goes on with your audience, stimulated by oxytocin release, the better.

    So, with any audience, think less ME Vs THEM and more, “US.” We’re having a conversation, I’m not “doing” my presentation to you.

    Apply this mindset shift and transform the way that you connect, build trust with and inspire your audiences. In the process, you will never have felt so comfortable, and “in flow” whilst presenting.

    Client reviews



    The Speakers’ Gym is like the iPhone. You don’t realise you need it until you have it, and then you can’t live without it.

    Magda Gonzalez, Group CFO, Monex Europe



    It was completely practical and the open-forum feedback was so valuable. You created a safe environment for everyone to learn. Thank you!

    Nicola Koronka, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Missive



    I was recommended by a friend who works in the same sector to contact The Speakers’ Gym to help me with my presentation delivery skills and I have not been disappointed with the results. Chris and Jonny work with you to provide bespoke training for your goals and needs. They are highly professional and make you feel at ease from the first minute the first session begins. I would highly recommend them to those who have a role which involves public speaking!

    Julia Peake,Technical Development Manager, Sanlam



    It has challenged both my thinking and approach and I will be sure to keep The Speakers’ Gym ‘fireworks’ readily available on my desk to refer to when not only presenting but also when needed through everyday management.

    Liz Paradine – Chief Operations Manager - 7iM


    Transact first engaged with The Speaker Gym late in 2018 where Chris & Jonny made a concerted effort to get under the skin of our business and understand how they could best help us hone our presentational and empathetic skills. The resulting sessions were hugely helpful giving my team plenty of opportunity to practice and also benefit from a great deal of feedback, not just from Chris & Jonny but by including the rest of the Transact team in the feedback and group learning too. I would highly recommend The Speakers Gym

    Glen Sweet, Head of Sales, Transact

    Transact London


    Working with The Speakers’ Gym has been fantastic. We knew what we wanted to say and who we wanted to speak to, so all we needed was technique. Or so we thought. Chris and Jonny helped us to understand the key elements of communication, through a structured process. We now think about communication in a completely different way. There’s a line they gave us that now resonates in my head, every time I write or talk to someone about what we do. We feel we’ve met two great guys and they’ve become an important part of us, our story and how we tell it to others.

    Thomas Skinner, Founder, Barnaby Cecil Financial Planning

    Barnaby Cecil Financial Planning


    The impact of The Speakers’ Gym™ at Mako can only be described as transformational. Over a three month period, they helped transition a group of individuals into a highly collaborative and consultative leadership team. Chris and Jonny have a unique ability to connect individuals with their true purpose, driving them towards self-reflection and ultimately growth. Overall the entire experience of working with them has been a pleasure and I am deeply grateful for their impact. They more than surpassed my expectations and I look forward to working with them again in the future!

    Trystan Morgan-Schauer, CEO, Mako



    We engaged The Speakers’ Gym to provide us with clarity and direction in the look, feel and messaging of the Worldmaker brand in preparation for our official launch. From start to finish, the process has been truly collaborative. They worked with the expertise and experience in our team to create branding that truly represents who we are and what we represent, whilst moving us into a more modern, expressive space – which was our desire. We know that we’re in great hands with The Speakers’ Gym. We’ll certainly be continuing to work with them

    Mollie Marti, CEO, Worldmaker International

    Worldmaker International


    They first took the time to understand our brief and delivered the programme incorporating our culture and brand throughout. They were thought provoking and their unique techniques very well received.

    Mairi Cameron, Learning Manager, Nucleus Financial



    The Speakers’ Gym gave me the skills and confidence to be my normal self whilst speaking and facilitating. They took the anxiety out of public speaking and gave me practical tools to prepare for and manage public engagements. They also helped me to engage more meaningfully with my clients, for which I am thankful. Highly recommend them.

    Matthew Marais, Director, Vertus Capital

    Vertus Capital


    I found the sessions to be a revelation, and I wish I had known some of the techniques sooner. It has completely changed my mindset and focused me in on the needs of the audience. With that, the ability to achieve those aspirations has come more naturally. There is always room for improvement, and I will definitely be revisiting The Speakers’ Gym for a refresher from time to time.

    Kelly Devlin, Wealth Management Consultant - St. James’s Place Wealth Management

    St. James's Place Wealth Management
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