Talents - October 2016

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Did you know there is such a thing as a world public speaking champion?

Unless you are naturally very comfortable with your body language, public speaking is something that you need to prepare for.

Because all the while that you are running through your presentation, pitch or interview, believe us, your body will be “speaking” for you.

So what does the 2014 champion (Dananjaya Hettiarachchi) have to say about body language?

  • Don’t put a barrier between you and your audience
  • When we are nervous, we instinctively try to cover our vital organs: don’t bring your hands in front of you, don’t fold your arms across your chest…
  • Have your palms open
  • This relaxes your audience, it shows more openness and allows the audience to connect with you.
  • Get comfortable with the stage
  • Control the space: do a recce ahead of time. Familiarise yourself with the microphone, the steps and the stage - including the wings and backstage area, so that you feel able to move around freely.

What should you do with the podium?

Dananjaya Hettiarachchi has just one piece of advice

Keep a comfortable distance between you and the podium. You can keep your notes on it but don’t rest on it, don’t lean against it.

“Whatever you do, don’t touch it!”

And what advice does he have for the speech itself?

  • Have an extremely concise message
  • If you can’t write your message in less than ten words, you haven’t got a speech. "
  • Always try and hold the attention of your audience
  • Break your speech up by telling an interesting story, using anecdotes or asking rhetorical questions. You must set out the main subject of the speech in the first 45 seconds.
  • Finish your speech on a high. Stop your speech cold, for example: your audience will remember it because you’ll be leaving them wanting more.

Other articles on this subject offer more advice, such as:

  • Don’t learn your whole speech by heart, just the beginning and the end (as advised by Laurent Philibert, public speaking trainer). That way, you’ll know what to start and finish with.
  • Warm up your voice (open your mouth wide and massage your vocal cords), so your mouth isn’t dry when you come to speak.
  • Illustrate what you are saying with an idea or an image. Whatever you convey will be a visual aid for the audience and a way of holding their attention as you develop your point. Don’t load your presentations with lengthy phrases.
  • To manage silences (especially during the question and answer session), just think of them as a necessary breather - for you and your audience.
  • Some experts will tell you to eat protein before you speak to give your brain a boost, especially if you are nervous. Others will tell you to work off the excess cortisol that we release at times of stress, by walking a little or if you have time, going for a run or taking some exercise ahead of your speech.


Be assured that you can work on this body language, just as you can work on your presentation style.
Incidentally, the 2015 world champion, Mohammed Qahtani, suffered with a stutter for a long time and it didn’t prevent him from becoming an exceptional orator and a star of public speaking.

One step further:

See the video "make stress your friend" (GB video with French subtitles)

Full speech of Dananjaya Hettiarachchi 

Have a look at this example - it’s pretty impressive for a 13 year old. A speaker who moves around, holds the attention of the audience and gets his message across (in English with French subtitles).