“What Should I Talk About? I’ve Been Asked To Speak!”

A Common Conundrum

Most of us emerge from our mother’s womb with plenty to say and no worries about who hears it. Why then, with decades of experience, insight and knowledge behind us, do we quiver with self-doubt on invitation to speak?

One of my recent clients, a practitioner of the law, just turned 70. He deliberately hid in the shadows of research rather than the bar, because he feared his spoken words were just not good enough. His written words however were brilliant and he was happily successful behind the scenes of Australian law.

When he came to see me, it was because he’d decided to step out and take a big risk. He wanted, needed, to speak at his son’s wedding. What he couldn’t do for himself and his career all those years, he was ready to do for his son.

I could see it was difficult for him, turning up week after week to see me. He persisted, determined to slip from the grip that held him. He wished for a new response to being asked to speak. Instead of panicking, he wanted to just say, “Yes”.

I’ll return to his story at the end; first it’s important to explore a bit of subtext. The question, “What should I talk about?” is a common conundrum.

Why Was I Asked To Speak?

It’s generally a compliment when someone asks you to speak at an event, meeting or gathering. It’s weird but true that others believe in us, before we believe in ourselves. Of course another reason could be purely pragmatic. They were desperate and needed a speaker! Seriously though, no one will invite you to speak if they genuinely think you might stuff it up.

What Should I Talk About?

Being asked to speak, can feel like an entire set of very heavy encyclopaedias are sitting on your shoulders. Who are you to sift and sieve the entire knowledge of the world? And then absorb and mush it about a bit to regurgitate exactly the right bits of relevant, witty insights just perfect for your audience? Their eager faces, upturned like expectant flowers, ready to receive your wisdom, your thoughts, you.

Therein lies the problem. And you have created it. By turning it into an amorphous one-way talkfest of frightening proportion.

The Reframe: What Do Your Listeners Need To Know?

Firstly, start with the Old Switcheroo, also known as The Reframe. Ask the Organiser, Who will be there and What do they care about? What should I talk about? Why were you specifically asked? Research what you share in common with group members. It could include things like: desire for change or a love of words.

Secondly, decide on the purpose of your Talk. This will anchor your thoughts into a logical flow and pull, not push, your listeners along with you. Decide:

  • Are you wanting them to learn a specific skill? (“At the end of this talk you’ll be able to…”)
  • Do you wish to build awareness of an important issue? (“My purpose today is to help you understand the importance of and take action on…”)
  • Is your desire to entertain them? (“I’m going to share my adventures of the world’s most dangerous places. Although I must say your carpark out the back is one of the scariest places I’ve ever been to!”)

Thirdly, speak about a subject that begins with a personal story. It will be easy to tell and remember because you were there; it’s the story of your own experience. An experience you thoughtfully chose because you know the group will relate to it. Self-consciousness drops away when you allow yourself to get lost in the story. You tap into something much bigger than yourself and it becomes a bridge, connecting you to the whole group. This is where rapport and trust begin.

Fourthly, respectfully choose topics that will not offend but extend your listeners. Ask yourself, What would keep me in my seat as a member of this group? Where does my passion lurk within this topic? What universal truth can I tap into to reach people’s hearts and minds? Listeners want to grow as human beings and like you, want to be seen, heard and attended to. Offer them that and you will be scintillating, whether your topic is Secrets of Cabbage Success or How I Conquered The World With Just One Leg or How To Increase Ticket Sales And Increase Profit.

“I’ve Been Asked To Speak… What Should I Talk About?”

The answer to this question lies in it’s reframing, research, purpose and your passion. The privilege of speaking to a group, whether it’s a Workshop, Team Meeting or your son’s wedding, is about honouring the occasion and the human beings in front of you. Temporarily you have been gifted the Mantle of Leadership. Transfer your focus from you to them. Attend to their needs and you will earn their attention and perhaps their hearts, minds and wallets!


I’ll return now to my original client story and end with his insight gleaned from 6 weeks of being willing to show up and feel very uncomfortable. He said: “I’ve come to realise that public speaking isn’t about me and my performance. It’s about sharing with others. And I can do that.”

What should I talk about, is no longer his dilemma… What can I share to help other people, is his new mantra.

© 2017, Geraldine Barkworth, www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Persian Rocky Squares

Keep Calm Eat Chocolate

RATING: BW (Beyond Words) Persian Rocky Squares are my own version of dark chocolate Rocky Road which my husband reckons I should sell. He’s horrified I’m sharing the recipe. Make sure you take off your rings and roll your sleeves up. Lots to lick!

You Will Need

  • Cutting board, heavy knife, 1 x heat-resistant mixing bowl, 1 large pan the bowl can sit atop, measuring spoons and cup, 1 x medium square/rectangular baking dish, lined with baking paper.
  • 180g dark chocolate (I use Lindt dark cooking chocolate), smashed up to make melting quicker, 6 chunks crystallised ginger, cut up very fine, 3 tablespoons desiccated coconut, ¼ cup macadamia or brazil nuts, chopped, 60g mini marshmellows, or 6 snakes or 2 Frys Turkish Delight bars, And the secret ingredient… 1 x big teaspoon rose water syrup. Add this only when mixing the dry ingredients.


Right, start with putting a large pot of water on the stove and balance a flame proof round bowl on the top of the water. Add your smashed up chocolate to the bowl. Heat the water beneath and this heat will slowly melt the chocolate; Keep an eye on it, stir to help along. Make sure it is really runny so pouring will be easy.

Line a medium dish/tray with baking paper for easy removal and do this first before you mix the ingredients. There’s nothing worse than your hands caked in delicious goo while you try to wrestle the baking paper out of the box. Next chop up all the dry ingredients in different sizes to add variety and texture.

Now add the rose water syrup to the dry ingredients and mix through. Once the chocolate is runny, transfer the very hot bowl to the table with a cloth. Working quickly, throw in all your chopped up ingredients and mix thoroughly. Lastly, pour in your rosewater syrup and mx quickly through. The syrup causes the chocolate to thicken so do not waste time here. Scrape the entire mixture into your prepared tray and squoosh it down out to the edges as neat as you can. Take your time with this.

Put in your freezer for a couple of hours then lift the sleeping Persian Rocky by its baking paper. Cut now before its gets too hard and cut into squares with patience. It’s a messy job but someone has to do it and taste test for quality control!

© 2017-18 Geraldine Barkworth, Speaking Coach. Feel free to contact Geraldine for speaking guidance, not cooking advice! www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Tell To Win: Connect, Persuade & Triumph With The Hidden Power Of Story, by Peter Guber

Book Review By Geraldine Barkworth, Speaking Coach

♥ Love This One

Tell To Win is a keeper. It’s a wonderful addition to my reference library on story telling, persuasive speaking and inspiring people with genuine emotion. Tell To Win is a delightful book filled with incredibly useful tips, reframes and stories for tapping into the power of purposeful story telling. My husband read it first and choked up every time he tried to read me one of the stories. So much good stuff in one little book from the local library. I began to fold corners as reminders of “the good bits”, but really there were so many, I ordered the book online. I’ve now asterisked, underlined and happily dog-eared my own copy. My husband recommends it to so many people, there’s now a waiting list at the local library. To get your own copy, order it from PeterGuber.com

3 Gems From Tell To Win:

  • p.57: “Stories make facts and figures memorable, resonant and actionable… ignite empathy in the room and face to face and your audience won’t just hear you, they’ll feel you. (Geez I love that bit!!)
  • p.174-5: “…mirror neurons in the brain only switch on when the sense another person is acting intentionally… humans begin reading each other’s intentions as soon as they are physically close enough to see, hear and smell each another… intention can speak louder than words.
  • p.197: Human communication is mostly non verbal. Half is visual and one third is vocal tone. We talk through our senses, rather than our words.

The author, Peter Guber works in the movie, entertainment and sports industries often as CEO. He is well connected and fills his book with stories, case studies and examples of famous people, firms and films. Here’s a quote from the actor George Clooney who says it well: “If anyone knows how to survive in business, it’s Peter. This book is a manual for that. It gives you the two keys to success – first, everything starts with a good story, and second, don’t drop names (actually Frank Sinatra told me that.”)

© 2017 Geraldine Barkworth, Speaking Coach. Articles and reviews reflect the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Presence Power: 6 Steps To Super Speaking!

No longer hiding beneath her cape, Dianna threw her anticipation anxiety aside and strode to centre stage.

Well ok, it was her lounge room and her family was her audience on this occasion. But next week, it will be in front of 250 of her colleagues. Quaking in her boots no matter how pretty, or calling in sick last minute will just not do.

So how did Dianna shift from a slink to a strut?

For starters, she worked with me earlier this year in a 5 session program called Feel Fear Speak Anyway. Dianna learned how to embody leadership presence, inside and out. Before I launch into describing this 6 step sequence (it’s a kind of elegant 3 minute ritual), I better explain a bit about the significance of Presence Power and why you definitely need it.

Why You Need Presence Power

If you suffer from speaking nerves, presence power will fix it. If you wish to engage the respect and attention of your listeners, presence power will deliver it. If you wish to boost your personal influence and find a large audience for your ideas, presence power will take you there.

Recap: What Is Presence?

Presence is a state of being. It’s something you feel, not do. Presence is also described as “charisma”, “something drew me to her”, “compelling”, “magnetic”, “powerful”, “mindful”, “now.”

Presence is mind, body and emotions working harmoniously. It is radiantly attractive. There is no space for fear and doubt when you are fully present in the moment. Listeners “switch on” when they realise they are in for a special treat: the speaker is truly authentic and right here right now.

Presence charges the atmosphere and inspires trust, rapport and connection. It generates credibility, energy and impact. The most compelling leaders speak with presence power.

Wow! Who wouldn’t some of that? And it’s free! Flowing through your veins right now. You just need to know how to activate your super power!

How To Activate Your Super Power

You need to coax your super power into it’s full magnificence. This involves trust and perhaps some cajoling. The state of presence is a habit like any other. Until it becomes second nature whenever you speak and lead, you need to cultivate it, mentally, physically and emotionally.

Homework Before You Do The 6 Step Sequence

  • Watch the Amy Cuddy TED Talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” to understand the significance of a power pose and how to do it.
  • Spend some time getting clear about your purpose for the next time you are going to speak to other people. Be specific. “I want to talk good” is not good enough for a purpose. You want your purpose to ring true, to enliven your words and your listeners. To capture the very essence of a meaningful outcome. “I want to show my group how to take a 5 minute break every hour to decrease stress and increase joy”.


Presence Power: 6 Step Sequence

  1. Power Pose: Strike a powerful “super person” stance for about 1 minute. Feel stable, grounded and strong. Become aware of your breath, pace and thoughts. Relaxxx.
  2. Calm Belly: Close your eyes, hands on lower belly, count 5 slow, even breaths in and out. Feel the natural rise and fall of your belly. With each breath, relax more deeply.
  3. Be Present: Now open your eyes slowly and awaken your senses. Identify 3 things you can see, 3 you can hear, 3 you can feel on your skin. This will keep ground and calm you.
  4. Purpose: Bring to mind your Speaking Purpose. Focus on the result you want for your listeners. Let the clarity fill every cell of your body. You know you have a job to do! Speak it!
  5. Refocus: Intentionally shift your focus onto your listeners and away from yourself. Be 100% present with your listeners and your message. See their enthralled faces.
  6. Now Move! Do a gentle shoulder roll, slightly tilt your chin up, walk forward into your future…

Unexpected Bonus

Talk about a transportable skill! Recently I had 10 minutes before I left the house to run a 3 hour workshop. I needed to be calm as I was teaching, “How To Be Calm Under Pressure!” Well, I had an unexpected visitor who was demanding and rude. I got very angry. I was now late. As I drove my car away, mentally obsessing about where I could hire a hit man, it occurred to me to practise my Presence Power sequence.

While I couldn’t close my eyes and stand like superwoman, I adjusted my posture, went through the process and stated my speaking purpose whilst ducking and weaving through traffic. And you know what? By the time I finished this cute little 3 minute-ish sequence, I was indeed, cool, calm and connected. I was so surprised with the unexpected bonus… Presence Power can be applied to any challenging situation… not just “public speaking”.

Go Get Your Cape!

Well, what are you waiting for? Presence Power is here, there and everywhere! It really does start with you, knowing how to transport yourself and then others, into that better place. Go forth and strut your stuff with dum de dum daa… Presence Power!

© 2017 Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

The Sheer Beauty Of Speech Structure

Great Speech Structure = Great Results

Imagine this: I’m holding up a beautiful emerald green satin shirt. It is form fitting with a frivolous long bow at the neck and short flouncy sleeves.

Now imagine this green satin shirt without the structure of seams. Without seams, there is no coherent shape, no clarity of purpose and no defining detail. What I am holding up to you is simply a large green piece of satin. Could be anything really.

And a speech without seams or structure is simply without shape, purpose or definition. An incoherent ramble. Could be anything really.

Speech structure provides context, shape and form. It helps you and your listeners make sense of your message. Audiences like to know where you are taking them – structure assures them you know where you are going. Nothing loses the interest of an audience faster than pointless rambling.

Writing speeches, presentations and workshops becomes easy when you use a defined structure to elegantly hang your thoughts so that they look, sound and feel like a shirt with purpose, not a shapeless, vague thing.

Craft A Perfect Fit For Your Message

When people hear the word “structure”, I do see shoulders droop. I guess it can sound kind of boring, because structure is generally hidden; it’s not out there and sexy. Structure refers to the internal blueprint of details, planning and intention. Without structure there is nothing to display, connect and promote your brilliant ideas.

I have created a delightfully logical speech structure to ensure the perfect fit for your next speech, presentation or workshop. The simple speech structure I use and teach clients is my own. I call it PAPISA and yes, say it with an Italian accent so it rolls musically off the tongue… as will your speech. PAPISA stands for:


Purpose What is your purpose in speaking?
Audience Describe your audience in detail to customise your message.
Problem What is the main problem the audience needs fixing and one you’ve experienced too?
Impact Describe the impact of what could happen if audience members don’t fix that problem.
Solution Describe your solution to fix that problem by demonstrating proven results.
Action Offer the audience simple steps they can take immediately to fix that problem.


How To Use PAPISA & Link Ideas With A Kiss

PAPISA provides underlying structure to ensure a coherent flow and sense of forward movement. You could literally say a sentence or two for each section of PAPISA and you’d have a perfectly formed mini speech. However, that will not be sufficient for presentations longer than one minute!

To begin, take a piece of paper and draft up 6 columns with the PAPISA headings on the far left side. Make several copies and start by quickly jotting down some ideas in each section. Let go of perfection. Edit later.

Link the sections of your speech with connective sentences to demonstrate a logical progression. Use your voice and pausing to emphasise major points and signify changes in pace and direction. Follow the “KISS” principle: “Keep It Simple, Silly.” To give you a few examples I frequently use when speaking:

  • “The PURPOSE of my 20 minute presentation is…”
  • That’s a little about my background, now I’d like to hear about yours. We’re going WARM UP by…”
  • “It’s been a big 3 days. Now it’s time to FINISH. I’m going to summarise, then open to questions for half an hour. We’ll END with a powerful completion process. LASTLY I’ll invite you to register for…”

Email Geraldine If you have a speech, presentation or workshop coming up and you want a perfect fit for your message and need help with speech structure. Email me to set up a time to work together over phone or Skype to craft something truly beautiful.© 2017 Geraldine Barkworth, Speaking Coach. Articles and reviews reflect the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au

Chocolate Coconut Banana Loaf

Keep Calm & Eat Chocolate!

RATING: OMG. Yum! Especially with a dollop of crème, butter, crème cheese or if you must, ricotta… because chocolate coconut banana loaf does not contain any butter or oil. We can masquerade it as a health cake if you like. And a disclaimer: I cut the recipe out of a magazine years ago and forgot to include the “Method”. So I improvised until it worked.

You Will Need:

  • Cutting board, mixing bowl, beater/mixer, measuring cup, heavy knife or grater, fork, teaspoon, loaf tin approx. 19 x 9 x 6cm, baking paper.
  • Preheat oven to 200C. Use the middle shelf. Line a loaf tin with baking paper so you can tip it out.
  • 1 large or 2 small, disgustingly soft, ripe and sweet bananas; ask the grocer if they have any tucked away, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 eggs, lightly beaten, Half a cup of milk, Half a cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, Half cup of desiccated coconut, 1 cup of plain flour – I use either spelt flour or 1 & 1/2 cups of almond meal – up to you, 180 g of dark chocolate, chopped into slivers.


Thoroughly mash the banana with a fork and mix in the vanilla, eggs and milk. When a smooth mush, add in the sugar, cinnamon, coconut, flour and baking powder. Beat until smooth. I use a hand beater. Finally, tip in your delicious chocolate slivers and lumps. Lumps are good because you get a solid chocolate hit now and again, and I always find that exciting!

Pour into your lined small loaf tin. Give it 3 gentle shakes, yes, kind of like a blessing… and in it goes for approximately 20-30 minutes. Keep your eye on it.

It’s difficult to do the long prong test to see if the cake is cooked, because chocolate always comes out gooey. When you feel it’s done, and it will get dry if left too long, tip it out upside down onto a cake rack.

Ok, now self discipline is needed. Give your chocolate coconut banana loaf at least 30 minutes to itself if you can. Turn it over. Cut slowly and lovingly into loaf pieces or one slice at a succulent time. Add butter or crème to spread. OMG.

(c) 2017, Geraldine Barkworth, Goddess Of Public Speaking. Yes ok, it’s a tenuous link between chocolate and public speaking but who cares… it’s chocolate. And we’ve all got to eat, especially if you are doing an energy demanding task like speaking in public. Right?

Video Review: What I Learned From 100 Days Of Rejection by Jia Jiang

What I Learned From 100 Days Of Rejection  is a 15 minute TED Talk which shows how to turn a great fear into a great gift.  Jia Jiang offers powerful and poignant lessons about learning from rejection rather than running from it.

Jia begins with a 2 minute story of shameful rejection at age 6, something most of us can relate to. He explains how his fear of public rejection and humiliation undermined his bodacious plans for young entrepreneurship until he came across an online game called Rejection Therapy.

Similarly, avoidance of public speaking situations frequently stems from a fear of social rejection and the initial trigger doesn’t have to have anything to do with speaking in public. Our mind perceives a parallel and reacts to it. Generally, with fear we avoid and move away, with reward we approach and embrace.

At 10 minutes into What I Learned From 100 days of Rejection, Jia explains how he stopped running from potential rejection and changed his approach. There is a magic word (“Why”?) and a simple feeling (empathy and voicing the other’s fears and doubts). He sums it up: “Just ask”. Stay, hang around and talk to the person. Find out what’s behind the “rejection”. There can be good reasons why your request can not be fulfilled. And it’s nothing to do with whether you are good enough or likeable.

Take Jia’s insights and apply them to yourself when you feel like running away from a public speaking situation. Frequently what we perceive to be rejection is nothing of the sort. It’s our own fear stuffing us up. Embrace your greatest fear and receive your greatest gift. And that’s what Jia Jiang does with his hilarious and refreshing speech.

TED Talks: Ideas Worth Spreading.

© 2017, Geraldine Barkworth. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au  This Video Review is entirely the opinion of the author.

Body Language: Learn How To Read Others And Communicate With Confidence by Elizabeth Kuhnke

Book Review by Geraldine Barkworth, Speaking Coach

♥ Love This One

“The purpose of this book is to help you recognize the power of body language and turn you into a top notch communicator.” (p. 8). Like every word in this little book, the author Elizabeth Kuhnke efficiently articulates how to inspire and relate to others based on your ability to read body language. These are essential skills for coaches, therapists, trainers, managers, leaders and people who work with people… as almost everyone needs to build empathy, trust and rapport and learn how to persuade, negotiate and lead. And yes, that includes introducing yourself to a room full of strangers, having that difficult conversation with that difficult person and motivating people to change.

Useful Gems From Body Language:

  • To feel at ease and increase rapport while networking, act as if you are the host of your own party (open smiles, body and gestures, survey the room like you own it.)
  • Don’t jump to conclusions based on one gesture or tone; interpret body language in clusters and context.
  • If the other person’s body is still and gestures are few, match their containment. You’ll have difficulty establishing rapport if you are bouncing off the walls.
  • Before interviews and leading groups: find a private mirror, smile, lift your head high, widen your stance and stretch your arms up and out. Think, Superwoman. Ideally hold this pose for two minutes to activate testosterone flow. Then shake out arms and legs and give yourself a big, genuine smile.
  • To raise your energy, openess and engagement, smile and lift the muscles at the corner of the eyes as well as the mouth to create a genuine welcoming expression. Bright eyes denote interest, soft eyes denote care. Aim for 65%-85% eye contact. Any more is just weird.

And to leave you with an interesting quote from George Bernard Shaw (p.193), “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Body Language by Elizabeth Kuhnke is a book I’ll dip into often to help my clients become cool, calm and connected communicators.

© 2017 Geraldine Barkworth, Speaking Coach. Articles and reviews reflect the opinion of the author only. www.goddessofpublicspeaking.com.au