Yes! GDPR Compliant!

We Respect Your Privacy

Have you been inundated with lots of emails relating to the new requirements of the mysterious European Union General Data Protection Regulation, better known as the “GDPR”? As a business operating on the internet, we certainly have!

Goddess of Public Speaking is committed to being as transparent as possible with our customers, website users and newsletter subscribers about the data we collect, what it is used for and with whom it is shared. We are now GDPR Compliant which is what the current fuss is all about.

What Does This Mean For You?

Our privacy policy is now updated in accordance with the transparency requirements of GDPR. These changes clarify:

  •     Your privacy rights and how to exercise them;
  •     How we collect, use, share and protect your personal data;
  •     The legal bases we rely on to process your personal data.

If you’d like to learn more, please view our updated Privacy Statement. It’s effective as of 25th May 2018. For any questions or concerns about these changes, please contact us by email.

Geraldine Barkworth, Chief Voice, Goddess Of Public Speaking.

How To Handle Drama Queens In The Audience

Drama Queen 2.5 x 1.5

Difficult Is In The Eye Of the Beholder

I tend to give “difficult” people like “Know It Alls, Power Players and Drama Queens” in the audience a long rope unless the integrity or safety of the group is threatened. Handle each challenging situation from the start with strong boundaries and agreements and model your expectations of the group with your own behaviour. The group will be watching you closely to see how you handle things. There is no neat solution and “difficult” is in the eye of the beholder. Here’s how I handled 3 different situations:

Example 1: Drama Queens In The Audience
During a workshop on selling from the platform, one participant came in late, took a mobile phone call when she sat down, started explaining why she was late, asked if anyone wanted a throat lozenge and even knocked over her water bottle. Throughout the workshop she kept shaking her head and sighing melodramatically with numerous toilet breaks and requests for information to be repeated. Which she then proceeded not to listen to but tried to change. I considered she was not genuinely distressed but had mistaken the workshop for her lounge room. In both breaks I asked her privately if she was ok. Her mysterious response was to nod without speaking, would not look me in the eye, turned her back and walked away.  She appeared to want attention publicly, and then rejected it when it was offered privately. As Facilitator, I chose compassionate damage control primarily by redirecting audience attention with my body language and authoritive directions. I also gave her a couple of public opportunities for attention which she then spurned. This minimised distraction for other participants as they then saw she did not pose a threat to learning and kept the workshop flowing smoothly. Our Drama Queen added a learning opportunity for us all as well as a giggle.

Example 2: Know It All Attempting A Take-Over
In a small group of 20 business owners who had come to learn about communicating with presence, one man had an answer to every question, even rhetorical ones! Soon I started saying: “Now this is just something I want you to think about silently… to yourself…” but he still felt his thoughts were worthy of sharing. Other participants were starting to sigh, eyes began to roll and bodies shifted away from him. I hadn’t shut him down immediately because his contributions were interesting and I wanted to encourage interaction… but too much from one person becomes dominating and the group can become confused as to who is the actual leader. It was me or him. When he next tried to butt in and talk over me, I gently put my hand up in a soft “stop” position, said abruptly: “One moment please” and turned my body away from him and faced the rest of the group. I then finished my words and directly engaged other participants to tip the balance of energy and power… by saying something like… “Mary… what are your thoughts about…?” After that I continued to respectfully acknowledge him in the same way I did everyone else… and we both settled down with egos intact and the group stayed on track.

Example 3: Power Player Dominating Her Group
Within a small group brainstorming session, one woman ignored my directions and took command of a group of inexperienced young people she had chosen to join. She loudly took centre stage, reassigned roles and changed the focus of the exercise. Five other groups were working cohesively around the room with a flurry of conversation and the smell of texta pens in the air.  Her group however was quiet, bodies drooped, participants sat far apart and all texta pens and paper were exclusively under her control. Rather than embarrass or confront her by redirecting her in front of the others, I apologised privately for making a mistake. I explained that each group needed diversity in age and experience and so I had asked 2 confident and more senior participants to switch to Ms Power Play’s group and invited 2 younger ones to leave. This totally changed the dynamic, destroyed her budding power base and restored momentum to the exercise. And I’m happy to report, everyone then got a fair go with the textas and “power” was restored to all.


Keep in mind that challenging people like drama queens in the audience, are a great learning opportunity and in the minority; perhaps 5% of any group or audience. I’ve often found the other 95% valued the presentation more because of what they learned from observing the interplay of power, drama and watching how you handled it as Facilitator.

 © 2013, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Communicating Under Pressure

Speaking In Difficult Situations

I am often asked by people managers about communicating under pressure; how to balance staying strong and non-threatening in a “difficult situation” like a performance appraisal or with a mistrustful group.

Working with people is one of the most difficult juggling acts we perform and many of us do it everyday, at home and at work. Finely turned interpersonal communication skills and a basis of empathy is needed, especially if you are supporting the personal and professional growth of others.

There are many ways to be both non-threatening and strong when working in potentially difficult situations. And “difficult” can refer to many situations including those that are uncomfortable, frightening or require sensitive handling. I’m going to focus on just 4 ways for a Manager to use their body and words when communicating under pressure with staff. These techniques are also useful when facilitating groups:

1. Room Set Up

Create a sense of trust, credibility and security in physical environment by:

  • Manager to take the “authority” position, which means to keep a solid wall behind and a clear view of what’s in front with easy access to all tools and room to move. Taking an authoritative position allows you to stay physically strong and hold the space – you are in charge. Avoid creating a power imbalance like the classic joke of a manager dwarfing the participant with a big, high desk. You may like to set up arm chairs for informality or to create a sense of approachability.
  • Invite the staff member to sit comfortably with “room to move”, access to any needed tools and most of all, PRIVACY.

2. The SOLAR Posture

Use the SOLAR posture – a non threatening but physically strong stance demonstrating openness and receptivity, implying “I can handle it”.

  • Sitting – knees apart, lean forward slightly to show interest, and palms are open and facing the staff member or group.
  • Standing – fully face the staff member or group. Strong, wide legged stance (like the letter “A”) with palms open toward the staff member or group. Keep shoulders dropped, chest open and speak slowly with lots of appropriate eye contact and acknowledgement.

3. Explain Format, Purpose & Outcome

Everyone feels better and like they have a choice, when they understand where they are going, the reason and the benefit to them of the meeting or presentation.

  • Manager gives a respectful welcome, full face, eye contact, tell the staff member or group that you are going to begin by briefly outlining the format (structure), purpose and intended outcome of the session. Check their understanding and gain their permission to continue. After all, this is a 2 way conversation between adults, not an information dump or lecture.
  • Manager to summarise the main points at the end, check for agreement and leave genuine space for the staff member or group to provide feedback.

4. Edging Out

When a fire is burning out of control, you don’t give it more fuel. If the staff member or groups’ behaviour is  inappropriate, as the Manager you can take control by:

  • Acknowledge the person or situation respectfully and honestly,
  • Use body language to reduce attention to them – turn your body side on (edging out), reduce or remove eye contact and if there are others, increase your positive interaction with them to tap into group dynamics of peer pressure. At no point belittle or expose, just acknowledge, reduce and refocus. Trust your gut – sometimes the unexpected works.
  • Explain clearly what your next steps will be, the consequences if you don’t and then follow through your steps. If you are working with a group, don’t let one person wreck the experience of everyone else – your job is to work with the whole group and if necessary, ask the trouble maker to leave. Keep the group energy focused and don’t let it dissipate through distraction.
  • If the process or presentation is completely disrupted and cannot continue, take control by acknowledging the situation and stating that you are now ending it. Offer rescheduling options if appropriate. Then, go and reflect and find your own mentor to debrief and reassess the situation.

Firm Compassion

Always work with people from a place of firm compassion. This is both non threatening and strong. Don’t forget; this is a human being in front of you. Some days we wear pit boots and some days we are fragile as gossamer.

Finally, remember that you don’t always get to wear the Manager’s hat. Tomorrow it could be YOU in a group or on the other side of the interview desk, being “managed” by someone else.

© 2013, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Take Control As MC Or Anarchy Will Prevail

Time To Bring Out Your Inner Control Freak

Forget all that mush about egalitarian sharing. The fact is, as Master Of Ceremonies or MC, you must take control of your Event or anarchy will prevail. Anarchy includes people talking too long, ignoring agreements and cues to finish, interjecting, power plays, energy dissipation… the list goes on.

To ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak but not at the expense of others, take control to protect everyone’s right to be heard and to keep the show on the road. Here are tips for MC’s to work effectively with both sides of the fence, Guest Speakers and Audience.

Guest Speakers
Make personal contact with Guest Speakers beforehand and advise your requirements for the Event. This defines a clear boundary of expectation on either side. Be sure to include: length of allocated speaking time, clarify purpose of speaking topic and intended outcome, whether it’s interactive, time or not for questions, expected start and finish time for speaking. Provide Guest Speakers with the Program so they can see their own place within it and understand how to fit the context. After all it’s your Event, not theirs.

When the Guest Speakers arrive, connect with them personally – as the MC your job is to help them feel at ease. While chatting, reinforce the length of time they have to speak. Ensure they understand the Program is packed and keeping to time is important – check their understanding by looking into their eyes. Discuss the signals you will send to let them know when they are Close To Time, or Time to Wrap Up or Time To Finish. This reinforces there are consequences to poor time management and that as MC, you willing to take immediate action to keep the show on the road for everyone’s benefit.

When the Guest Speaker is presenting, make sure you follow the agreed signals. Sometimes Guest Speakers get on a roll and can’t stop, or become addicted to the adrenaline rush of all that attention, so as the MC, it’s is your job to shepherd them graciously off the stage so that others will have their turn.

Thank and acknowledge the Guest Speaker privately as well as publicly. This also sets up a good management relationship for next time.

The Audience
When the “floor is opened to questions”, things can get very exciting if you are dealing with contentious issues. Your diplomatic lion tamer skills are needed. (You may find it useful to watch Jenny Brochie the facilitator from the SBS television program, Insight, for great role modeling.) Of course if the subject fails to raise a ripple of interest, you may want to have some staged questions or prepare some of your own if the Audience is quiet.

Prompt Audience interaction by clearly displaying a time set aside for questions or discussion in the Program.

Next when you address the Audience, repeat this information, speak slowly, watching your words sink in as you articulate the parameters. For instance, “We have 10 minutes for questions so that’s probably about 3 questions…”, or “Each person has  5 minutes to share their view. Any longer and I’ll have to gong you off (sound the gong to show consequences) to ensure everyone gets a chance” (stating context and appealing to universal fairness.)

After you’ve described the parameters and if you anticipate heated discussion, ask for everyone’s agreement up front and wait. Say nothing until you see a sea of agreements. This method uses group dynamics to enforce the parameters, rather than you.

And of course, you must stick to the parameters. No matter how scintillating the Question from the Audience, the same rules must be applied. If they stir strong interest within the group, suggest they meet later after the program is finished. This keeps the Event on track, provides options to continue the discussion and means Audience members build trust in your ability to handle the situation. It may also give individuals the confidence to speak out, knowing they too will get a fair go.

When you clearly and graciously take control as the MC and Event Coordinator by setting parameters in advance and reinforcing consistently throughout the Event, both Guest Speakers and Audience will relax and enjoy themselves under your firm guidance.

© 2011, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Tips On Speaking To A Hostile Audience

Do You Know How To Handle It?

Ever spoken to a group, discovered they were hostile and you were in the firing line? Hostility is scary, especially en masse. With adrenaline rushing through your veins and theirs, do you know how to handle it?

In a hostile audience situation, I’ve had clients react with the following:

  • Die a little inside and carry on valiantly with sad ‘please don’t eat me” eyes.
  • Get angry and either leave or beat up the audience, creating more hostility.
  • Trust their gut and adapt to the situation. They may break the tension with something spontaneous and genuine, they may verbally acknowledge how the group is feeling or even ask the group for permission to proceed. They may cut short or change the presentation after negotiation with the group.

3 Ways To Help You  & Your Audience

1.  Research Your Audience
In advance of your presentation, research your audience. Ask the organiser lots of questions. If you can, briefly interview a few participants to hear it “straight from the horse’s mouth.” Make it clear it’s confidential to promote honesty. Ask gritty questions about motivation, morale, problems, typical problems experienced and identify what they really need.

2.  Establish Trust and Rapport
It’s just not possible to win all of the people all of the time. Start with just one person in the group. Someone who wants to be there and is willing to listen. They may be leaning forward, smiling or just making eye contact with you. These are the people to whom you give 100% of your attention. Speak directly to them. Notice their reaction to your words. When you take the time to build trust and rapport, that’s what you‘ll also get in return.

3.  Beyond Your Control
I’m not talking about giving up, shoulders drooping, when confronted with a hostile group; I’m talking about recognizing when a situation is simply beyond your control.

Sometimes it is better and smarter to make a strategic retreat or renegotiate, learn from it and survive to play again another day. The key here is to learn how to not let it affect your self esteem.

My Workshops From Hell

The three most difficult workshops I ever facilitated had 3 things in common:

  • Vague organisers who didn’t disclose the participants hated one another;
  • Very late bookings with-ever changing details and numbers;
  • I ignored my intuition to not accept the jobs.

Looking back, I learned an enormous amount from these disasters – some parts of which were beyond my control (participants hating one another; disorganised and vague organisers) and some of which were within my control (good intuition and ability to set boundaries and create trust.)

What You Can Do

  1. Learn as much as you can about your audience to relate your subject, tone and examples to their needs.
  2. Establish trust and rapport, one person at a time.
  3. Renegotiate when you can. Treat your audience with respect to earn their trust. Recognise that some situations are beyond your control and not your fault. Grab the opportunity to learn from them.

Speakers are tightrope artists, balancing the sometimes conflicting needs of audience, Hirer, Event and themselves. Ultimately, you cannot control other people’s reactions, but you can seek to control your own. And hostility may be in the eyes of the beholder. A hostile audience to one speaker, may be thrilling to another.

© 2009-2018, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.

Are You Scared of Using Microphones?

There Is A Fear And It’s Called: Microphonebia!

The symptoms include sweating, a dry mouth, a blank stare and a squeaky voice.  Some people regard public speaking as a fearsome pursuit – hand them a microphone and it turns into a phobia.

Why does this simple metal device inspire so much horror in so many?

Would it be so scary if it were rainbow coloured with streamers hanging off the end? Would you then be able to hold yourself back from grabbing that microphone to sing, “We Are The World” and get everyone waving their hands in the air like they just don’t care? There’s no way you could ramble and go blank with that much love in the room.

A microphone is a magical device.  It takes sound energy (your voice or instrument) and transforms it into electrical energy.  This electrical energy can then be amplified or recorded, so that everyone can hear you.

And I guess that’s the scary part.  What if you don’t want everyone to hear you? The amplification makes your voice bigger than you, potentially takes it beyond your control. And equipment can be unpredictable – what if it makes that awful screeching sound, or your voice booms out something inane. Ah, why are we so complicated?  Why so many fears?

Fears are often imaginative and based on worry.  One way to deal with microphonebia is to drag it into the light and examine it with keen scientific detachment.  Let’s break it down into known facts:

Microphone Facts

The clip on shirt mike or the madonna mike (headset) are the least invasive mikes and you can just speak naturally.  Be careful with expressive hand movements and don’t knock it flying when you make a dramatic point.  Make sure you are wearing a belt or pockets for the power pack.

A lectern or floor mike is the most restrictive as you are stuck behind a large immovable object.  Great if you want to hide or if you have a lot to read.  Not so good if you don’t want to be mistaken as a character out of The Thunderbirds.  Find out in advance if you can unhook the microphone from its stand and if so, practise unhooking and using in advance.

A handheld mike with a cord is great for practising your skipping, while a wireless handheld mike is easier to use.  However, it means you only have one hand available for notes, props or waving that hand in the air.

What Could Go Wrong But Probably Won’t

Simply turning up earlier and practising can alleviate microphonebia and most things you worry about. Knowing exactly how to adjust the microphone height, how to switch it on or even knowing where you will stand, will free up your mind for concentrating on being with the audience rather than being with the equipment.

To avoid getting lots of blowy, sssyyy sounds with a lectern, floor or hand held microphone, aim to speak 5 – 10 cm across the top of the mike, not directly into it. Practise with a carrot at home. The carrot will never laugh at you of course, only with you.

If the microphone screeches, there may be another mike switched on nearby causing interference (switch it off) or you may be standing in front of or under the sound system speakers (move around until all is quiet).

Asking for help is a good idea – do it quickly and smile at the audience, don’t ignore them. They will wait if you are honest and gracious.

If you feel anxious about using a microphone, prepare in advance:  Take 3 deep breaths. Now simultaneously, imagine yourself using the microphone with ease while you are breathing deeply and calmly.  Practise this visualisation a few days ahead of time.

If someone hands you a microphone unexpectedly, try this: Hold it away from your face, stay still for a moment, take a deep breath, connect with your audience with your eyes, and when you lift the microphone 5 – 10 cm from your mouth, remember, it’s only a carrot.

The Microphone Is For The Audience

As much as you may fantasise about looking good on stage in tight leather pants and screaming fans, the microphone is not there for your benefit.  It is there so that others may hear you without having to lip read and so that no one will go home, bereft of your wisdom.  Who are you to deny them?

Well all right, a microphone does benefit you too.  If you’ve gone to all that trouble to put together a speech, argument, case, submission, idea, you need the right people to hear you, and the right equipment to make sure they hear it loud and clear.  Otherwise, what a waste of your time, effort and fear.

As a speaker, you have the opportunity to wave a powerful magical wand to transform the hearing of mere mortals.  Don’t let microphonebia hold you back any longer! Step forward onto the stage of your life and speak!!!  Wave that microphone in the air like you just don’t care!

© 2009-2017, Geraldine Barkworth, authentic speaking coach. This article is the opinion of the author only.