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How to up your game and become the speaker you need to be to drive your startup

Ten top tips from the newly crowned Toastmasters International UK Public Speaking champion Anthony Garvey to help you do just that.

As an entrepreneur you need to be able to speak in front of a multiplicity of audiences and do so with conviction and authority. That way you’ll hold their interest and be in a strong position to win them over.  This is the case whether you are speaking to potential investors, customers or industry groups.

From my experience in business, and as a public speaking champion, let me share some tips to help you as you move your startup onwards and upwards.

Know your audience

Who are you presenting to and what are they turning up to hear?  If you are delivering an investor or sales pitch for example, do some research in advance on the people sitting across the table from you. By checking out their LinkedIn profiles, you can tell if they are interested in getting straight down to business to talk about the numbers or if they prefer to get to know people first. This will allow you to adjust your presentation style accordingly.  If you are presenting online, ask people to turn on their cameras, keep them on mute, but encourage them to ask questions at the appropriate time and add comments in the chat.

Visualise a successful outcome

Imagine the audience reacting positively, see them smiling and applauding and run that image through your head several times before you begin to speak. If it is a live presentation, turn up at the venue early and greet the people who are attending as they come in. Then when you are delivering your presentation, look for the positive faces who are wishing you well and supporting you as you are speaking. 

Record your presentation

Use your phone and record one of your practice sessions.  Watch it back and check your content, your body language and your eye contact.  If there are elements you need to improve on, change them.  If you are presenting online, practice in front of a mirror. Facial reactions are really important on the small screen, so keep your expressions in check. Record the actual session too, so you can review it afterwards. And remember, the more you practice, the better you get!

Make use of pauses 

Take the time to pause when you say something really important in your presentation.  Highlight those moments in your script in advance and when you deliver them, take the time to look around the room to ensure the audience is getting the message. Ask yourself what single sentence you would like the attendees to take away and remember from your presentation. Once you identify this key message, make sure you focus on getting it across effectively. Repetition is good here and don’t forget to pause after you deliver it!  If you momentarily lose your thread when speaking taking a sip of water is another kind of pause that will enable you to clear your head and get yourself back on track.

Alter your tactics 

Be prepared to alter your tactics during a presentation, particularly during a sales or investor pitch.  If you notice you are not connecting or people don’t seem as interested as you would like them to be, change your approach. Maybe you could ditch the slides and speak to the audience directly.  Perhaps you could interact with the attendees more. Think on your feet and if you feel it isn’t working, do something differently.

Be a volunteer speaker

Particularly if you are an inexperienced or nervous speaker take every opportunity to practice and improve your public speaking and presenting skills.  Volunteer to chair meetings for your local charity, sit on committees, attend conferences etc. It’s also well worth watching and listening to top speakers to pick up tips on how to improve. You can do this in person or online. Whatever your level of experience, the way to improve your presenting is to do more of it.

Visit a Toastmasters club

Drop into a Toastmasters International club, either in person or online. There are more than 16,000 clubs in 145 countries.  Toastmasters teaches you how to manage your fear of public speaking, schools you in leadership and communication skills, helps you run meetings effectively, and encourages you to develop listening and evaluation skills. All activities that are invaluable to entrepreneurs.  You are welcome to drop in as a guest, to see if the club you have chosen suits you. As a member, you’ll have a mentor to help you on your speaking journey, to achieve your communication and leadership goals. 

Get Feedback on Your Performance 

Think about how you did after your presentation.  Did you connect with the audience? Did you feel comfortable as you spoke?  How could you improve when you present next?  Use your presentations as a learning experience and as an opportunity to grow and improve. It can also help to ask someone in the audience that you trust to give you a private evaluation afterwards so you get an objective view of how you performed and how you can do even better next time. And if you have concerns about particular aspects of your presenting, you can ask your evaluator to keep an eye on them.

Get prepared for Q&As

Many speakers work hard on their presentation, but they often forget about the Q&A session afterwards.  You need to work just as hard on the Q&A session as you do on your talk. Try and anticipate what the questions might be and prepare some good answers. If you can, practice and prepare and refine the answers to these questions with a trusted colleague.  If you are speaking live at a venue, it can also help to get the event organisers to ask the first question or two, especially if you agree in advance what they are going to ask.

Visualise a positive outcome

Use your entrepreneurial powers and visualise a positive speaking experience. Imagine the audience reacting positively, see them smiling, nodding and applauding and run that image through your head a few times before you begin to speak. If it is a live presentation, turn up at the venue early and greet the people who are attending as they come in. Then when you are delivering your presentation, look for the smiling faces of those wishing you every success. 


Anthony Garvey DTM is the Toastmasters International 2023 UK Public Speaking champion.  Toastmasters International is a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org

Anthony Garvey