Coaching fun Presentation public speaking

Speak As If You Were on a Roller Coaster!

“Speak as if you were on a roller coaster.”

Like riding a roller coaster, your speech needs to have its ups and downs, moments of excitement, and moments of calmness.

By incorporating variation in your tone, pitch, and pacing, you can engage your audience and keep them entertained throughout your presentation.

This technique adds energy to your delivery and helps you capture and maintain your listeners’ attention.

Remember, public speaking is a journey, so buckle up and take your audience on an exhilarating ride!


Laura Bergells is a business communication coach. You can her public speaking foundations video course on LinkedIn Learning. It’s FREE until June 12, 2023.

The course is in English, with Italian subtitles, for extra fun! It’s a wild ride, so buckle up!

Here’s the link:

Coaching Education fun web meetings

Class v. Workshop: What’s the difference?

A class is where you learn facts and theories.
A workshop is where you learn skills and practices.

A class is where you get grades and certificates.
A workshop is where you get feedback and stickers.

A class is where you have homework and exams.
A workshop is where you have projects and presentations.

A class is where you have classmates and friends.
A workshop is where you have colleagues and enemies.

And finally,

A class is where you sit and listen to a teacher who knows everything and tells you what to do.

A workshop is where you sit and listen to a facilitator who knows nothing and asks you what to do!

Laura Bergells teaches classes and workshops. Hire Laura.

Or you can take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at LinkedIn Learning.  – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members! 

Coaching fun improv Presentation public speaking

How You Can Learn to Be Authentic by Pretending to Be Someone Else

Speaking on a stage isn’t the same as chatting with your friends on the phone. Duh.

On stage, you’re standing up straight, using broad gestures, and commanding the room with a well-structured narrative. If you’re good at it, you’ve probably even rehearsed. (Please tell me you’ve rehearsed!)

But when you’re on the phone with a friend, you’re slouched on your couch, curled under a blanket, and breezing through half-baked plans and ideas. And there’s no rehearsal at all.

Just Be Yourself and Act Natural??? Whaaaat???

And yet, some public speaking coaches will tell you the key to public speaking is to “just be yourself.” Oe “just act natural. Or “just be authentic.”

Whaaaa? Obviously, this advice isn’t specific enough to be helpful!

For many, being on stage in front of a roomful of people and commanding their attention isn’t a “natural” situation!

Public speaking requires many skills we don’t use in everyday conversations! Before speaking in public, we structure, format, design, and write. We rehearse our words, content, voices, and gestures. These planning, performance, and rehearsing skills don’t necessarily come naturally!

Curling up on the couch in yoga pants comes naturally to me. Standing up in front of a roomful of strangers in a business suit? Not so much!

Try this One Wacky Rehearsal Exercise

So how do you “act natural” in a completely unnatural situation, like standing on a stage or staring into a camera? And you have to do unnatural things like write, plan, and rehearse?

The key is to find your authentic voice. And for many, that requires practice, too!

Here’s one wacky exercise to help you find your authentic voice. Of course, it’s totally contrarian, and it’s peculiar. But here goes:

💡 When you rehearse your next presentation, practice it in different accents or while impersonating other characters.

Will you look and sound ridiculous? Yes. Oh, yes. But this exercise can help you in four ways:

  1. Bring the levity. Do you hate rehearsing? Many people do, that’s why they avoid it. By bringing humor to the rehearsal process, you might find you enjoy practicing your speech. Especially if you rehearse it as if you were Beyoncé. That way, you won’t avoid it, you’ll look forward to it!
  2. Decrease the tension. Practicing your speech as if you were a pirate or Mr. Rogers still lets you focus on the content of your speech. You’re taking your topic seriously, but you’re taking yourself lightly. This can help you lighten up and loosen up.
  3. Express your emotions. Speaking as if you were Barney the Dinosaur or a space alien can help you break out of your usual speaking patterns. It lets you discover new ways of expressing your emotions. You can also find surprising in-the-moment insights about yourself you aren’t even aware of! 
  4. Find your own voice. And finally, the contrast between a 1920s gangster and your own character helps you identify the unique aspects of your vocal patterns. A surefire way to find your voice is to hear the contrasts when they come out of your mouth!

Weirdly, playing with voices that aren’t authentic to your character is the key to finding your authentic voice. That way, you can hear and feel the difference in a light-hearted way.

So the next time you have a speech or rehearsal, try practicing it as if you were your boss, Bart Simpson, Oprah Winfrey, or any other character you choose. Yes, it’s weird. But think how much fun it can be to talk like Spongebob Squarepants when someone tells you to “just” act natural and be yourself!

That’ll show ’em! 😀

Laura Bergells teaches public speaking and business communication classes and workshops. You can also book a private, one-on-one Zoom consultation here: Hire Laura.

Take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at  LinkedIn Learning.  – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members! 

Coaching fun Presentation public speaking

How to Unleash Your Inner Lion with Your Voice

Let’s compare Michigan and England. Michigan is made up of two peninsulas, while England is an island country. We’re both a bit cut off from the rest of our respective continents.

Geographically, Michigan and England are about the same size. But here’s a big difference. While Michigan has a population of around 10 million, England has around 56 million people!

I live in Michigan and have clients in England, and here’s something I’ve observed: my English clients seem naturally good at projecting their voices. I reckon they pretty much have to be if they want to be heard around the din of so many people on their little island!

And my English clients aren’t afraid of using a mic if they have to speak in public. Not at all! They’ll take all the vocal support they can get without hesitation.

But what about the people of my own state of Michigan? There are not a lot of people on these peninsulas to compete for attention on a day-to-day basis. We barely have to whisper to be heard!

People from Michigan tend to be more soft-spoken than people from England. And when it comes to public speaking, many Michigan people can be hesitant to even accept a mic. Many think it makes them sound too loud!

Here’s another difference between England and Michigan: the lion is the symbol of England. It represents strength, courage, and bravery: admirable qualities for a public speaker, to be sure! And let’s not forget that lion knows how to roar!

Michigan, however, has a moose and an elk on its flag. There’s also a Sasquatch. These are all shy and quiet creatures that try to go about their business unnoticed. The symbolism of Michigan inspires a more modest and coy approach to public speaking.

elk, moose, and sasquatch

And so I’ll often have to coach clients from Michigan to project their voices so they can be heard in a public setting. Soft voices don’t command respect in a packed meeting room. In many situations, a soft voice can’t even be heard!

Many of my Michigan clients blanch or even shudder when I tell them to take mic support. They think it makes them sound loud and insufferable instead of modern and confident.

For my Michigan clients with soft, unsure-sounding voices, I’ll ask them to ditch the Sasquatch and embrace the symbolism of England: the lion. We’ll try an exercise called the “lion roar.” I use this exercise to help leaders with weak voices project confidence.

Here’s how it works:

  • Stand up and inhale deeply
  •  Roar like a lion as loud and as long as you can
  •  Repeat it three times

That’s it!

The lion roar helps you open up your diaphragm, relax your vocal cords, drop your jaw, and release any tension or fear. It also boosts your energy and mood. Plus, it’s a great stress reliever.

If you have a soft voice and have trouble being heard, try it before your next presentation. Hear, see, and feel the difference.

You’ll sound more confident, enthusiastic, and authoritative. You’ll capture your audience’s attention, emotion, and interest. You’ll unleash your inner lion. 🦁

Laura Bergells teaches public speaking and business communication classes and workshops. You can also book a private, one-on-one Zoom consultation here: Hire Laura.

Take Laura’s communications and public speaking classes at LinkedIn Learning. – Free to LinkedIn Premium Members! 

fun Presentation public speaking

AWE: Acronyms Without Explanation!

HE: That presentation was filled with A-W-E.
Acronyms Without Explanation!
ME: So, it was an AWEful presentation?
HE: Yep. Totally AWEful. I had no idea what was going on!

Hey, it’s a good idea to avoid industry jargon and acronyms.

But if you’ve got to use ‘em, at least explain ‘em.

Don’t be so AWEful! 


Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning

🔥🔥🔥 Laura coaches executives on Camera via Zoom. When you need to rehearse an important presentation or prepare for a media interview, why not book an online consultation?

Coaching Education fun public speaking video

What if you have to sneeze in an on-camera interview?

What if you have to sneeze on camera

What do you do when you feel like you have to sneeze during an on-camera interview? Here’s your two step process:

1. Camera off first.

2. Then, hit mute.

Nobody wants to see or hear you as you “ugly sneeze!”


Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning

🔥🔥🔥 Laura coaches executives on Camera via Zoom. When you need to rehearse an important presentation or prepare for a media interview, why not book a one-hour, online consultation?

communication crisis Education fun Presentation public speaking web meetings

Zoom Meetings: Prevent BATS IN THE CAVE with 2 simple tips

I’ve been in quite a few Zoom web meetings lately, and I’ve seen a lot of BATS IN THE CAVE, if you know what I mean.

If you don’t know what I mean by BATS IN THE CAVE — it’s when someone is using the camera on their laptop and I can look straight up their nose during the meeting.

Really, BATS IN THE CAVE is not a good look on anyone!

If you use a laptop for web meetings, I’ll give you two tips to help you get rid of that BATS IN THE CAVE look.

1. Get a stack of books. Raise your laptop up so your eyes are level with the camera.

2. Get a sticky note. Attach it to your monitor with an arrow or a smiley face, reminding you to look up and SMILE.

It’s the simple things. You can MacGyver this and still look like a polished professional.


Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte.


Zhooshing up your business language with made-up or unusual words

the word Zhoosh

“Zhoosh”. It’s a word that’s fun to say, but hard to spell.

It has its roots in Polari, the slang language of low creative and underground subcultures. And yet, I used the word “zhoosh” in a client work email last month.

Was I being professional? In the context I used it, it was a low creative risk.

It worked as a piece of flair to zhoosh up an otherwise dry, workaday missive.

As Stan Phelps of Purple Goldfish fame writes:

Wouldn’t the world be a brighter place if we all strove to put a little more zhoosh into the lives of others? Here’s a handful that I’m trying my best to make a small dent in the lexicon of life:

Lagniappe – similar to Zhoosh, a little something extra that’s added in customer experience for good measure. Mark Twain called it a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get.

Plussing – coined by Walt Disney, it’s kind of the verb of lagniappe. The act of looking at something and dong a little more to improve it and make it better by plussing it up.

Flawsom – the art of embracing what’s weird or weak, because our flaws hold the key to what makes us awesome.

Humanware – improving how our brain functions by sharpening our soft skills as we manage ourselves and perceive others.

Diamond Rule – the art of managing yourself under pressure and addressing the needs of others to avoid their triggers.

What unusual, risky, or completely made-up word choices have you used lately in a professional setting? How’d it work out for you?

Laura Bergells is a professional story finder. She writes, coaches, teaches, and speaks. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.

If you’re a LinkedIn Premium or member, these courses are free! If you’re not a member, you can either become a member or buy each of these classes à la carte.

fun video

What if you didn’t own a car anymore?

I own a car. When it dies, I may not buy another. In fact, I may never own another car again in my lifetime.

I don’t want to be careless. I’d rather be carless.

This is a shocking statement for a middle-aged Michigan suburbanite to make. For a time, I worked in the auto industry. Almost everyone I know here is dependent on cars for their livelihood. Many even derive their identity and social status from the type of car they own.

A car isn’t what people drive: it’s who they are. 

So how could I say “I’m not buying another car” — and still expect to have friends? Will I ever be invited to parties again?

Sure. From time to time, I say things that upset my friends. We all do.

But when I announce that I’ve had it with car ownership, my friends and colleagues regard me with amusement. They react as if I’ve told them a joke. 

But I’m not kidding. Here’s my reality:

I bought a brand new car in 2003: cash, no note. It’s still in good shape. Today, I mostly bop around town in it. 

I pay $700.50/year in annual car insurance. Between oil changes, repairs, licensing fees, and fuel: that’s another $1K. So I’ll round up and say I have operating costs of around $2K/year.

(Notice how I’m not even counting original costs, depreciation, loss of interest, parking, or storage. If I did, that would be another $2K a year.)

Many would characterize my car situation as “dirt cheap”. But today, I consider my car ownership a luxury. I needed a car in the ’00’s – but do I really need it anymore?

What I’m really paying for is convenience. If I have a whim to go somewhere at any time, I can indulge it.

I don’t have to think or plan. I’m paying for the privilege of being mindless: for the illusion of being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want.

But $2-4K a year? It seems excessive.

I work out of my home office. Most of what I do and where I go is within 2 miles of my home. I walk almost everywhere. Further, technological advances are changing the way I think about car ownership.

For most client work, I use online tools. We meet using Skype and Hangouts: or Zoom and BlueJeans. That’s a giant change from 2003, where most client meetings and work needed to be in person.

I avoided renting a car for business travel this year. Not once so far! (Fingers crossed.)

For some meetings and events, I still need to be physically present. For example, I can drive to and from one client’s office in 22 minutes. A bike takes 40 minutes. The bus? 84 minutes — but only when it’s on time. (The bus is almost never on time in my home town of Grand Rapids.)

Further, I can only take the bike or bus on mild days. I can’t show up to client meetings covered in rain, snow, or sweat. Getting to the airport for out-of-town work? It requires a car service: taxi, limo, Lyft, etc. 

While I use my car for some trips — I find myself using it less over time. In 2016, I drove it a total of 3,104 miles. In 2017? I drove 2,604 miles. 

So if you’re like me and would prefer not to own another car: let’s do a thought experiment. What would happen if my reliable old car stopped working today?

I wouldn’t buy another. Rather, I’d bike more. I’d walk even more than I already do. I’d use ride services like Lyft more. 

I’d probably invest in an electric bicycle, to give me an assist as I go up more hills. Until autonomous ride-hailing becomes reality, I’d rent cars for out-of-town business trips. I’d also use public transportation more. 

Without a car, I’d be less thoughtless and spontaneous. I’d be more thoughtful about planning my time and trips. 

I’d probably have to buy more goods online. This means saying bye-bye to monthly trips to Costco. (This popular online warehouse is a 26 minute round trip drive from my home, but it’s 2+ hour trip by bus. Over an hour of that bus trip involves walking to bus stops. With heavy parcels? Costco’s free snacks are nice, but a big warehouse in the middle-of-nowhere-with-a-huge-parking-lot? That model’s not gonna work in my near future.)

Socially, I know some friends would be upset by my lack of car. My curtailed spontaneity will be inconvenient for them.

Other friends are supportive. In a small town in Michigan in 2018, I suspect “going carless” would generate some gossip.

But in a short time, gossip will stop. And soon, going carless will be seen as normal. Everyone will be doing it. 

When more people stop buying cars, neighborhoods change. Public transportation improves. Communities plan infrastructure with walking and biking in mind.

People will say “hi” more. Health improves as people bike and walk more in fresher air. Small neighborhood businesses spring up and thrive on popular walking/biking routes.

Am I wrong about some of these positive aspects of giving up on car ownership? Am I dreaming?

Will we soon see significant social, economic, and environmental changes brought about by the decline of car culture? Or do people love the idea of cars too much to give them up, no matter what the costs?

I dunno. I still can’t figure out what we’ll all do with all our empty garages and parking lots. Build the next great technology, I guess. Or start a grunge band. I like to tinker and experiment, so maybe I’ll do more of that. 

How do you feel about the mere idea of giving up your car…for good? Does it fill you with thoughts of dread and anger? Or do you have a more sunny view of your carless future?

Laura Bergells writes, coaches, and teaches. Check out her online courses at LinkedIn Learning.  You can also find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

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Coaching communication Education fun Presentation public speaking video

Lose your fear and learn to present on-camera

Three years ago, I organized an online web conference. At the request of an organization, I interviewed three of their Subject Matter Experts to get background information for a presentation.

The following photo is a re-creation of what I saw in this online meeting:

Uh-huh. That’s right.

For almost the entire interview, I stared at a close up of one man’s ear. After a few minutes, I told him he might want to adjust his camera.

“Oh, sorry,” he said. I then got an extreme close up of what appeared to be his hairline. 

“Is that your neck?”


“I think I preferred your ear.”

“Oh. OK.”

For the next hour, we all looked at his ear. 

My interview subject never saw his audience. He never looked at the camera. We could see his ear twitch a bit as he talked, but that was about it.

Let me be clear. The expert with the wiggly ear?

He’s brilliant in his field. He had wonderful information to share. And he’s also a delightful person.

He simply didn’t know anything about presenting on camera. It was his first time, and he was too intimidated to tell anybody he didn’t know what he was doing.

He thought he could fake it. And in a way, he was right. 

We were a friendly group. We didn’t judge our colleague too harshly.

We were in a time crunch, so we smiled and went on with the meeting. And after all, we all knew the guy was a genius.

But I also know he’s doing much better now. Post-meeting, he took some good-natured ribbing and sought help.

He learned more about delivering online presentations. And of course, he continues to gain valuable experience.

There are plenty of tips available to help you improve your own online video performance. Here are six of my favorites: they’re all available through LinkedIn Learning:

1. Successful video conferencing tips

2. Developing your on-camera presence

3. Setting up your home or office filming environment

4. Wardrobe and makeup tips

5. Lighting tips

6. Tips for on-camera body language and posture

This sort of specific information and advice can help get you going in the right direction with regard to your next on-camera presentation. Think you don’t need help? That it’s no big deal? 

Your audience was raised on TV or online. We have expectations for how people look and perform on a screen. You may be warm and wonderful in person – but how do you come across on camera?

We were all kind to “ear guy” — but you don’t always have the luxury of being in front of an audience who loves and accepts you no matter what crazy thing you do. You’ll want to learn and practice some of the basics before you present to employers, clients, key stakeholders, and the public. 

You probably don’t think of yourself as a film star. But if you’re asked to present on camera, guess what? 

You’re a video star now, my friend. It may be a low budget production from your home office, but who knows? One low budget presentation could have enormous business stakes…or at least lead to previously unheard of opportunities. (It happened to me.)

Prepare yourself. We’re all video stars now.

If it hasn’t happened to you already… it’s going to happen soon. We’ll all be presenting more on camera in the future.

See you online!

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a LinkedIn Learning course author. Check out Establishing Credibility as a SpeakerCrisis Communication and Public Speaking.