Coaching communication public speaking

Try this 1 mindfulness technique to reduce stammering

When smart people start to stammer…

…it’s often because they’re thinking 10 steps ahead!

🤔 They’re thinking about what they’re going to say in 5 minutes.
🤔 They’re thinking about what someone might ask them in 2 minutes.
🤔 They’re even thinking about what they might forget to say!

All that thinking? It’s what smart people do!

But thinking about a zillion things while you’re talking takes being “present” out of your “presentation!”

In a public speaking consultation for a smart person who stammers, I borrow an exercise from the world of theater.

It’s an exercise called “actioning.” It’s both a theater technique + a mindfulness technique rolled into one exercise.

If you’re a smart person who’s developed a stammer, try giving actioning a try. It gives you a focus point, so you can stay present in your presentation.

Actioning gets you out of your head. It usually gets good results. Here’s how it works:

Think of an action verb. An action verb is a word that fits between the words “I” and “you.

Think I “hate” you or I “love” you! Except instead of verbs like “hate” and “love,” think of a verb that’s more appropriate to the tone of what you want your audience to do, think or feel.

Then, instead of focusing on each word that you’re saying, focus on the action verb as you speak. That way, your words will flow out of your mouth a little more easily, because you’re not in your head.

You’re not thinking about every single word that you’re going to say. You’re thinking about the emotional power of those words.

For example, you might pick an action verb like persuade. Or you might think of another action verb as you go on in your speech or presentation.

Do you want to intrigue people? Do you want to mystify people? Let your action verb guide you. Use an action verb as your focal point as you speak.

There’s a whole range of action verbs that you can use to help express what you’re trying to communicate. Try actioning because it can help you get out of your head and focus more on the emotional intent behind the words that you’re saying.

And if you’d like to learn more about actioning, read Actions: The Actor’s Thesaurus by Marina Calderone and Maggie Lloyd-Williams.

Amazon Link to book:

You can draw from a wide range of action verbs that can help you stay focused and present as you speak.

What are some of your favorite action verbs to use as a focal point as you speak?


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

🔥🔥🔥 Laura also teaches “Presenting On Camera” – a live, interactive group class for sales and training professionals who need to shift from in-person to on-camera presentations. Call to inquire about availability and rates.

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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.

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Introduce emotional relevance to your presentations

Brain Rules by John Medina

“We don’t pay attention to boring things.”

John Medina, Brain Rules

Sounds basic, right?

But how do you NOT be boring when you’re speaking or presenting?

Medina tells us to be sure to introduce something emotionally relevant every 10 minutes.

At least every 10 minutes!

If we don’t, we risk losing the attention and interest of our audiences….because….

“We don’t pay attention to boring things.”

What can you do to shake things up for your audience?

Click on the video to discover 5 things you can do…in under 51 seconds!

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.

Coaching communication design PowerPoint PowerPoint Presentation Presentation public speaking

Never end your presentation with Q&A.

Never end your presentation with a Q&A.

Got that? Don’t end your next presentation by saying, “Any questions?”

There’s no need to announce that it’s time for questions and answers.

You can do better.

Always plan a strong closing.

If you’re planning a Q&A session, you can have it near the end, but not at the end.

Answer audience questions, then deliver your closing statement.

Don’t risk letting your super awesome presentation drift off into whatever might be on the mind of the last person who asked a question.

Wrap it up, partner. Put a bow on that presentation. 🎁

Consider this: I cover five strong closing techniques in my public speaking foundations course on LinkedIn Learning.

The full course is one hour. It’s a great resource to revisit before your next big speech or presentation, free for LinkedIn Premium Members.

Check it out. >>>

Coaching communication crisis public speaking

Answering Q&A questions and the path to wisdom…

Ah, Q&A. The “question and answer” portion of your presentation, where anything can happen!

Instead of dealing with a Q&A hog, let’s say someone in your audience asks you a brilliant question. It’s timely and topical! It’s directly related to your content! At this point, your answer can fall into three categories.

1. Hey, I know all about that!

2. I don’t know, but I can find out.

3. I don’t know.

Each category comes with its own set of challenges. Let’s explore each.

  1. I know all about that! On its face, this category seems easy to answer, but it’s not. In a Q&A, you’ll need to be brief. You must curb any tendency to give a comprehensive, long-winded answer. Being brief can be difficult when you know something thoroughly. Deliver a concise and concrete answer, then move on to the next question.
  2. I don’t know, but I can find out. Category two is a little easier. Your answer can be something like, “I don’t know, but I know I can find out. Give me your contact information, and I can get the answer to you after the presentation.” Move to the next question or closing, then follow up with the questioner when you said you would.
  3. I don’t know. Category three should be the easiest of all. It contains 3 of the 4 short statements that lead to wisdom. You can say one to three of them, as appropriate. Practice saying this out loud, every day.

    “I’m sorry. I don’t know. Does anyone else know?”

But why is “I’m sorry. I don’t know. Does anyone else know?” so difficult for so many presenters to say? I suspect it’s because they feel because if they are leading a discussion, they simply MUST know everything about it., or at least appear to.

But remember, you’re only leading the discussion. You’re not monopolizing it. You’re not expected to know everything. And no one likes a know-it-all.

Consider the four statements that lead to wisdom:

  1. “I don’t know” is one of the four statements that leads to wisdom. Practice saying it every day. It can help ease any discomfort you may feel when tempted to pontificate on a subject you know nothing about. Audiences will appreciate your honesty and simplicity. It’s refreshing.
  2. “I need help” is the second statement that leads to wisdom. Ask for help when you need it. “Does anybody else know?” might yield a helpful response from your audience or allies. If no one else answers, you might feel inspired to smile and say, “It looks like I’m not alone in not knowing the answer to your question!”
  3. “I’m sorry” is the third statement that leads to wisdom. You may or may not feel inclined to preface your “I don’t know” with “I’m sorry”. If you’re not sorry, don’t say you are. If you are, do so.
  4. Fittingly, “I was wrong” is the fourth statement that leads to wisdom. And it’s the one statement you won’t have to say during your presentation if you answer difficult questions truthfully and concisely.

Outside of Q&A, practice saying the four statements that lead to wisdom:

  1. I don’t know.
  2. I’m sorry.
  3. I was wrong.
  4. I need help.

Get comfortable saying these phrases. If you want to be happy and wise, you’ll be saying them a lot in a lifetime! Beyond wisdom, you’ll gain empathy and understanding through regularly saying these phrases.

Good luck on your next Q&A!

For your consideration: I go over responding to difficult questions in more detail in my Crisis Communications course at LinkedIn Learning. It’s under the section: “Developing Statements”.

Check it out here:

Coaching Presentation public speaking video

Hey, you used to ❤ Show & Tell. What happened?

Hey remember third grade? You got up and you did show-and-tell and  you loved it. ❤

You didn’t feel nervous or anxious. So what changed?

What made you thrilled about public speaking when you were eight… and anxious about it as an adult?

Three things:

One: you’re more inhibited as an adult. You now know you stand the risk of ridicule or humiliation.

Two: you tell yourself the stakes have changed. What you’re doing now is just so much more important than when you were eight!

And three, you stopped practicing. In school, you did book reports oral reports plays and sports… and you did it on the regular.

One, two, & three?

They all add up to one diagnosis: you are living in your head. That is what’s making you anxious about public speaking.

So, get out of your head. Get up. Find opportunities to speak in front of people.

Do it today. When you practice regularly, you’ll feel way less anxious & way more confident.

Anxious Public Speaking V. Third Grade Show-n-Tell

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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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.

Coaching communication crisis Education public speaking

Face it: you need to fake it. Authenticity is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Authenticity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. To show our care and compassion for others, we often need to put aside our feelings.

There are higher truths that need to be served. Ask a mother whose child has fallen off a swing set. The child is bleeding and crying.

Does the mother give in to her worst fears? Does she start weeping and screaming? Nope.

“You’ll be OK, sweetie. We’re going to take a quick ride to the emergency room! Won’t that be exciting!”

In business, we often find ourselves in situations where we need to be brave. We need to show confidence we don’t feel.

Let me share three situations where this can happen:

  1. A novice speaker feels terrified. She’s never stood in front of a group of professionals before. She has wonderful knowledge to share, but she has butterflies. 🦋 She feels so nervous, she’s scared she might throw up.

  2. A seasoned pro feels confident. He’s stood in front of groups a zillion times before. Minutes before a critical speech, however; he learns of a grave personal tragedy. 💔 Heartbroken, he feels like bursting into tears.

  3. A mid-career pro is on stage, wowing the audience. Suddenly, an alarm sounds. A flurry of text alerts go off, advising everyone in the room of a weather emergency. 🌪️The on-stage performer is so afraid, she feels like fleeing.

When “being authentic and keepin’ it real” means puking, crying, and/or running away — you’ll want to consider other options. If you feel afraid: it’s 100% OK to muster up courage and instead show confidence.

A one minute video, where I offer a little pep talk to a nervous speaker…

If you’re standing in front of an audience, you’re in a leadership position. Your fear can spread like a contagion. For the good of your audience, you can’t risk starting a panic by acting on your worst fears.

You need to show courage. You need to be brave.

It you want to be self-deprecating, you can call your real bravery ‘fake it ’til you make it’. That’s cool. I get it. I think it’s a shame, though…

Social pressure forces you to re-frame your “real bravery” as “fake confidence”.

…but I see you. When you say ‘fake it ’til you make it’ – I know who you really are. You’re my favorite kind of person.

You’re brave. When you feel scared, but carry on with confidence – that’s almost the dictionary definition of courage.


So let’s say you’re faking confidence…does this mean you’re an impostor? In a word, no.

I know social pressure can be a monster, though. You’ve probably heard voices say “fake” anything is wrong and bad.

Social conditioning may have laid a vicious head trip on you. It’s an ugly voice telling you any display of confidence needs to be “real” not “fake”. It’s this dreadful and simplistic notion of:

“fake always bad; real always good!”

News flash: sometimes, real confidence can be a real disaster. Further, a wellspring of heartfelt self-assurance is not likely to magically radiate out of a real expert who is suddenly thrust into a completely unfamiliar situation.

It’s why experts practice and drill. It’s why we rehearse and edit. It’s why we put ourselves in new and challenging situations.

We need to develop more than a shallow “just be authentic” form of self awareness. How can you “just be yourself” if you don’t really know yourself… or how you might act in unfamiliar situation? How do you work with authentic “fight or flight” instincts that might not serve you well?

Thoughtful, introspective people choose continuous learning. They’ll often pick an environment like a classroom or workshop to build experience, knowledge, and confidence.

Smart people don’t sit around and hope for confidence to magically appear when they need it the most. They go out of their way to develop and nurture it with training and practice.

Consider these three learning scenarios where almost everything is fake:

  1. In beginning public speaking classes, we practice physical exercises in a friendly environment. When we work on techniques and gain experience speaking in front of others; we start to feel less afraid. 🦋
  2. In speech workshops, speakers receive feedback. They may decide to tweak their content structure and word choices before going public. Editing and coaching often improves messaging.  ❤️
  3. In crisis communication sessions, we drill on worst case scenarios that have yet to happen. We role play to be mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared to face tough challenges. 🌪️

In each case, we’re not being 100% authentic. The classroom is a simulation, not reality. Through learning, we build confidence.

When you’re navigating through difficult and complex issues, be aware of nuance. Instead of a clinging to simple gut-level truisms; consider serving a higher truth.


Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. New this month: Establishing Credibility as a Speaker.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching Presentation public speaking video

The science is IN! What every anxious public speaker must know before their next big presentation…

After a student gives a class presentation, I’ll sometimes conduct a quick poll. I’ll ask the entire class: on a scale of 0-10, how nervous did the speaker appear?

The audience might give the speaker a 2 or a 3. But the speaker? A nervous speaker might rate themselves a 7 or 9. That’s a pretty big gap in perception between speaker and audience.

This perception gap is a wrapped up in a cognitive bias called the Illusion of Transparency. Here’s an example of how the Illusion of Transparency works:

Let’s say you believe others know what you’re feeling when they look at you. They can tell exactly how nervous you are. They all know you’re a giant fraud.

That’s your Illusion of Transparency talking. But guess what?

It’s an illusion! It’s not real!

My informal classroom poll lines up with a 2003 study published by Savitsky and Gilovich. The title of their study is “The illusion of transparency and the alleviation of speech anxiety“. It was published in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

The reality? Other people have a hard time decoding your feelings. If your audience had to guess, they’re likely to rate you as “more confident” than you rate yourself.

While a public speaker might think “I’m a nervous wreck and everyone knows” — the audience might think, “Wow, that speaker is super passionate and enthusiastic!”

It’s important for speakers to know about the Illusion of Transparency. This tiny bit of knowledge can actually help you become a better public speaker. Here’s why:

If you didn’t know about the Illusion of Transparency, you might feel nervous. But you’ll assume everyone in the room thinks so, too. And this cognitive bias can make you feel even more nervous: because it makes you meta-nervous.


When you’re nervous about being nervous.

The Illusion of Transparency sets you up for a downward spiral of nervousness. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can make you feel increasingly anxious. 

But here’s the great news: now that you know about the Illusion of Transparency, you’re in a better position to cope with public speaking anxiety. Savitsky + Gilovich found when they informed public speakers about this cognitive bias right before a speech, speakers presented with more confidence.

So now that you know about the Illusion of Transparency, you can say to yourself,

“Hey, it’s just my cognitive bias talking. It’s not real. I might feel nervous, but so what? No one else can tell.”

And that tiny bit of knowledge can help make you feel more confident. You can relax and deliver a more compelling presentation.

Bonus: now that you know about the Illusion of Transparency, be sure to share this knowledge with a friend or colleague. Chances are, you’ll feel even better when you help someone else gain confidence as a public speaker.

Instead of a downward spiral of nervousness, help create an upward spiral of increased confidence.

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking.

Laura has decades of experience as a business communication coach. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and leads workshops on effective communication. You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.

Coaching public speaking social media video

How clearly do you speak? Try this one insightful public speaking test:

As a public speaker, you’ll want your audience to understand you. You’ll want to be clear.

To gain insight about your speech clarity, try this insightful and easy exercise. Take the one-minute “speech pace” exercise I posted last week.

Then, upload your one-minute video sample to YouTube.

Unlisted YouTube Video

Within a few moments of uploading your video, YouTube will automatically generate closed captioning (CC) for your one-minute vocal sample. Read the captions YouTube generated. You can find them in the YouTube Creator Studio, under “Subtitles/CC”.

closed captioning YouTube

(You can also just press “CC” at the lower right of your published video.)

How well did YouTube translate your spoken words?

If YouTube had a hard time translating you — it’s not them. You can blame Siri and Cortana and Alexa for misunderstanding you in 2018. But you can’t blame Google-owned YouTube. Not anymore.

YouTube/Google has become shockingly good at understanding and translating speech. It may not understand proper nouns (like my uncommon last name). It may bobble homophones (I.e., “pique” may become “peak”. Or “Tide Ad” may become “Tie Dad.”). However, YouTube/Google understands most conversational speech fairly well.

If you see multiple errors in your YouTube transcript: you may need to work on your speech clarity. Consider the four P’s of your vocal performance: projection, pace, pausing, and pronunciation.


Was your volume level loud enough for YouTube to hear? If your voice sounds soft or weak, is it you…or your recording equipment? It might be your mic: but it could be that you speak too softly. If you speak with a weak voice, you may need to work on breath support so you can speak with more volume and strength. Or, you may simply need to step closer to your microphone.


If you speak too quickly, your enunciation can suffer. Try slowing down to a conversational pace. A conversational rate is between 140 and 170 words per minute. Practice reading my 1 minute speech pace script until you can record it in one minute – give or take a few seconds.


Introduce pauses into your speech. Pausing can help you catch your breath and organize your thoughts, so you can pronounce your words more clearly. For an exercise, pretend you’re introducing yourself to someone who doesn’t know you. Say your full name.

Now, say your name again. This time, slow down…and put a slight pause between your first and last names.

Sample script:

Hi. I’m Laura (split second pause) Bergells. (longer pause) You can call me (split second pause) Laura.

(This may sound unnatural to your own ears. You’re used to your name, so it might sound too slow to you. However, people who don’t know you will appreciate the extra effort you made to be clear and memorable.)


Look at your YouTube transcript for patterns in misunderstanding. Do your trouble areas have anything in common?

Sometimes, people get sloppy when they pronounce words with more than 3 syllables. Other times, they can drift over short connector words like “to” and “a” and “and”.

If you spot patterns like these, make a note of them. Work on your specific issues by marking up your problem areas with hashes for pauses, and bold for emphasis.

For example, let’s say YouTube had trouble understanding you when you read this sentence aloud:

“This rate of speech typically ranges from around 140 to 170 words per minute.”

You might try re-writing it with vocal cues like these:

“This rate of speech | typic-LEE | ranges from around | one hundred forty | to | one hundred seventy | words per minute.”

(Use emphasis and pause cues that work for you.)

Projection, pace, pausing, and pronunciation: the 4 p’s of vocal performance can impact how well your audience understands you. Try uploading a one minute vocal performance to YouTube to gain more insight into your own speech clarity.

What other techniques do you use to work on your speech clarity? How else can you make sure you’re understood?

Laura Bergells is a writer, teacher, and a #LinkedInLearning author. Check out her courses on Crisis Communication and Public Speaking. NEW! If you’re a writer, check out Laura’s latest course: Scrivener Essential Training.

You can find Laura on Twitter and at YouTube.