Train your monkey – 5 tips on prepping for a big pitch, speech or presentation

If you are anything like me you are more comfortable at a desk in front of a spreadsheet than on a stage in front of a crowd.  I used to shy away from public speaking as much as possible, even staff meetings would make me panicky. It’s such an essential skill to have, so I’ve started to train my monkey to be better by saying ‘yes’ to a lot more public speaking.

Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to me, or any of us, because of the ‘monkey’ part of the brain, specifically the amygdala which is constantly trying to keep us from danger and standing out from the crowd goes against that. Hence, the fear.

Last month, I was lucky enough to be selected to give a TEDx talk in Norwich.  The theme was Inspiring Generations it was aimed at an educational audience.  Here’s a little run through of what I did to prepare, hopefully there’s something you can use in the future.


3 Month distillation – It was only 9 minutes on the day but getting a clear, concise and useful point across in 9 minutes is tough.  Be ruthless.  Cut out the waffle and just focus on the good bits. Give something of value to the audience that they can take away and use themselves.


Start in the middle – Give it a start, a middle and an end but drop the audience in at a point of excitement and then go back and tell the story.  Lots of great, interesting films do this…Pulp Fiction, Memento, Forrest Gump.


Choose your topic carefully – Sounds obvious but, if it’s a big speech, you are probably going to spend quite a few hours on it.  Writing, practising, rewriting… If it’s a topic you enjoy it won’t feel like a chore and, more importantly it’ll come out better on the day.


Get help – I watched an online course by Chris Anderson (TED) and he encouraged the talker consider their talk as a gift.  You are giving someone an idea, something precious, sharing with them something you feel they should know.  Considering what I wanted to say as something worthwhile and valuable made me feel less nervous.


Practice – Do it enough so you feel confident you can deliver it, but not too much so that it becomes stale and loses its spark.  People can spot that a mile off. First off I did the talk just to my partner, and asked for feedback.  Then a few people, and asked for feedback.  Then everyone at work, and asked for feedback.  I even took an audio recording to listen to and a video of me doing the talk, which really helped.


Whilst I was giving the talk, I was convinced I was overly perspiring, that my hair was all wrong and people could hear the nerves in my voice. However, when I eventually looked back at the video, I didn’t hate it.  In fact, I am very proud of how it came out.  It’s about innovation and if you would like to see it it’s here –


Good luck training your monkey 🙂

Posted by Emily Groves in Business