3 Ways to Rock Your Short Talk

Eleni Kelakos Executive leadership coaching, Peak Performance, presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

Sammy, a young inventor, and the winner of a prestigious 30 under 30 award from Forbes, Inc was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: To give a short talk about his groundbreaking invention at the prestigious annual Forbes summit.  When he called me to set up some coaching sessions to help him shape his presentation, I asked how long his short talk needed to be.  “Five minutes on the nose,” he replied. Five minutes to give a short talk with career-boosting impact. Five minutes to give a short talk to an audience of deep-pocketed potential investors. Five minutes to give a short …

What Is a Keynote Speech? Plus 5 Steps to Help You Write One.

Eleni Kelakos Peak Performance, presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

You’ve been asked to deliver a keynote speech at an upcoming event.  And while you may be flattered by the request, you have a lot of questions, like: “What is a keynote speech anyway? What makes it different that other presentations?  How long should a keynote speech be? And how do I write a keynote speech Before I answer those questions, let me congratulate you for having been asked to deliver a keynote speech.  Because being invited to give a keynote speech means that have developed a perspective, a public persona, or a big idea that is interesting enough to …

5 Ways to Beat Zoom Performance Anxiety (ZPA)

Eleni Kelakos Executive leadership coaching, Peak Performance, presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

As a presentation skills coach and trainer, I’ve spent almost twenty years helping clients manage presentation performance anxiety.  But it’s only been since Covid-19 reared it’s extremely ugly head that I’ve needed to help my clients manage what I’m calling  Zoom Performance Anxiety, or ZPA (and oh, how I wish I could have found a way to make ZAP work instead of ZPA)!  Several presentation coaching and executive presence leadership coaching clients, both new and old, have confessed to a surprising and off-putting fear of speaking while using online platforms like Zoom.  They typically experience Zoom Performance Anxiety when they …

Paint Your Speaker Vision in Living Color

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

Imagine going to an archery range that had no targets. You’d be standing around with your bow and arrow, scratching your head and wondering “Uh, where do I point this thing?” Or you might be firing off arrows willy-nilly in all manner of directions, which isn’t exactly productive. Without a target, you have nothing to aim at. That’s the reasoning behind writing and using a Speaker Vision.  By vision I mean a clear, specific, and compelling picture of how you want to see yourself as a speaker at a specific point in time in the future (e.g. six months or …

To Boost Public Speaking Confidence, Take Time to Take a Bow

Eleni Kelakos Executive leadership coaching, Peak Performance, presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching, Women in Leadership

Claudia had spent weeks working with me to prepare a high-level presentation for a prestigious conference that would showcase her considerable expertise.  The effort she’d put into developing and internalizing the presentation was almost as mighty as the effort she’d put into managing the anxiety she’d had about giving it.   I was confident that she was ready, and that her performance would make us both proud. On the day Claudia gave her presentation, she shot me a brief text:  “Went great! More when I see you next week.”  Claudia’s brief text sounded triumphant. Which was why I was so taken …

Presentation Skills Tip: To Keep Your Audiences Engaged, “You-nify” Your Presentations

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

As a presentation skills coach and trainer, one of the most common questions I get asked is “How do I keep my audience engaged?”  There are, of course, multiple answers to that question (which I’ve written about here and here and here). But one of my favorite responses and techniques is also one of the simplest: “You-nify” your presentation.  By that I mean, say “you” more. Say the word you more than you say the word I. Say you more, so your audience members can see (and feel) themselves in the story you’re telling, the scenario you’re sharing, or in …

To be a Better Speaker, Honor the Sacred Stage

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

(Or Lessons in Peak Performance from an Italian Waiter) While dining in a rooftop restaurant in Venice, Italy, I was struck by our waiter’s commitment to providing us with a memorable, meaningful dining experience. “Giacomo” made sure to provide every little thing we needed—from changes of silverware between each course, to finger-bowls with lemon after we’d dug into our mussels and clams appetizer. And he plated and served our food with the kind of focus and dramatic flair reserved for top-level magicians or performing artists. As I watched him lovingly twirl a pyramid of pasta onto my plate, and meticulously …

Public Speaking Training Tip: Three Ways to Slow Down When You’re a Fast Talker

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

As a public speaking training coach, I am constantly saying some version of “Whoaaaaa, Nellie!” to my fast-talking clients. By fast-talking, I mean folks whose natural inclination is to talk (and, often, to think) a mile-a-minute, often verbally galloping way ahead of whoever they’re talking to. If you’re a fast-talker you’re probably going to be inclined to talk even faster when you give a presentation and your nerves and adrenaline kick in. Unfortunately, the faster you talk, the more your audience has to work to keep up with you. And the harder they work to stay at your pace, the …

4 Ways to Honor Intellectual Property (and Your Fellow Speakers)

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

I have always been an extremely ethical person—even, some might say, to a fault. When I raise my hand to swear an oath, I mean it.  When I’m asked to respect rules and regulations, I do (just ask my schoolmates who teased me about being a “goody two-shoes” and a “teacher’s pet.”)  And if someone asked me to do something I knew in my bones was just plain wrong—like lying in an interview, or falsely claiming someone else’s idea was mine—I wouldn’t do it. Which is why I was really taken back when, at a conference at which I was …

Presentation Skills Training: Beige Doesn’t Read from the Stage

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

If you’ve ever participated in one of my presentation skills training classes, you’ve heard me say the following words:  BAN WISHY WASHY!  I even reinforce this point by brandishing a sign on which the words WISHY WASHY are slashed through with a big red line.  That’s because, when it comes to public speaking, nothing galls me more than ho-hum, sorta-kinda-not-really-sure-what-I’ve decided-to-do-or-say-here moments.  Unfortunately, most of the presentations I see are full of wishy-washy, bland, or what I call beige moments. For those of you who don’t know what beige is, here’s a nifty definition from Merriam-Webster dictionary:  a variable color …

Presentation Skills Training: Five Benefits of Group Learning

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

I just finished facilitating a full-day Presentation Skills Training session—this one for a team of medical sales people at a bio-tech company—and am feeling exhausted but exhilarated. Exhausted, because, as usual, I gave it my all for seven hours, modeling an energized, in-the-moment, give-it-everything-you’ve-got presence for my attendees. Exhilarated, because I’d yet again witnessed the surprise, delight, and personal transformation that comes when human beings come face-to-face with obstacles—and then overcome them—in a group learning setting. Now, you may know me—and have perhaps even worked with me—as a coach who engages individually with thought leaders, business leaders and authors to …

How to Overcome Fear of Public Speaking – 6 Tips to Tame the Speech Anxiety Monster

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

Are you an executive, author, salesperson, entrepreneur, or professional with aspirations of success? Think you can avoid public speaking and achieve those aspirations? Alas, you cannot. Studies show that fear of public speaking and the inability to communicate effectively can be a hindrance to advancement – in school and in business. Indeed, Paul Argenti, corporate communications professional, said it succinctly, “If you want to be a leader, you had better be able to communicate.” Is fear of public speaking stifling your ability to achieve success?  Here’s something you might not realize – 90% of people have public speaking anxiety.    …

Want to be a Better Public Speaker? Don’t Shirk the Work

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

In the space of one week, three of my presentation skills training clients gave critical, public, high-stakes presentations.  After they delivered those presentations, they emailed, called or texted me, triumphant. “I killed it!” was the basic theme of each of their messages. I was thrilled that they’d had such success with their presentations. But I wasn’t surprised. Because each of them had done whatever it took to be fully prepared to give their presentations. They didn’t shirk the work. Client number one, a high-level sales executive and budding motivational speaker, worked with me on turning his harrowing but victorious battle …

Four Ways to Be a Better Listener

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

As I was prepping the stuffing for my Thanksgiving turkey, I happened to catch Joshua Johnson’s great interview show, 1 A on NPR.  The topic of the program —How Not to Fight with Your Family on Thanksgiving—seemed quite fitting for these politically polarized times. Mr. Johnson kicked off the show with a lively conversation with communication expert, Celeste Headlee—she’s the host of On Second Thought on Georgia Public Radio and the author of a book now queued in my Kindle reader, We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter.  Her TED talk, “10 Ways to Have a Better …

A Lesson in Pitching and Presentation Skills from Mr. Rogers

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

As a presentations skills trainer and coach, I often work with entrepreneurs who pitch their products and services to audiences of investors.  They are often so heavily focused on putting together the perfect slide presentation– chock full of numbers, graphs zippy videos—they forget to bring a powerful, somewhat intangible element to their pitches: Their relatable, human selves. Which is why I always gently (and sometimes vehemently) steer my coaching clients towards the following five principles for pitching and presentations skills mastery: Tell a good story. And tell it well. Move your audience into feeling. Help your audience see and feel …

Get Out of the Basement and Dare to Be of Influence

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

I’ve recently enjoyed reading Austin Kleon’s two, wonderful books Steal Like an Artist, and Show Your Work. The latter reinforces something I’ve always believed: When it comes to creating something—like writing a book, crafting a presentation; developing a new idea or product; painting a picture; or finessing a new app—there is a time to hole up in the basement and massage it into being, and a time to climb up the basement stairs, open the door, and share your creation with others. I learned this lesson deeply when my dear friend, Lisa Michelson, was killed in a freak car accident …

Embrace a Growth Mindset

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

In the first quarter of my freshman year at Brown University, I decided to take Psychology 101. When the first exam rolled around, I was pretty sure I knew the material well and that I would, as usual, get a high grade. Which is why I was shocked when my professor handed me back my exam marked with a big, red D+. As a self-avowed, perfectionistic “grade grubber” whose entire identity was dependent on being “smart” and “an A student,” this D+ threw me for a complete loop. My initial reaction was that the Psych professor had made some sort …

“Help! I’ve Lost My Voice!”: When a Speaker Gets Laryngitis

Eleni Kelakos presentation skills training, public speaking training, speech coaching

Recently, my biggest nightmare as a speaker, coach and trainer came to pass:  I lost my voice. I mean, entirely. I couldn’t even muster up a pathetic, hoarse little whisper. It was utterly terrifying. And, of course, it couldn’t have happened at a worse time: Having just finished giving a Friday workshop out of state, I was poised to deliver four more trainings over three consecutive days, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Trying not to panic, I spent the weekend on total vocal rest, drinking as many fluids as I could manage. This paid off, somewhat: On Monday morning, my …