The Simplicity of Speaking

By Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA
Professional Speaker, Executive Coach, Author

“Be brilliant from the platform – always,” was the very first advice I received from the fabulous Glenna Salsbury in 1997. Excellent advice and pretty simple, but what does that really mean? Here is what I’ve learned and how I have grown my business. Each step is important if you want to develop a successful speaking practice.

  • Always be authentic. Don’t attempt to have the style of another person. Audiences are smart and they will know if you are genuine or not.
  • Don’t use anyone else’s material, unless you receive their permission and give them the credit. Be creative.
  • Be amazing from the platform (other people’s evaluations, not yours.)
  • Always be professional – on and off the platform. Don’t be a prima donna. Ever.
  • Be easy to work with and treat everyone with respect…everyone – even when they are driving you nuts.
  • Be a lifelong learner on your topic. Consume everything you can.
    • My focus is mainly communication, change management, leadership and conflict resolution in mostly a corporate setting. Because of that, I am a Harvard Business Review and Wall Street Journal junkie.
    • Read books and articles in your genre. I prefer using Audible because of traveling so much. Then if I like it, I buy the hardback book for my library.
  • Polish your platform skills.
    • Seek out a professional to help you
    • Record yourself
      • Evaluate and ask yourself, “What do I do well, and what do I need to change to be more compelling?”
      • Watch your video with the volume off to review your facial expression, movement, gestures, dress, posture and energy.
    • Storytelling is important.
      • Make the information relevant to your point.
      • Keep stories short, interesting, and crisp.
      • Ask yourself, “Why would the audience care about this vignette?”
    • Your introduction should be short and sweet.
    • Get to your speaking room early to check the lighting, audio visual/microphone, and anything else. When possible, check out the venue the evening prior to the engagement. Meeting planners do not like ‘roller bag’ speakers. Roll in at the last minute, then run out when finished with the presentation.
    • Market backwards – to people who have seen you speak. But don’t really market.  Send them pertinent articles or info on their business.  Don’t be a pest.
    • When necessary, negotiate, a little.
    • Figure out your travel pattern and comfort.
      • Carry healthy snacks
      • Learn to sleep anywhere. Personally, I carry earplugs and a sleep mask. Figure out how you can get a decent night’s sleep.
    • Make your speaking agreement simple. And call it an Agreement not a Contract.
    • Have a blog, write a book, send in articles to appropriate industry magazines, comment on blogs. The goal is to make your name recognizable.
    • Timing
      • Always end on time, even a couple minutes early.
      • Make sure your material is flexible. You may be asked to speak a little longer, or to shorten your presentation because someone else has run over.

Don’t make your journey to becoming a speaker too complex. If you do, you will be sitting in the audience versus being on the platform.  Keep it simple.

Marsha (  is the author of The Reactor Factor, Toxic People and The CEO of YOU. She has presented to many companies throughout the world including American Express, Shell Oil, Best Western Hotels, Boeing, Quest Laboratories and more. In addition, she is an Executive Coach. For information on booking Marsha for your event, please contact Marcia Snow at

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