Deb Sofield’s public speaking rules for the road



Deb Sofield is a dynamic keynote speaker, author of “Speak Without Fear: Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say,” and president of her own executive speech coaching company, which trains women and men for success in speaking, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

An entertaining speaker, Sofield engages the audience, makes them think, keeps them laughing and interacting with each other – but most importantly she teaches them how to be more intentional for maximum impact with our presentations. These are a few of the Rules for the Road Sofield shared with the audience.


Lighten up – keep a relaxed face


The most important time is the first two minutes of your introduction – early in a speech, folks listen to what they “see” more than what they “hear.” Smile, gesture and begin the process of eye contact with a few friendly folks.

Your hands give you away. If you get nervous, try pressing your fingertips together. It’s certain to be better than having your hands in your shallow pockets or arms across your chest.

Be comfortable with what you wear. Your clothes should not be more interesting than you are.


Take up space


Powerful people take up physical space. Use large gestures and illustrate what the words are saying. Don’t shrink up in the room, or you will be overlooked.

Love the skin you’re in. Don’t let your physical appearance hold you back. Embrace it and move on. It’s not about size, it’s about presence.

Keep your head level (literally) – not cocked one way or the other, and be careful not to bob it up, down or around.


Have a single concept in mind


This is not the time for multiple messages or meandering. Have a clear, concise message with no more than three points and a definitive ending.

The brain thinks in threes. Sofield’s three are:

1. Be accurate and clear

2. Be impartial

3. Be interesting

Attention spans are short. Whittle your speech down over and over until you can get your point across succinctly.


Open the floor


After the presentation is finished, open the floor to questions from the audience and answer them. Acknowledge with graciousness every member of the audience who approaches you after the speech.

Sofield told a story about a speaker who she wasn’t super excited to see, but who ended up blowing her away with her story and presentation. Unfortunately, afterwards, when so many members of the audience wanted to thank and engage with her, the speaker shut down and looked over their heads. So, in the end it didn’t matter what a great speech she gave, as all these folks would remember is her standoffish demeanor.


Bonus notes


Your introduction matters. Be intentional about what you want the person introducing you to say. Keep it short (nobody ever asked Sofield for a longer intro to read), and include points that speak to your credibility.

Take charge of the room. If it’s hot, get someone to turn the air down, etc. Allow for coffee and bathroom breaks – nobody has ever asked for less of those.

Some folks are easily offended. If you don’t know everyone’s name, don’t say anyone’s. And if something’s not funny to everyone, just don’t say it.



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