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Public Speaking Rules for the Road from Deb Sofield

Posted by: Marion Mann on Thursday, February 25, 2016

What a treat to have Greenville’s very own Deb Sofield speak to 200+ Women at Work at our last event. Deb is a dynamic Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say, 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 United States and abroad.

I can’t think of a more entertaining speaker than Deb. She engages the audience, makes us think, keeps us laughing and interacting with each other – but most importantly she teaches us how to be more intentional for maximum impact with our presentations. Deb gave us 15 Rules for the Road, a few of which I’ll share:A few of Deb's Rules for the 

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 the “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… Deb’s three:
    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.

Deb told a story about a speaker who she wasn’t super excited to see, but that 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.


  • Your introduction matters. Be intentional about what you want the person introducing you to say. Keep it short (nobody ever asked Deb 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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