by Rob Chilton
  • 4 minute read
  • May 01, 2024
Public speaking tips: Communication coach Flo Akinbiyi on how to captivate an audience 

For many people, even just hearing the phrase ’public speaking’ can cause their palms to sweat.
As Mark Twain once said, “There are only two types of speakers in the world: One, the nervous, or two, the liars.” 

But spend an hour in the company of communication coach and presenter Flo Akinbiyi and you may not feel so fearful. The German-Nigerian coach, who is based out of Dubai, is a firm believer that “everybody can be good at public speaking.”

Akinbiyi, 43, coaches high-level corporate executives in the Middle East and Europe through engaging workshops, during which his helpful tips – and his own charisma – boost his clients’ confidence. 

“What I do can have an impact on people’s lives and careers, which sounds clichéd, but it’s true,” says Akinbiyi. “One client I coached told me his fiancée thinks he now communicates better with her at home.” 

Here, Akinbiyi lays out his simple seven-step plan to being a successful public speaker. 

Dare to stand out

I present at a lot of events where it’s mostly a crowd of men wearing grey, black or blue suits. I will wear a suit but not a tie, and my suit will be a dark yellow or purple colour so I stand out. 

Dressing in a unique way is an opportunity to walk into a room and make a statement before you have even uttered a single word.

Create a routine

A lot of professional sportspeople have a set way of preparing for a match, and I’m the same. I wake up, meditate, watch my vision video, review the script and do a quick rehearsal. 

I enjoy a nice routine in the bathroom so that I look and feel good. I eat a healthy breakfast. On the way, I listen to music like DJ Khaled’s All I Do Is Win and talk to people to get into the mindset of connection – it could be the taxi driver, the receptionist, or the security guard. Then, before going on stage, I will rehearse the first few lines in my mind.

Flo Akinbiyion stage. Image: Supplied

Build a connection

I typically start an event with a round of applause. The audience is usually still chatting – the applause gets them focused and I have their attention. I try to do a little fun interaction that creates a moment of connection. 

What happens next is important – maybe a nice story or a rhetorical question in which I use my voice to capture their attention. One thing I love to do is say a word in the middle of a story in a high-pitched voice, because it creates a reaction.

Nerves can beaten

I have about 30 techniques to help with stage fright, but these are a few of the most effective. Firstly, make sure you connect with the crowd. Get there 30 minutes before your speech, mingle, shake hands and talk to people. Then, when you’re on stage and you look at the audience, you’ll see a room of friendly faces versus a room of strangers.

Secondly, prepare your content exceptionally well. If you have stage fright and you have average content, you will feel nervous. But if your content is spectacular and you know it inside out, you’re going to be a lot more confident. 

Finally, acknowledge that it’s going to be alright. At the beginning, the stage fright may be severe, but your brain adjusts and it becomes easier the longer you’re on stage.

Set yourself up for a good beginning, in order to get through those first moments. You can even read from the script initially, until you have found your groove.

Talk with your hands

Research from the United States has proven that children learn better when the teacher uses hand gestures. Descriptive hand gestures are a great tool to improve communication. But don’t overdo them. 

Flo Akinbiyi on the mic. Image: Supplied

Use your voice

Your voice transmits confidence, competence and passion. It creates trust, motivation and inspiration in an audience. Professors have found we should have about eight emphatic stresses for every minute of speaking to optimise our charisma level.  

That means every second sentence should contain a highlight to keep the audience engaged. Repeating words, emphasising words; speaking loudly, speaking softly to draw the audience in as if you’re telling them a secret; pausing, speeding up, speaking more slowly – there are so many simple things you can do to make your content sound better.

Find your power

I work with many CEOs who don’t know their strengths. Ask a friend, a family member and a colleague to describe what you’re good at. Maybe you’ll find out that people think you’re a good storyteller, so use that.  It’ll give you ideas of how you can present better. 

What’s my superpower? My afro.

Visit and follow @flo_akinbiyi on Instagram.

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