“Talk like a champion”: 8 pieces of advice from Emma Mufraggi to hone your public speaking skills

Published on 15/02/2021
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Whether in interviews, at conferences or during presentations, public speaking is part of our professional daily life. And whatever your position or ambitions, being able to communicate effectively is essential if you wish to progress. But how best to be convincing and retain your audience’s attention? On 25 June 2020, during the EDHEC Alumni Summer Session, the Career Centre for Life organised the “Talk like a champion” webinar with consultant and coach specialising in strategic communication, Emma Mufraggi.

Emma is a competitor at heart and discovered she had a vocation for coaching through sport. She has offered support to many CEOs in the US and Europe. The common thread through all of her interventions is tackling mental preparation like elite athletes so constant performance gains can be achieved.

Here’s her advice to get in shape!

  1. Prepare with a specific objective in mind.

Ask any athlete what their objective is, and they will say “to be the best”. In the same way, to perform in public speaking, target a clear objective and focus on it. For orators, this means engaging their audience and

considering that any communication is first and foremost a conversation. 

Emma cites 3 elements that are essential for your preparation, summed up in a single word: AIM.

A for Audience: who are your audience and how can you match their expectations?

I for Intent: how do you hope to present yourself and be perceived?

M for Message: what message will you convey?

The idea is to keep the answers to these questions in mind while you prepare. Emma believes that this technique is useful whatever the context – an informal discussion or official presentation. The better you prepare, the better your speech will be. And video is an excellent tool to get ready in advance.


  1. Use self-suggestions

Don’t overlook your inner voice: it is of fundamental importance. It is from there that your confidence will emerge. Everything you say to yourself has an impact (“it’s too hard, I don’t have enough experience ...”): negative phrases like this will limit you and reflect outwards. That’s why it’s essential to maintain a positive inner dialogue with meaningful words. Telling yourself you are confident and that you like communicating has more impact than a phrase like “I’m a born public speaker”! Indeed, in all sporting disciplines, athletes talk to themselves. In 2019, in an interview following the Wimbledon final, Djokovic, who had just beaten Federer in a 5-hour clash, explained that he had had a conversation with himself just before the fifth set, telling himself firmly: “believe in yourself”.

Studies conducted by the University of Michigan have also shown that talking to yourself in the third person is very effective. In fact, referring to yourself by your name when talking to yourself is like talking to another person; it allows you to put some distance, to more quickly keep your emotions in check and to become more assured. So don’t hesitate to motivate yourself with positive words!


  1. Start using visualisation

The mind has a powerful capacity to summon up images and sensations. Athletes for example visualise victory to project themselves into a competitive context. Serena Williams says she always sees herself in first position. Using visualisation techniques will allow you to plan your own success. To do this, draw on all your senses, not only vision. Visualise the speech you must give or the interview you must sit, imagining how you hope it will unfold. The more you practice this exercise, the more effective it will be, because your brain will become imbued with that positive image, thus allowing you to do your best. And there are plenty of opportunities to engage in this technique (at home, in public transport, etc.).


  1. Punctuate your speech with ‘anchor points’

Anchor points allow you to set out a roadmap. They might be keywords to target: these send a positive message to your brain, telling you you’re on the right path and can proceed with ease to the next keyword. Visualising these stages while public speaking will help you gain confidence.


  1. Work on your concentration for the big day

Emma believes this is essential if you are to be truly “present”. She recommends endeavouring to put to one side anything that might be a factor of stress so you can free your mind and focus only on what counts. This technique is particularly useful for an important presentation or challenging interview. From a more grounded perspective, preparing in advance for how you wish to present yourself and the clothes you intend to wear might seem trivial, yet anticipating these concerns will help you to fully concentrate on the big day. Tiger Woods for example always wears red on the last day of the tournament, and Michael Jordan used to wear his university team shorts under his Chicago Bulls kit. “The more your habits become part of your routine, the more you can rely on them if needed”, Emma explains.


  1. Breathe

Once again, Emma says that good communication is a conversation. And when you talk to somebody, the words flow naturally. Breathing exercises are highly effective in controlling the flow of your speech. Athletes and great orators alike use this method, which sends the body a positive message. Try to make it part of your preparation routine: firmly place your feet on the floor, breathe in, exhale slowly and repeat three times.


  1. Put things in perspective

When addressing an audience, always try to make this demanding situation an opportunity to do your best. Studies have proven that when a player gets ready to score a goal, if he approaches the situation not as a stressful challenge but as an opportunity to lift up his team, he’s more likely to succeed.


  1. Try to enjoy yourself

Emma’s last piece of advice is to always see the interview or speech ahead of you as an opportunity to enjoy yourself, not as a source of difficulty. Concentrating on that feeling will allow the anxiety to dissipate: overcoming stress brings joy and provides a sense of accomplishment.


So now you’ve been primed to approach your next presentation with aplomb!

Need advice? Be sure to reach out to the EDHEC Alumni community. Webinars are also an opportunity to explore certain topics in more depth and participate in live discussions. Our professionals clubs might also be of interest: why not join one that appeals to you? And lastly, don’t forget that the Career Centre for Life offers all EDHEC alumni access to coaches who can give you advice and accompany you in your career development!

Do not hesitate to contact Silvia Marichalar: Silvia.MARICHALAR@edhec.edu and we invite you to visit the Career Centre for Life platform to discover the services offered to you.


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