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How top speakers manage nerves

Managing nerves when you’re asked to speak in public is something that you might struggle with. And you’re not alone! One of our favourite discoveries at Bespoke Communications is the Harvard commencement speech from the great American tv host, Oprah Winfrey.  In her speech, Oprah talks about the nerves that even well-known performers feel when taking part in a tv interview with her. She name checks President Obama, Beyonce and beyond.  Regardless of how famous they are or how frequently they appear on tv or in public, every interviewee she’s worked with looks for feedback after their tv appearance – ‘Was that OK?’  or ‘How did I do?’. Even at Bespoke, we don’t have to look too far to realise that’s true. Sarah has a tv career spanning two decades, and will readily admit to managing nerves before going on air.

Managing nerves

So it’s liberating to know that everyone feels nervous before appearing in public. Its not just you! Nerves come knocking to remind you that you care – that you want your words to mean something to those that hear them.   Giving a speech requires that you open yourself up, even just a little.   Your audience wants to get to know you and what makes you tick.  And when you’re being yourself, and showing empathy, then it’s natural to want the respect and approval of your audience.  Let’s face it, it’s a basic building block of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Your preparation process

The great news is that your nerves can be harnessed to help your performance rather than hinder it.    You can use the principles of performance psychology to develop a preparation process to help you when you’re called upon to present in public.  Identifying the source of your anxiety and breaking it down into skills to be mastered is the first step.  For some people, that means practicing a killer opening.  For others, it’s about structuring their content so that they get their message across more easily.  And many people just want to focus on the pace of delivery. Finding low-risk situations to help you to practice those skills is key.  Giving yourself the opportunity to practice, knowing that you’ll make mistakes is the best way to learn and improve. Your preparation process is very different to your performance process when you’re on stage with all eyes on you.

Your performance process

Your performance process will be unique to you, but here are some tried and tested techniques to help you on the day.  There’s something in here that you can adapt and make your own.  Here’s Sarah talking with Denis McNeill on Q Radio recently about the Speakeasy Club, and how to overcome public speaking nerves.  With the right tactics, you’ll master those nerves to give a great performance every time!

Inspired | Local Women Magazine | March 2017

Local Women Magazine March 2017
Local Women March 2017

Local Women March 2017 (North West edition)


Hello ladies,

Spring is in the air, and it’s a great time to step back and reflect on your business. Maybe there’s something you could be doing better or perhaps there’s an opportunity just waiting for you to develop? In this column, Siobhan Allan shares her incredible journey with us. We’ve had a behind-the-scenes peek at where she’s going with her high-profile film and tv business, the Extras Dept. We offer our top tips for making your own videos. And Anna Macauley, the Savvy Retailer, offers her trademark no-nonsense advice to retailers as we wrap up this financial year.

As always, it’s your comments and questions that inspire this column. Get in touch on our Facebook page or website. We’d love to hear from you!

Sarah and Camilla

Managing your retail business

The Savvy Retailer, Anna Macauley

The Savvy Retailer, Anna Macauley

This months question comes from a retailer. “I find the next couple of months really tough on trade as customers are still paying off Christmas and they don’t seem to have an appetite for shopping. Do you have any tips to get me through the final quarter of the financial year?”

Anna says ‘Firstly, most retailers are in the same boat, so don’t think you’re alone.  Where your focus for the third quarter was on driving sales, your focus will change now to three key areas.


Fragmented lines and sale

You need to decide whether this stock needs to be marked down to clear or put into your stockroom for a future sale. Some retailers do have a ‘last chance to buy’ area on their sales floor, but only do this if you can afford the space.


Merchandising new season stock

Sale stock should now be de-emphasized and your customer should see new season stock when they enter your store. Even if they are after a bargain, showing off your new lines will encourage a return visit after their next payday!


Invest in your business

Now is a great time for staff development, so plan in time to retrain, revive and refresh your colleagues and that includes you! This will help you and your team refocus on tasks and help to boost efficiency.


the speakeasy club

So you’ve decided to make a promotional video about your business. Where do you start?


At Bespoke Communications, here’s what we’ve learnt about making the process as streamlined as possible.

  • Know your audience. Who’s your best customer? Do you know a real, actual person who is your ideal customer?  Imagine you’re speaking to them one-on-one. That will help you to keep it real, and avoid the waffle.
  • Develop your message. What’s the goal of your video – how do you want people to feel? Maybe you’d like them to learn something?  And don’t forget your call-to-action. What’s the next step you’d like people to take?
  • Get out there and perform! Practice before you book the professionals – use your phone or iPad at home to get used to presenting. You’ll need to be yourself, but maybe just a shinier version 🙂

The Speakeasy Club can help you to brush up on your camera presentation skills – with advice from tv presenter, Sarah.



Lights, camera, action – can Siobhan Allan make you a star?

How many of us have grown up dreaming of the glamorous life on a movie set?  How would you like to rub shoulders with the stars?   Here in Northern Ireland, we have all watched as our film industry has gone from strength to strength.   We’ve seen global blockbusters like Game of Thrones and The Fall being filmed here. And through the work of Siobhan Allan and her business partner Carla Stronge, we now all have a chance to be part of the action! Siobhan and Carla set up Extras NI ten years ago to help film productions source non-speaking extra performers for their film sets.  At the Extras Dept, the team say ‘we love your face’, so it’s suitable for all ages and all shapes and sizes. If you haven’t tried extra work yet, why not log onto www.theextrasdept.com and give it a go?


The Extras Dept - The Fall

The Extras Dept – The Fall

So Siobhan, how did it all get started?

My daughter, Sam, had graduated from university and landed herself a job with a production company filming here in Northern Ireland. She phoned me one day to say that she needed to source 250 extras for her film, and that she had no idea how to find them.  I downed tools and helped her to recruit her extras from all over Northern Ireland and beyond.  During that first escapade, Sam introduced me to her good friend, Carla, who has an in-depth knowledge of the film industry.  I was ready for change in my career, and together Carla and I decided to give Extras NI a go!

The Extras Dept - Game of Thrones

The Extras Dept – Game of Thrones

Did you ever imagine how the company would grow?

Last year, our extras on film sets in Northern Ireland took home £1.9 million in pay.  I need to pinch myself to think how the company has grown over the last ten years. We now have over 17,000 registered extras on our database.  But remember, film sets are not all glamour.  The days are long and there is a lot of sitting around. Our role is to make sure that all of the less exciting aspects such as health and safety and insurance are taken care of, and that our extras are looked after.  We have to make sure that our extras have a great working experience, and that the production companies’ experience is hassle-free and seamless.

The Extras Dept - Dracula

The Extras Dept – Dracula

What’s next for you?

The film and television industries in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are continuing to grow, so we are looking forward to taking on our biggest challenge to date. Extras NI has rebranded and relaunched as the The Extras Dept in March 2017.  We’ve introduced a brand new casting platform and plan to move into the Republic of Ireland market to open a Dublin office. We have firmly established ourselves over the last ten years in Northern Ireland, and our film production clients are increasingly asking us to help them fill their extras roles in the Republic in the same way that we do here.  Another significant milestone is that Emma Sweeney, who has been Extras NI manager for the last 4 years, will become a partner in our company this year. There are clearly exciting times ahead for us all!

The Extras Dept - The Lodge by Disney

The Extras Dept – The Lodge by Disney


So what’s been your favourite moment over the last ten years?

That’s easy! That was the day that I walked on a film set to be greeted personally by the American actor and comedian, Bill Murray. My daughter Sam had been working with him, as an Assistant Director and Bill had been really impressed with her work.  He came over to me especially and told me that I had one helluva kid! The memory of that moment makes me feel very proud.

Inspired | Local Women Magazine | February 2017

Local Women February 2017
Local Women (mid Ulster edition) Feb 2017

Local Women (mid Ulster edition) Feb 2017

Hello ladies,

Welcome to our second ‘Inspired’ column, where we bring you business advice and celebrate local success stories of women in business and enterprise.   Every month, our readers ask their business questions and we’ll answer it the following month. If you’d like advice on growing your business, message us your question on Facebook or through our website. We’ll pick the best question to go in the following month’s column!

Using Facebook as a marketing tool

This month our burning business question is ‘How can my business build up Facebook followers?’   We asked the experts – business owners themselves – to get you the answers.

Louise Brogan Social Bee NI

Louise Brogan of Social Bee NI, Marketer of the Year 2016, works with women entrepreneurs to market their business online.

Louise says ‘For many business owners starting out on social media, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the more followers you have, the merrier.   It is far better to have 200 engaged followers on your Facebook page who have followed you because they are interested in what you have to offer, than it is to have 20,000 followers who are there because they once entered a competition to win a mini iPad.’


Aly Harte Artist

Aly Harte Artist

Aly Harte is a Belfast based artist and blogger, passionate about placing importance on the everyday.

Aly uses Facebook successfully to promote her business and says ‘Get really clear on who your target audience is. Think about what their interests are, where they eat, where they holiday, what they watch on tv. Yes! Facebook can help you target so specifically that in ads manager you can select the very box set on Netflix you know your audience love. An example of this is on own business. I am an artist with over eighty prints on my online store. I realised that the people who buy my landscape prints vary from those who buy my superhero prints. Therefore, a slight variation in interests in my ads manager means my work is in front of the right people’

Thanks so much to Louise and Aly for their insight and advice.  We’d summarise their expert advice by saying – to make the most of your time on social media, make sure to stop, reflect and plan before you post!

Jayne Taggart of Causeway Enterprise Agency receives the Queens Award for Enterprise

Jayne Taggart of Causeway Enterprise Agency receives the Queens Award for Enterprise


Can Jayne Taggart help you to start your own business?

Have you got what it takes to set up your own business?  Every month we meet women blazing a business trail in your local community. This month we were delighted to catch up with the inspirational Jayne Taggart, Chief Executive of the Causeway Enterprise Agency.  Jayne is well known amongst female business owners for the amazing support she and her team offer to small business, so much so that she’s even been recognised by the Queen!  Jayne’s networking events are legendary for the inspiration they offer to local businesswomen just like you. We asked Jayne to tell us more about her work inspiring local business

Jayne Taggart of Causeway Enterprise Agency wins prestigious Women In Business Best in Professional Services award

Jayne Taggart of Causeway Enterprise Agency wins prestigious Women In Business Best in Professional Services award



What is the Causeway Enterprise Agency all about?

We help people to realise their dream of starting in business for themselves.  We offer a wraparound service – from business premises of all sizes, to startup finance, to networking events and practical business advice. We help want-to-be entrepreneurs to start and grow.

Our team at the Causeway Enterprise Agency really understands the needs of the startup business owner.   When it comes to the needs of a startup, one size does not fit all.  We know that women have different aspirations for their business, and we try to create an environment where women can be at their ease and can meet and learn from other like-minded female business owners.


You’re an inspiration to the many businesses that you support locally.  What led you to your current role?

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment when I knew this was what I was cut out for!  At school, I studied the subjects that I liked and I found myself drawn towards business.  I started work at the Causeway Enterprise Agency after my postgrad in Marketing, and have grown with the organisation ever since. Right now, I think our biggest asset is our team.  We are committed and flexible, and everyone takes real pride in the achievements of our client businesses.


For a new business startup, what three top tips can you offer?

  1. Follow your passion. You need resilience and tenacity to build and grow your business. When the going gets tough, you’ll need to feel a real passion and commitment for what it is that you do.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Someone else has always had the same problem that you’re experiencing, or has tried out the approach that you’re thinking of trying.  Building up a support network will be one of the most important things that you can do.
  3. Network, network, network. Your network can be an important source of referrals to your business, and can also be a great source of positive ideas.  Being in business for yourself can be lonely, so get connected and build up those relationships.