30 Jan 22 / Blog

The Art of Public Speaking: Emma Mullen-Marmion and Conor Houston

For many of us, there comes a time in our career when our speaker presence become key to unlocking opportunity both personally and professionally.

Northern Ireland has a wide range of business people whose speaker presence commands trust and connection every time they stand up to speak.

From politicians to sports stars, CEOs and entrepreneurs, they are people who thrive on national and international stages by working hard to hone their speaker presence.

Today, in part three of our four-part series, ‘The Art of Public Speaking’, we’re speaking with two of Northern Ireland’s most engaging presenters, Emma Mullen-Marmion (Director, Emerald HR) and Conor Houston (Director, Houston Solutions).

Each speaker has a wealth of experience in public speaking, and each has worked hard to culitvate an authentic speaker presence.

“I’m not daunted by public speaking, because it’s all in how I prepare.” – Conor Houston, Director, Houston Solutions.

The thought of standing up on stage or in front of a camera to deliver a presentation or speech fills many people with dread.

But Conor Houston isn’t one of those people.

“I’m not someone who is daunted by public speaking,” Conor explains.

However, he says that’s because he has some rules.

“Firstly, I need to prepare,” he says. “Any occasion I’m speaking publicly, I take time to research and think about how to make my message relevant to the audience I’m speaking with.”

“It’s not about what I want to say, but what I want the audience to take away.”

“Passion, authenticity and empathy are critical to connecting with your audience,” he insists.

“Everyone has their story. And everyone has their unique voice and way of being in the world – so use it,” he adds.

Watch Conor in action in his TEDxDerryLondonderry talk, ‘Connected Citizens’.

“Own your voice to develop your speaker presence.” – Emma Mullen-Marmion, Director, Emerald HR.

Emma says her first piece of advice for Northern Ireland business people interested in developing their publci speaking skills is to own their voice.

“Often I hear people say, “I hate the sound of my voice”, Emma explains.

But she says as a first step, she finds it helpful to record herself, watch it back, and pick out all the good bits.

“Enjoy listening to your voice,” she advises.

“As you do, your confidence grows, and you’ll want to be heard.”

“Believe you have a message that is worth hearing.”

“Often people say to me, “sure, why would they listen to me? “But everyone has a story to share, and everyone can learn from it.”

“And you have to believe it or others won’t,” she insists.

“And breathe.”

Emma says she does a lot of breathing work every day to help with her speaker presence.

“It may sound simple, but breathing allows you time to connect between your voice and your brain,” she elaborates.

“It slows down your speech, it slows your thinking, it controls the fight/flight response and slows you down.”

According to Emma, slow breathing gives her audience time to hear and process what’s she is saying.

As with anything in life, the more you do it, the better you get.

And for Emma, the uncomfortable has become comfortable over time and helps her speak eloquently and authoritatively.

“I actually enjoy giving speeches now,” she says. “Don’t be afraid of silence.”

“Space and silence allow your audience to digest what you say,” Emma continues.

“Speaker presence is about connecting with your audience.”

“I don’t imagine them naked or any such thing; I connect with the fact that everyone I speak to is a mum, dad, daughter, son, or friend.

“They go to the gym just like you, will make the dinner just like you, and will go to sleep just like you.

“They are like you, and you’re just telling a story, so normalise everyone and speak.”

“Practice,” Emma continues. “Like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

“Keep speaking every day. Record and challenge yourself to speak to bigger audiences.

“The bigger the audience, the more your confidence grows,” she adds.

Bespoke Communications offers public speaking courses in Northern Ireland, and virtually on Teams, Zoom or the platform of your choice.

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our other blog posts here.

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