Public Speaking Masterclass

So, this week I was invited down to London to present for Microsoft on the topic of “being a Mum and running a business”.

They asked me to share my top tips for juggling home and business. Specifically, how can a working parent fit it all in to one day?

I’m not sure I’m an expert on the topic by any means but Microsoft had hired a specially decorated Routemaster bus for the occasion, decked out to celebrate the launch of a new cloud-based version of Office for home users. And they’d invited lots of speakers to make presentations about how they use technology in their everyday lives.

A presentation on a bus? How could I say no?

I should also mention the presentation was one of Microsoft’s ‘Ignite’ talks – these are short, 5-minute presentations based on 20 slides, which each display for 15 seconds.

See, you hear something like that and think, “Five minutes? Pfft. No problem.”  I do a lot of public speaking and 5 minutes is pretty short and sweet. No problemo, right? 

Being a typical working parent, I obviously made my presentation at 11pm the night before. And then wrote some notes on the train down to London yesterday morning. I find I’m at my most creative when in a last-minute panic.

So I arrived at Leicester Square at 12pm, ready to get on the bus.

No bus.

Turns out the bus had broken down somewhere near Buckingham Palace and the Microsoft PR team was in full-on crisis mode. Everyone was herded into a hastily-secured pub, only to find the pub couldn’t allow filming, so we were moved to the rather swanky St Martins Hotel instead, which did allow filming.

Now, I don’t do brilliantly being filmed. So I squeaked: “Filming? Pardon? Someone’s filming this?” 

“Not really,” the PR person reassured me. “We’ll be streaming it live on the Internet and then we’ll edit it later and put it online.” 

Oh. That’s better, then.

So, that was the moment I realised I probably should have rehearsed my presentation a bit more. Or at least rehearsed it once.

Still, there were other presenters and they were all nervous, and I was told I was second on the line-up, so at least I’d get to watch someone else suffer first.

We went into the presentation room and I quickly realised who was presenting immediately before me.

Tess Daly.

Tall, glamorous, professional TV presenter Tess Daly.

She was brilliant. All natural smiles in the direction of the camera and off-the-cuff insights into her celebrity life as she shook her perfect highlighted curls. Oh, and she was wearing leather trousers and killer heels.

And I was following that.

I’ve never hated anyone more. (Sorry, Tess)

I was called up to present, and the next five minutes went by in a blur of blind terror – let me tell you, 15 seconds per slide is not enough time to read the stupid, pointless notes. You really do just have to wing it.

And that’s why my presentation kicked off with me calling Gwyneth Paltrow ‘rubbish’ and went on to include references to accidentally punching my child in the face, the importance of quality time with your kids “so you can neglect them later and they won’t mind so much” and – the pinnacle of my public speaking career – urging the audience to go and Google ‘monkey porn’.


But, there’s a silver lining.

Ahead of the presentation, I asked Flea what tips she thought I should pass on for other Mums who work. What did she think I was good at?

“You’re good at computers,” Flea said. “But you’re awesome at love.”

If only I could have stretched that t0 20 slides and five minutes, I think that might have been the perfect presentation right there. But since I couldn’t, here are the tips I did share:

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