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Barbara Warren
Smarter Writer

Barbara has worked with the Telstra Business Awards as the speech coach for nine years.

Barbara Warren
Smarter Writer

Barbara has worked with the Telstra Business Awards as the speech coach for nine years.

  • Keep it simple – ensure that what you say matters and reflects who you are.
  • Practice makes perfect – writing a great speech is only half the battle, rehearsing is key to delivering it. 
  • Manage your nerves by focusing on your breathing.

Business leaders give great speeches, and the Telstra Business Awards finalists are no exception thanks to the tips, tricks and non-negotiables they are taught during the program.

Whether you're accepting an award for your growing business, inspiring your team or pitching to a client, these key learnings can be the secret to wowing the room.

There are many tips, tricks and non-negotiables for a successful speech.
2017 Telstra Business Award Winner, Hana-Lia Krawchuk, founder of Love To Dream™, urges aspiring business owners to dream big.


  1. All presentations and speeches are ‘performance’. Not in any artificial sense, but rather in acknowledging the sense of occasion and lifting your skills to meet the moment.
  2. Preparation and rehearsal should be a non-negotiable part of the speaker’s process.
  3. Know the answer to “why you, why your company?” and translate this into a great sound bite!
  4. Passionately pursue your objectives by crafting memorable stories.
  5. Create impact and meaning.


  1. Before you do anything else with your speech preparation, identify your fundamental intention and always be clear about your objectives.
  2. Understand the importance of diaphragmatic breathing for all speaking contexts. The undeniable excitement of winning an award will lift you up and take you to all sorts of places in the moment. Proper use of breath will empower appropriate physiology and vocal technique. 
  3. Your body tells a story, but is it the story you are actually attempting to say?  Maximise your physicality, strive for a strong presence that is congruent with your words.
  4. Words are powerful. Communication must be precise. Rehearse your opening lines every time. Rehearsal doesn't take away your ability to seize on a moment, or ad lib from  something said in the MC’s the introduction. Every speaker should always have a couple of well-constructed opening lines to set up their intention.
  5. No matter how complacent or detached we think audiences might be becoming, it is completely up to a speaker to invest in quality communication every time they speak. Your presence in front of any audience should be about  facilitating alertness, flexibility and responsiveness. This allows control via a balance of both expressed and assimilated energies.
  6. ‘Relationship’ is a guiding principle of all effective communication. Indeed acknowledging relationship is to acknowledge the common ground of any forum where people gather. If the audience is incorporated and invited to have an experience during a speech, then everyone wins!

Non- negotiables

Always Be Prepared: The most common misconception on speech-giving is that you will sound stilted or insincere if your speech is prepared before an actual win. The ethos of the Telstra Awards is about celebrating success, so it is incumbent on all speakers to present in the language of celebration, to share positive stories, to employ words that are affirming, inclusive and uplifting, and that capture the essence of the business story. To do this well, there must be preparation.  Every speaker should know their stories of service, values, innovation, strength, courage, evolution, history, and success. 

Craft a Meaningful Rehearsal Process: It is amazing how much time, effort and energy is expended on developing the content of a speech while the best mechanisms for delivery are ignored or relegated to an unnecessary step.  Speech preparation should never be reduced to an obligation. Rehearsal and spontaneity go hand in hand, and paradoxically the more you know your material and how you want it to land in the room, the more you can be spontaneous.

Be a great storyteller! Like any theatrical performance, a speech will have a beginning, middle and an end. This is a basic structure, and the success of this format sits with its proven simplicity. Developing a language of achievement and framing such success in ways that are immediately accessible to any audience will allow for greater appreciation of your story.  Know your theme.  What comes to mind when someone hears your name?

Learn to manage nerves: It might sound simplistic, but the best way to work through nervous energy is by taking deep breaths. To convey any information with impact, you need to be the most powerful conduit for your message. Nervous energy will derail effectiveness. It may feel laborious and perfunctory to spend a lot of time concentrating on breathing, but the privilege of breathing is never lost on me!

Show humility no matter what your success: This is still an endearing quality to most audiences.  Good communication equals good manners and good manners will never go out of style!

Keep the message simple: Less will always be more.  Simply ensure that what you say truly matters, reflects who you are and is delivered from the heart.

Above all else, enjoy!

Barbara Warren has worked with the Telstra Business Awards as the speech coach for nine years. Her role is to coach all the extraordinary State and Territory finalists and explore the creative skills required to articulate their stories and achieve impact and connectivity. Barbara’s practical approach is drawn from her own experience as a small business owner, over 20 years’ experience in the corporate world, and more than 25 years as a performing arts practitioner. This multi-discipline frame of reference investigates communication from both a delivery and content perspective. All aspects of the presentation skills work she delivers promotes imagination, authentic connection, crafting compelling content and having a clear focus on speaking objectives and benefits.

*Originally published November 10th 2017. Updated June 22nd 2018.

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