The secret to successful public speaking

Tuxedo black and white cat Skye /
When I wake up each morning, these sweet, beautiful eyes greet me.

Everything about this little face speaks the comforts of home…

Safe. Calm. Unconditional love. Acceptance.

The first sunbeam of the day casts a welcoming glow against my safely tucked in feet, still buried underneath the covers. Not one mistake has been made yet, for the day hasn’t even begun. 

But when you put those two same feet on a stage in front of a microphone, the security blanket changes to one of chance. 

Will you be accepted? Helpful? Even admired, perhaps?

When I walked onto the stage at the Fraser Valley Women’s Expo this weekend, I glanced at the audience.

In the past when on stage, my hands use to shake. I would nervously laugh, forget some words, and wrestle with my demo materials that refused to cooperate. I use to have pages of written notes to help me along in case I lost my way.

Tuxedo black and white cat Skye with a rustic gate headboard and twig wreath /
But this weekend, not one scary face greeted me. Friendly, kind smiles, feeling as familiar as family, sat before me, waiting to hear whatever I wished to share.

Accepting. Curious. Interested.

And not a shake in the hand was had, nor quiver in the voice was felt.

I had 5 words written down for an hour’s talk. Five WORDS. My my… how things have changed.

While I’ll never claim to be a professional speaker, I do believe I found what makes speaking completely effortless.

Facing your fears more than once is a certainty.

But moreso? You just need to believe in what you’re talking about.

My tutorial was on different methods of making old signs. I demonstrated the carbon paper / computer print out method, and then explained the difference between a decal and a decal stencil.

But then something changed. It was like the tap turned on high and my disbelief mixed with gratitude in what I was talking about sprung to life. 

Here’s where I’m coming from….

In the past, when I made an old sign, it took me hours. HOURS. My stairs? I can’t even count the hours.

I love making old signs on stuff. But every time I sat in front of the computer to create a new stencil decal, I didn’t want to do it.

I’d delay the process terribly, because I just really hated all the prep work involved. I’m not sure where my intense dislike of working with decals came from… but it’s there. And it’s real. I guess working with them for 22 years will do that to you.

So when stencils entered the picture, I still needed to produce decal stencils to create a ‘draft’ for my projects.

Fine! I did that. I did that for my Christmas arrow sign, and I’d be doing it for countless others.

But then something happened that changed everything.

My cutter broke down.

It wasn’t even two years old and now I needed expensive repairs?! And for what? I left my sign job last summer…

But I went ahead and ordered the parts anyway, because it’s the best way to test out new designs.

This was pretty unsettling, because I was building a new store with a deadline for a show. I mean, seriously…

So during that downtime, I ordered stencils so I could make some stuff.

When the box arrived, it felt like Christmas morning! But I still felt intimidated. Stencils in this way were relatively foreign to me. But the ice seemed to break upon seeing my own label on them, as if they were saying, “We ARE a part of this after all… go for it!”

You have NO idea how many failures I’d have to endure next. Countless. The paint would bleed, the lines weren’t crisp. It was ‘not’ like working with a decal stencil at all.

Pouting and frustrated, I questioned my direction. 

But when the most recent batch of stencils arrived for the show, I challenged them. I was gonna figure out their secret to working flawlessly, since no one else seemed to have my issues!

So I tried something different. 

This time, I made sure my loaded paint brush was DRY DRY DRY to the touch, then started stencilling.

It took more effort. I worked that brush and just willed it to work out… and I wasn’t going to stop until it did.

But I need not have worried.

The secret to stencilling / crate with farmers market stencil
The secret to stencilling / crate with farmers market stencil
Holding my breath, I lifted the stencil…

and the image…



I’ve heard the secret (dry brush) to good stencilling over and over. But until I discovered it in my ‘language’, I didn’t get it. But I do now.

And then the old sign floodgates sprung open and I couldn’t use them fast enough.

Success. Each and every time. Route 66 and Bingo were both equally very good to me. 

And just in time. For when I was talking about those very stencils, the relief and success and everything in between all came out. I was speaking with complete conviction, believing every word I delivered.

I had a helper come up with me on stage to help prove my point. I stencilled one side and she did the other. She followed my advice to an absolute T.

And the result…



Tuxedo black and white cat Skye with a rustic gate headboard and twig wreath /
When you truly, TRULY believe in what you’re talking about, and you truly believe you are helping others with their quest, public speaking becomes dead easy. 

The secret to successful public speaking is, simply put, delivering your deep down, passionate truth.

What a shame if those feet safely tucked under those covers never surfaced!

And I’m not saying that the world just tilted on its axis because of stencils… well, for some it did. πŸ™‚

What I AM saying is… we all have something significant to offer others. And your wealth will never be discovered if you play it safe underneath the security of your covers.

You will be scared at first. And maybe even flounder over time.

But one day, you’ll get up there, and pour your heart out the only way you know how.

Your cold feet will, very simply put.. take flight.

Where can your feet fly you today?

Funky Junk Interiors Old Sign Stencils Store.02 PM

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Categories: Career building, Inspiration
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30 thoughts on “The secret to successful public speaking

  1. Thank you and I completely agree. I’m speaking this weekend -sharing a new concept, Raising quail in the backyard, an alternative to chickens. Last year I started raising this little bird which led to opportunity. Inspiring others and getting them excited about doing something for themselves inspires me. I get what you’re saying and it’s true when you have a heart for what you’re sharing the words follow. I believe that’s when God shows up and takes over. this was helpful…

    You’re one of my favorite bloggers and I enjoy your honesty. Thank you for setting a great example. I’m inspired!


  2. thanks for sharing & inspiring!

    Your honesty reminds me that even though everything looks beautiful on your site that you may have struggled or tried something more than once. I know parts of my business come easier than others…your email is a reminder to keep at the stuff that is a challenge. I would imagine it can produce the biggest reward.

    • Oh Jane, I really should share a few more failures then… because most things don’t turn out! πŸ™‚ That’s just life though I think. Seeing past ‘all the mistakes’ of every day and focusing on the good is just a more fun place to hang out. πŸ™‚

  3. Dear Donna,
    I have to admit that while I am not a true “junker”, I am drawn to your blog because of your open heart to share feelings, emotions, questions and oppositions that could be my own. I appreciate the way you face these, all with trial and error but also determination and in the end, you share the positive attitude that makes you a not only a successful blogger and speaker, but the ability to enjoy the life you have. Thank you.

  4. Public speaking ranks up there for most people. It’s awesome you’ve overcome it. I think the fear subsides when you’re confident…when you really know what you’re talking about, and honey you’re an expert on this sign thing. I felt empowered reading today’s post. I’m gonna make me a sign. Hee hee.

    • Haha, well I’m glad it worked!

      I never would have thought I’d be ok with speaking. Just goes to show, anything can be overcome I suppose!

      So glad I could inspire you today!

  5. There you go AGAIN. Breaking me down like an box ready to be recycled. Thank you so much for cutting through the hard stuff in a way that makes new opportunities seem possible and more importantly, do-able.

  6. Thanks for this article! Your story could not have come at a more perfect time. I recently quit a full time job to pursue more public speaking and writing endeavors. I love that you said, Believe in what you are talking about”! How true!Love your blog and the things you share from your heart!

      • It’s really not a new direction, I’m just focusing on it more these days. No official training- as in a classroom setting. I started very young teaching bible studies and youth classes in the church and found out that I loved teaching things to people and watching them grow.Writing bible studies and inspirational articles came easy for me so I used my own work to teach women’s groups. The last 11 years I worked for the University of Kentucky teaching 4- H youth Leadership skills,Economics,Science and Public Speaking. I learned as much as the kids!- and UK did some training classes for me along the way. I have since left the University to pursue more writing and speaking on my own. I have a passion for re-purposing, so I speak mostly on not only recycling things, but giving our lives a new purpose as well.(at times I combine them) Long story short God has given me the gift of gab and plenty of experiences to share! I just decided that now is the time to listen to my heart and use what God has given me!Speaking comes natural for me, and I know if God wants it said… he will provide me the tools and opportunity. Sounds like your passion speaks for you and that is the most important element in being a successful speaker!

  7. Such good advice Donna! I remember when I had to give tours at MacKenzie-Childs Factory, and I never spoke in public and was terrified. So beforehand I studied the script, but it just seemed to be words. I began to go around the factory and actually watch the process, talk to the workers and asked them how they did things, how long the process took, how many items they could do in a week and so on, and then when I took tours around I was able to actually speak from my own experiences and realized that my tour was hanging on every word and it became easier and easier. So what you say about talking from your heart and from your own experiences does make public speaking easier!
    Thank you for a great article!

  8. As I read this, I am so smiling at your beautiful baby!…..My hubby does a lot of public speaking…he always had done this…I used to ask him in school why he wasn’t the least bit nervous….he said that when you speak of something that you are passionate and knowledgeable about, speak the truth, it comes easy….and this seems to be the same for you…I have seen you demonstrate your passion of your craft and you are definitely a natural…I am sure you wowed them at the expo!!

  9. I’m not the least bit surprised that your speaking engagement/sign making engagement was a huge hit! I really believe it’s all about having passion and confidence in the subject matter. Thanks Donna for always being so candid with your your challenges.

  10. Donna, I could not agree with you MORE! Taking the stage to share something you are passionate about and that can help others is a joy, and a gift. You are so right about passion driving away fear…. when it comes from your heart, it’s not scary at all. I’m headed to Seattle in a few days to speak at a conference for retailers, and I’ll be thinking of you while there! πŸ˜‰

  11. Good Morning!
    What a great morning read and I especially appreciated the end about helping others and doing and sharing the passionate truth! Thank you for this post Donna!

    • Ah Carrie, it was so great connecting at the show! You are a large part of this post today. When you said, “You’re so passionate about this!” to me, it really struck a cord. I hadn’t even ‘heard’ myself fully until you said that. πŸ™‚ And you were dead on right! Now go forth and stencil my friend… I can’t wait to peek in to see what you create… πŸ™‚

  12. Great subject. I have to get up in front of people and perform a service (I am a Justice of the Peace). At first I was afraid but I truly love doing this and I guess it shows now. LOVE the picture of the kitty!!!!

  13. Good Morning Donna
    I had no doubt you were a great success at the FV Women’s Expo. I wish I could have made it up there to meet you, but prior commitments prevented it.
    Maybe sometime if you come to Abbotsford. I live across the river in Mission. Good Luck on every new adventure you have. I know you’ll be a hit.
    Fellow Fraser Valleyite (?) Carol K.

  14. So true! I used to think I would have a heart attack right there on stage but like you said, when I talked with something I knew and was passionate about it made all the difference!
    Thanks for sharing!

  15. What you describe is exactly how I council others about speaking in public. The WORST thing for building nerves, especially for an inexperienced speaker, is to have too many notes or having a script to read. That’s broadcasting, not speaking. It isolates the speaker from the audience, which is exactly the opposite of what we hope to achieve. Programs and presentations are at their best when the speaker knows their subject, and does what they can to TEACH the audience.

  16. As always, your inspiring message rings true…we all have something to give to the world, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us, it may actually be a huge help to someone else! And you are soooooo bang-on regarding public speaking, too…it was something I always hated because I feared it, but I think I was complicating things too much and that is what stressed me out about the experience. The minute I let go of the endless notes that I would create as a crutch, something in me clicked…throwing away that crutch allowed me to stand on my own and just be me…and I found that “me” was more than good enough, surprisingly!

    And again, your willingness to share the mistakes along with the successes is a big part of the reason I find you sooooooo inspiring! Not a lot of people are able to do that…they don’t want the world knowing they are less than perfect…but I find what they have to say sometimes rings hollow. Your messages always get through to my very core because they are real and workable in my life…I can see that because you show us how workable they are in your life! Thank you sooooooo very much for always being such an encouraging and inspirational force and for keeping it real…*YOU* are a treasure and *YOU* are appreciated beyond words! Just wanted you to know!

  17. A very timely post Donna, thanks! I had to do a presentation in one of my college classes this week and I posted about my fear of public speaking. One of my readers…who obviously is one of your readers…left a comment with a link to this post.
    It does help greatly when talking about something you are passionate about. My presentation happened to be something class related that I’m not that into, lol.
    When I do my furniture painting workshops I’m able to talk easily about the subject.
    On the subject of stenciling, I learned the dry, dry, dry, brush technique long ago and have been sharing it with my readers. I also move the brush in circular motion instead of “pouncing”.
    Sorry for the long comment.

    • Wow, what timing indeed! I’ve talked about something I wasn’t into before and it was haaaard. Lots of notes. Not this round so I guess it works!

      Thanks for the tips on the stencilling too!

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