Back to school

Back to school

Earlier this year, I went back to school. Kind of.


I had the pleasure and honour of spending an evening with York University students and alumni. It’s the Alumni Office’s newest experience called “Mentors Circle.”

Some massive reflection moments as I walked through York Lanes which looks much different. I’m now one of ‘those people’ that says “back in my day they never had this here. … “. This doesn’t make me old. It makes me … experienced!


I received an incredibly warm welcome from the planning team and had a chance to share more about my York U experience, career path, life and leadership lessons.


Of the many things we discussed, I’d like to share one with you. Maybe there’s something here that might resonate and support your personal and professional growth.


Parm’s 6Ps of Speaking

I was asked “What strategies and tips have you used to help overcome any nerves that you may feel before or during a talk? Some students may find some of these tips useful for any class presentations?” Here’s what works for me:



I write out bullet points of what I’m talking about so that I can get familiar with the language I’m using. I tend to keep my notes handy during any talk or facilitation experience, so that if I miss something, I can always check back and recover. Ultimately this allows me to be fully present, without having to memorize – knowing that if I get stuck, I have my cheat sheet 😁.



I practice saying the words aloud and also in my head. Back and forth between aloud and in my head. I’ll repeat this multiple times, depending on how long the talk is.


I also tweak my message as I practice, knowing that I might find better language as I talk through my points.



Once I’ve prepared and practiced enough, it’s then time to turn on the ‘Parm Charm’ and perform.


Full transparency – I get nervous before ANY talk, facilitation, presentation or coaching session. But I also know that once I’m warmed up, then I’m good to go!


I do my best not to think about whether I’m going to forget my words or stumble. Because I know I will. And that’s because once I’m warmed up, I’m excited, I’m pumped … and my brain starts working faster than my mouth. Being able to slow my talking speed down helps.


LESSON LEARNED: There’s two lessons about public speaking that I’ve learned and they’re the opposite of each other. Sometimes if feeling nervous or if something doesn’t go quite right, it’s ok to call it out and let the audience know. This is one way to show vulnerable leadership. The opposite is to not let the audience know about any nerves or if something doesn’t go quite right.


I’ll let you decide which works best for you – or perhaps a mix of both.


When it comes to PERFORM there are three other Ps I try to keep in mind:



Pitch variance is important. This means speaking at a higher or lower pitch depending on what I’m saying.


3.2 PACE

Pace is all about the rate of speech. Slowing down helps emphasize a point. Speeding up communicates a sense of excitement and passion.



This I’m still working on. The power of the pause. Silence, when used strategically is powerful! This invites others to be introspective and think through what’s just been shared. Just when I think I’ve been silent for too long, I’ll pause for another second or two.


Pausing also helps me gather my thoughts as I move on to the next set of points.


This is all a work in progress. Putting language and organization to this entire process helps me perform better and allows me to tweak certain areas as I reflect back on a particular talk, facilitation or coaching experience. This framework helps me show up with full intention and on purpose, not on accident!


Consider using this approach for your next presentation, board meeting, speech or keynote.


How do you prepare for a speech, talk or presentation?




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