Public speaking, presentation, and communication coaching and training for professionals and businesses

Spending more time worrying about your speech than working on it?
Sign up for my newsletter and get a free download for strategies and techniques to vanquish your nervousness! Plus, you'll get my latest articles and announcements I only send by email.
I pledge to be 100% spam-free. You can unsubscribe at any time.

CLASS ANNOUNCMENT: Registration for the Winter 2015 Group Class Public Speaking for Beginners and the Truly Terrified is OPEN!

This year I am running two classes of my 8 session public speaking course. This challenging fun, intensive course will enable you to overcome your anxiety, unleash your voice, and create presentations that will capture your audience's attention.

The Tuesday class meets every two weeks from January 26 to April 26, and the Wednesday class meets every two weeks from January 20 to April 20.

Make 2016 the year you finally become the speaker you need to be! Register online now!

Click here to register for the TUESDAY class

Click here to register for the WEDNESDAY class

Full course descriptions are on the registration pages. You can also contact me at 780-966-2401 to register over the phone.

Have questions? Call me at 780-966-2401. I'm happy to discuss your speaking goals and class details!

Lauren's Blog

Thoughts, insights and ramblings on communication, public speaking, and what makes our work and businesses tick

Equivocation in the wake of Charlottesville

Equivocation in the wake of Charlottesville

It’s called “equivocation.”

What Trump was doing in those two press conferences since Charlottesville – the rhetoric he’s using is called equivocation.

Equivocation is a logical fallacy that uses vague language to hide meaning or to avoid committing to a point of view or stance. You see it used frequently in politics when a politician is trying to appeal to everybody, or – more frequently (and most certainly in this case) – afraid of upsetting a significant number of their supporters.

It also allows the equivocator to avoid counterarguments, to dance around hard questions like “was it terrorism” without giving a committed response.

Let’s look at just a couple of examples from the August 15th press conference*:

“There was terrible violence. On many sides. On many sides.”  Equivocation.

“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now.” Equivocation.

“So, this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder is it George Washington next week and is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?” More equivocation, with a side of slippery slope fallacy thrown in for good measure.

Equivocation waters down statements made about a specific issue. By talking about violent acts coming from the counter-protesters in the same breath as those coming from the alt-right, it lets him avoid the real subject: that the rally and its resulting violence were driven by the organized actions of white supremacists.

Some of his equivocations centered on who was perpetrating the violence. Others were attempts to create uncertainty about the real point of the rally, namely the comments regarding the statue of Robert E. Lee. Recognize statements like these for what they are: misdirections and clumsy red herrings thrown out to lure our attention away from what really matters.

Trump’s brand of equivocation also seeks to absolve or diminish the actions of one group by pointing the finger at someone else and chanting, school-boyish, “see, but they’re doing it too!” It’s like a five-year-old tattling “Bently hit me!” after he first pushed Bently over and kicked sand in the kid’s face.

Trump and his mouthpieces will attempt to hide these equivocations by saying that he’s just telling the truth, looking at facts, or – to steal the tagline of one of Trump’s preferred sources of infotainment – presenting the “fair and balanced” view.

You don’t need to equivocate to look at both sides of a story, to tell the truth, or to look at facts. You don’t need to absolve one group of inappropriate or harmful actions to condemn another. With situations like this, it’s important to keep the focus where it belongs, clearly, plainly, and with absolute sincerity.** And in this case, with the abundance of videos evidence of what was going on at this event, it is very clear where our focus should be.

Within politics, equivocation is the tactic of cowards and deceivers. It’s the slippery way out, the easy road when a leader’s beliefs, fears, or position makes the hard path too intimidating to stomach. Sometimes it’s a difficult tactic to spot. In this situation, however, it stood at a podium and brayed angrily for all the world to see.

So see it, and recognize it for what it is.


*Click here to read a full transcript of the press conference.

**That was a big strike against Trump’s August 14th statement. His distinct personal style and habit of saying whatever pops into his head (along with the pride he takes in his undisciplined speeches) makes it painfully obvious when he’s reading something prepared for him by his staffers…and even more obvious when he doesn’t really buy what he’s reading.

News, Developments, and Upcoming Talks/Events

  • See me in action at Nerd Nite November 26 at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, AB! How To Lose Friends and Manipulate People: The Fine Art of Bamboozlement (title may change depending on my caprice). Click here for ticket information and to learn more about Nerd Nite.
  • Currently in development - my online digital course "Masterpiece Presentations: Your step-by-step method for creating high-impact presentations"

Category Archives: Skill development

The Top 5 Public Speaking Sins

The Top 5 Public Speaking Sins

Photo credit: WilliamMarlow via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA


I know you’ve been there – sitting in an audience listening to a speaker and wondering “Why am I listening to this and when is it going to end?”

Such is the agony of sitting through a terrible speech.  But what makes a speech terrible? This is something I get asked a lot. Differences in taste and preferences means that one person’s god-awful speaker could be someone else’s guru, but there are a few key sins that can kill just about any speech. Here’s a list of the things I consider especially egregious. Read, my friends, read and learn so that you do not commit these sins yourself:


1. Giving a talk that has nothing to do with its title

Well, the title said “Upcoming Trends for Online Marketing,” but it really ended up being about the speaker’s business training course.

Giving a talk that’s not related to its title is the speaker’s equivalent of a bait-and-switch.2 If someone’s decided to spend their time listening to you speak, you’d better deliver the topic that was promised or else you risk annoying and confusing your audience. Speak on what you promised to speak about.


2. Not having a clearly defined message

I have no idea what that talk was about.

Your entire speech should hang on a clearly defined message – a key takeaway that the audience can pick up on quickly and remember easily. Everything in your speech should support and build on that message. I’m militant about this, because not having a super clear, concise message is one of the fastest routes to Wandering Topic Syndrome and confusing speeches. It’s also a slippery path towards committing sin #1.


3. Making it all about you

Me, myself, right? And then I and then myself and then me. Meee. MEEE!3

Personal stories are important. They help you and your audience connect. But there comes a point when you should move on and switch from talking about you to talking about your audience. Going on with personal story after personal story and never really getting to some kind of actionable, audience-centered point is going to make you seem completely self-absorbed. I’ve seen some horrendous examples of me-focused, navel gazing speakers (one involved the speaker making a “spontaneous” phone call from the stage to prove how awesomely connected they were with Big Important People. UGH).

A speaker’s platform is not a venue for therapy or self-aggrandizement. If the speaker is making it all about themselves, it come across as though they neither know nor care about their audience. Make it about them.


4. Reading from your notes or slides

I don’t need you to read it for me. I know how to read.

This sin is why I discourage people from memorizing their speech, bringing up extensive notes, or putting too many words on their slides. You can’t engage your audience if you’re staring at a piece of paper or a slideshow.

Click to Tweet: You can’t engage your audience if you’re staring at a piece of paper or a slideshow. #presentationskills #publicspeaking

If you come up with long, extensive notes, I will guarantee that your eyeballs will be drawn irresistibly to that page and you’ll revert to reading mode. The same thing goes for text-heavy slides. I’ve seen internationally lauded professors on the pop lecture circuit commit this crime as often as speech neophytes. Free yourself of the temptation of reading and avoid this sin by using only the sparsest of speaker notes and extremely limited text on your slides.


5. Going overtime

Do we really need to talk about going overtime? YES! This happens with astonishing frequency! Going overtime throws the event agenda off, steals time from other speakers, and deprives the audience of their transition times and bathroom breaks. It also makes you appear unpolished and unprepared. The only way to avoid this sin is practice, practice, practice your talk, timer in hand, and then ruthlessly edit if you find yourself consistently going over time. Have your timing down cold and always leave a buffer in case there is an interruption or you mess up a bit of your timing. Did your talk get cut short because the person before you went over time? Then you need to adjust your talk so you still end according to your original time slot. Know what pieces of content (stories, examples, slides, etc) you can skip or gloss over in case you find yourself with a shortened speech time.4


Most of these mistakes may seem obvious, but they’re easy to commit if you don’t spend enough time creating, practicing, and rehearsing your talk. Speaking is a craft, and you need to have a craftsman’s attention to detail if you are going to perform with polish and ease.


  1. I’ve committed every last one of these sins, by the way. I don’t know any speaker who hasn’t.
  2. I find this happens most often when the speaker is attempting to sell from the stage. Typically, they rapidly veer off their promised topic and on to how their latest offering is going to solve all your ills. Lip service may be paid to the original topic, but it tends to be shallow and never really addresses the subject promised in the title. It’s infuriating.
  3. Hat tip to Vince Poscente for making me aware of that clip. It makes me laugh until my sides hurt every time I see it.
  4. This is a skill worth practicing. I often have to adjust my content on the fly because of variances in the event agenda. Being able to adapt and adjust at the last minute can save you a lot of grief and make you look really good to event organizers.

This resolution is pure fun!

Happy 2017, everyone! My New Year’s Eve was relatively sedate. We spent the afternoon with a group of our friends, and after dinner I bundled my little ones home to get them to bed on time, and then sent my husband back to our friends’ place to continue the festivities (he definitely deserved a night… Continue Reading

The Practice Rant

The Practice Rant

  The secret isn’t innate confidence. It isn’t a good slide deck, either. It’s not positive, pre-show affirmations. It’s not killer quotes, “life changing” stories, or hilarious content. It definitely isn’t picturing your audience in their underwear.* The above all play a part in great presentations (with the exception of the underwear visualization), but they… Continue Reading

Spending more time worrying about your speech than working on it?
Sign up for my newsletter and get a free download for strategies and techniques to vanquish your nervousness! Plus, you'll get my latest articles and announcements I only send by email.
I pledge to be 100% spam-free. You can unsubscribe at any time.