Category Archives: preparation

Lessons from Hosting the Scottish EDGE Final

Mel Sherwood EDGE10

If you had an opportunity to compere the final of the UK’s largest funding competition, how would you feel? If you’re like most people, including me, you may feel a little daunted by the prospect!

The Scottish EDGE final takes place twice a year and is an eagerly anticipated event in the entrepreneurial calendar. Held at RBS Conference Centre in Gogarburn and attended by 600 people across the course of the event, audiences this round saw twenty promising entrepreneurs pitch their businesses plans to an expert panel of judges in order to win a slice of a £1.3 million prize pot.

I’ve been involved with the EDGE in some way or another since the first round 4 years ago. I’ve run pitch workshops for applicants and have personally coached more than 30 EDGE, Young EDGE and Wildcard EDGE winners who have secured more than £1.25 million between them. So I was absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to host the Round 10 final.

Having sat through most of the EDGE finals I was aware that the host has a massive duty to keep the energy and momentum up throughout the day for the benefit of the entrepreneurs who are pitching as well as for the audience.

With that kind of responsibility on my shoulders, I was keen to do a good job in the role and ensure it was engaging, informative and entertaining. I pitched some ideas to Scottish EDGE CEO, Evelyn McDonald, and COO, Steven Hamill, who embraced my suggestions to increase audience engagement and Steven incorporated it into the script he kindly drafted for me. We included activities that required audience interaction such as ‘2 Truths and a Lie’ about the EDGE team which generated some laughs as we learnt more about each of them, and we asked the audience to guess the answers to questions such as ‘What is the total number of jobs EDGE winners have created?’  We also ran a competition for audience members to come up with an alternative acronym to EDGE and they came up with some crackers. Some of my favourites included ‘Everyday Delivers Grief for Entrepreneurs’, ‘Enjoying Da Gogarburn Experience’ and ‘Educating Drivers in Good Etiquette’ (you had to be there!) Incidentally, EDGE actually stands for Encouraging Dynamic Growth Entrepreneurs.

At the end of the day after seeing twenty entrepreneurs get out of their comfort zone to give their #pitchtastic pitches in front of a formidable panel and a packed auditorium, I got out of my comfort zone to wrap up the event by singing a song I wrote to capture the spirit of the EDGE. This was a bit of a challenge for me because I feel the same way about singing as many people feel about public speaking – super anxious, but thankfully it seemed to go okay!

Overall, the day went really well and there has been some great feedback, but it didn’t happen without any planning or preparation – there was a whole fabulous team of people involved in bringing it together and as the host I had to make sure I did my bit to ensure the success of the event.

Congratulations to everyone involved and to the twenty businesses who delivered such a high standard of pitches – whether you won or not, you were all absolutely #pitchtastic!

If you have the opportunity to host an event, here are some of my tips to ensure you are well prepared to ensure everything runs smoothly:

Before the day

  • Research the audience and why they are in attendance
  • Understand the event and its themes so that you can align your comments and reinforce key messages
  • Find out exactly what the organisers are expecting you to do
  • Prepare a script, or at least bullet points to ensure you cover everything that needs to be mentioned
  • Prepare some relevant anecdotes and stories you can weave in throughout the day
  • Prepare introductions for all speakers; make sure they are happy with what you will say
  • If hosting a panel, research the panel and prepare introductions and questions
  • Think through possible problems and prepare some solutions should the worst occur
  • Think about ways you may be able to interact with the audience to keep them engaged
  • Ask about the pronunciation of all names or words you are unfamiliar with (I did this for the majority and was still caught out by some slightly different to ‘normal’ pronunciation so always check every detail with the actual person you are introducing)
  • Practice what you are going to say, especially any unfamiliar words or phrases
  • Visit the venue where possible; at the very least obtain pictures so you have an idea of the set up and layout of seating, etc

On the day

  • Arrive early (I arrived just before 8am for a 9.30am start)
  • Let the organisers know you have arrived and ask if there is anything additional you should know or anything they might need you to do to help prepare for the event
  • Familiarise yourself with the space, stand on the stage, walk up any steps, check where the lectern and other props/staging might be, note where you will enter and exit the stage
  • Sit in a few different seats in the auditorium so you can see what it will be like from the audience’s perspective
  • Find out about any prepared fire alarm tests, where the toilets are, etc
  • Meet sound and lighting technician/s (they will be your best friend and ensure you are seen and heard)
  • Find out where and when you will need to get your microphone and make sure you are there at that time
  • Anticipate questions the speakers may have (e.g. how to use the slide ‘clicker’)
  • Warm up your body and voice so that you aren’t warming up on the audience’s time
  • Take a moment to prepare yourself mentally and get into the right state before the event commences

During the event

  • Start strongly and positively; remember you are setting the scene for the event
  • Stay alert and ready to adapt as required
  • Vary your voice and use open body language to ensure your delivery is engaging
  • Listen to the speakers so that you can incorporate a comment about their talk when thanking them
  • Keep to time; you may need to fill some time between speakers but remember it’s not about you so don’t go on and on leading the event to run overtime
  • Smile, be lively and enthusiastic and keep your energy up throughout the entire event

After the event

  • Thank the organisers, the tech crew and anyone else who has supported you through the event
  • Review your performance – think about what went well and what you would do differently in the future
  • Relax and recover!

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @MelSherwood_


10 Ways That Running is Similar to Public Speaking


Have you ever committed yourself to doing something without having any idea of how you were going to achieve it? I’m a big believer in saying ‘yes’ to things and working out the how later; it has served me well and given me many opportunities that I may not have had if I had stopped to think first!

With this in mind, and having recently come to the conclusion that I need to improve my fitness, I decided to commit to doing Julie Creffield’s Five Weeks to 5K run. I’ve never been very sporty; I also have an aversion to gyms and I certainly couldn’t call myself a runner by any stretch of the imagination – I had no idea whether it would be possible and but I was never going to find out if I didn’t try.

So over the past few weeks I have found myself out ‘running’ (if you can call my slow shuffle for a few minutes at a time ‘running’!) Of course, I rarely stop thinking about my work so during a recent ‘run’ I started thinking about the parallels between my running and public speaking.

Get your mindset right

I will never know if I am capable of running 5km unless I try it but I have to believe it’s possible. It’s the same with public speaking. You have to look at your beliefs about your ability to speak well in public and find a way to believe that you can. I often help clients to shatter their limiting beliefs and replace them with new positive beliefs that will allow them to move forward with their public speaking goals. If you are serious about wanting to improve your public speaking, you need to have the right mindset. Get help with this if you need to – work with a coach, speak with a trusted friend or mentor or look into hypnotherapy, EFT, resonance re-patterning or any of the many other options available to help you get your mindset right.

(By the way, I have a belief that everyone can learn to speak well in public so that means you too!)

Stretch beyond your comfort zone

I don‘t feel mentally or physically comfortable about running. The idea of what others might think about me huffing and puffing along the road with my wobbly bits wobbling makes me feel uncomfortable! Pushing my body beyond what it is used to challenges me physically. But unless I stretch beyond what is comfortable I know I’ll never improve. Many people feel that public speaking is way out of their comfort zone but unless you stretch yourself beyond what is comfortable you won’t be able to develop any further than your current level of ability.

Start small

5km is a good goal to have when you initially start running. I’ve still not run 5km without stopping but each day I try to run a bit longer and by next week I know I’ll be able to run the full distance. If I had set myself the goal of a running marathon it may have felt like too much and I would have stopped well before reaching my goal. When you’re starting your public speaking journey, start small. Your longer term goal might be to speak at a big event in front of 1,000 people, but give yourself a more attainable goal when you’re starting out. That might be delivering a 30 second pitch at a networking event, challenging yourself to speak up in a meeting, joining a public speaking club like Toastmasters International or getting yourself a coach.

Just do it!

I know will never get good at running by just thinking about it. And you will never get good public speaking by just thinking about it. Until you get out and speak in front of an audience you will never know what works and what doesn’t, you will never be able to build your confidence, develop your own style or to implement any learning. It is the actual doing of it that helps you grow and improve so stop thinking and start doing!

Enjoy the high of achieving your goals

Today I managed to run half a kilometre more than I did yesterday before stopping for a short rest; I felt a great sense of achievement and it gave me a bit of a high. When you have set yourself and achieved a small goal in relation to your public speaking, make sure you take a moment to congratulate yourself and enjoy the feeling. If you’re someone who avoids public speaking, it might surprise you to know that just like running, many people find that once they’re over the initial resistance they experience a high after public speaking as well.

Learn from experts

In the Five Weeks to 5K programme, Julie Creffield provides helpful advice and encouragement delivered directly to my inbox each week. As I get further into running I will consider hiring a coach to review my technique and help me find ways to improve. Even as an experienced speaker, I am always looking to further develop my own expertise so I read books, watch webinars and regularly work directly with experts who help me refine my skills even further. If you want to improve your running or your public speaking, learn from the experts.

Get support

As part of the Five Weeks to 5K programme, participants can join a facebook group where they can ask questions, share their challenges and encourage each other. You should do the same for public speaking; there’s only so much you can prepare in isolation, eventually you need to speak in front of people – practice your presentation in front of a supportive audience who can give you constructive feedback, help and encouragement. Choose these people wisely – sometimes your family, though they may mean well, might not be the best for this; a public speaking group is always a good option.

Warm up

Just like an athlete warms up to ensure they are in peak condition before a race, so should we warm up before a giving a presentation. With my background as a performer I never warm up on the audience’s time. As a presenter, it is your responsibility to show your audience the best possible version of yourself and ensure your communication tools are sharp. You should ensure that your body, voice and mind are thoroughly warmed up so that you bring the best energy and delivery to your speech.

Awareness is key

When out running I become very aware of my body and how it’s performing. I notice when I’m breathless (a lot!), when my muscles are feeling tired or when I feel a twinge of pain somewhere. When presenting, you should be aware of your body as well. Are your gestures appropriate and effective or are they repetitive and distracting? Is your voice rich and expressive or are your nerves making it high pitched and squeaky? Are you speaking too quickly or too slowly? Are you sounding apologetic and unsure because your voice is too soft or you are including too many ums and errs? The more aware you are, the more effectively you can adapt your delivery during your presentation and work on improving it for the future.

Take time to reflect

At the end of each run I take a moment to reflect on how I felt and how I can improve for next time. I do the same with my talks and workshops to ensure that I am always growing and developing my ability. At the end of your presentation or speech, ask yourself what went well, what didn’t go so well and what would you do differently next time? Then incorporate your learning into your future talks to ensure continuous improvement.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood is a pitch and presentation specialist who prepares ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals to take centre stage, embrace the spotlight and present with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s talks and programmes go to or for public speaking and pitching tips follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential


The Show Must Go On: 7 Tips on How to Give a Presentation When it’s the Last Thing You Feel Like Doing!

Professional Speaking Association

For many people, the thought of delivering a presentation makes them feel sick with nerves. But what if you’ve been booked to speak at an event and you are feeling unwell?

I was brought up with a strong work ethic and wouldn’t dream of not going to work unless I was in hospital or dead! I’ve also had many roles in theatre shows where I had no understudy so there was no option but to perform, or I would be letting down both my fellow cast members and the paying public. As the saying goes, “The show must go on.”

However, last weekend during the Professional Speaking Association Annual MEGA Conference, I was starting to worry that the show would not go on, or at least my 45 minute session wouldn’t. The conference ran from Friday until Sunday; my session was on Sunday morning and I started to feel unwell on Friday evening. By Saturday lunchtime I felt like I had been hit by a truck; my body ached, I was overcome with exhaustion and my mind was so jumbled that I could barely string two words together. I was concerned but determined not to let anyone down so on Sunday morning, despite not feeling 100%, I put on my happy face and delivered the session I had been booked to deliver.

I learnt some important lessons as a result – here is a quick overview of what worked for me and what I will do differently in the future:

1. No one needs to know

Regardless of the fact that I was feeling increasingly unwell (and the pressure of speaking in front of 200 professional speakers when I wasn’t in top form), I knew that I would do my best to deliver my session as promised. Therefore, I decided not to let people know that I was struggling with my health and kept it from the organisers – they had enough to worry about already, especially as it turned out that two other speakers had to cancel on Sunday! I’m so glad I was able to fulfil my obligations and I hadn’t worried anyone unnecessarily.

2. Cancel all non-essential commitments

I had been really looking forward to the convention, the speakers, the learning, the networking, the gala dinner and seeing the fabulous Celia Delaney providing the after dinner entertainment. But it wasn’t about my wishes; I knew I had to do whatever it took for me to show up on Sunday morning and give my all to the audience. So I stayed in my hotel room and focused on getting well.

3. Give yourself the time to rest

Our mind and body cannot continue to deliver what we need it to if we don’t give it enough time to rest and recuperate. I had a lot of work on in the lead up to the conference and had been burning the candle at both ends. Eventually I just had to stop and give it some rest or I would not have been capable physically or mentally to deliver a 45 minute presentation to the standard that I and the audience expected. A good night’s sleep definitely contributed to feeling a bit better by Sunday morning. In hindsight, I realise I should have managed my diary better in the lead up to the conference and ensured I had enough rest time.

4. Treat yourself well

Not only do we need enough rest but we also need to fuel our bodies with healthy foods to perform at our optimum. As I had been so busy I hadn’t been food shopping so wasn’t eating well enough to give my body the nutrition it required to function at its best. I had even run out of vitamins! Once again, a reminder to myself to make my health a priority and to balance work with looking after myself.

5. Warm up effectively to give your best

My talk was titled ‘Prime Your Body, Voice and Mind: Off Stage Secrets for On Stage Success’; ironic when I hadn’t prepared effectively in terms of looking after my health! However, the focus of my session was about warming up immediately prior to giving a presentation to ensure you are in a state of readiness and fully present when you step onto the speaking platform. Therefore, I took my own advice and did a thorough warm up of my body, voice and mind. This really helped to lift my energy and enabled me to focus fully on the audience and the task at hand. If you don’t currently warm up before a giving presentation, I strongly urge you to do so and notice the difference.

6. Get over yourself and get on with it

My partner laughs when I use the phrase “get over yourself”, but that’s exactly what you have to do sometimes to get on with it. After an obligatory moment of feeling sorry for myself, rather than dwelling on how poorly I felt it was important to focus on being positive and on doing whatever it took to ensure I was able to meet the expectations of the audience and the organisers.

7. Smile!

Smiling releases endorphins that make you feel happier. Smiling is also contagious so it makes people around you feel good. Smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, is one of the best ways to feel better. I’m known for my smile so I shared it freely with the audience and by the end of my 45 minute session I felt much better. The feedback from the audience indicated that they felt good too!

Was I completely happy with my performance at the conference? No… (If I’m honest, I’m never completely happy and am always looking for ways to improve!) However, given the way I felt the day before, I was really pleased that I managed to find my sparkle and lift my energy enough to deliver the session to the best of my ability. And even better, the audience were none the wiser – they got what they needed and that’s all that matters!

Have you ever had to perform at your best when you’re feeling at your worst? What tips do you have to ensure the show goes on? I’d love to hear them; please do share in the comments section.

If you enjoyed this article, click here to access Mel Sherwood’s ‘Top 5 Tips for Public Speaking Success’

Mel Sherwood works with ambitious entrepreneurs and business professionals who want to speak with more confidence, credibility and conviction. She is a multi-award winning speaker, trainer and coach and the founder of Grow Your Potential, which specialises in supporting individuals and organisations to design and deliver winning pitches and presentations.

Mel’s background includes over 20 years’ experience in public, private and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and the United Kingdom and she has also worked as an actor, presenter and singer. To find out more about Mel’s inspiring talks and programmes go to or follow Mel on Twitter @Grow_Potential