JULY 2018

Your Voice

The importance of being able to present and communicate well to others both in the workplace and everyday life cannot be understated. Whilst some people may enjoy the limelight, others may find presenting and communicating to others a less than pleasant experience. Yet these skills can be acquired through learning, practicing and experience, until they become second nature.

For this newsletter, Luan de Burgh, a renowned public speaker and communications coach, shares his insights into these skills.

A Point of View

Luan de Burgh, M.A. Biography

Luan de Burgh is the Founding Director of de Burgh Training Ltd and specialises in delivering leading communication, presentation and impact training in business with a particular focus in the legal sector.

For over a decade he has worked extensively with teams and individuals in the corporate world as well as with well-known figures in politics and the media helping them deliver messages effectively.

Luan has an MA in Voice and Speech from the University of London where he subsequently lectured, as well as at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and is a visiting lecturer at BPP Law School.

A speaker himself, Luan regularly addresses audiences around the world on topics including Public Speaking and Presenting, Impact, Presence & Gravitas, Networking and Business Development, Becoming a Trusted Adviser and Storytelling in Business. Recent speaking engagements include the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Russia, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and extensively across Europe. He is a regular commentator in the media on matters relating to communication, impact and delivery including for BBC during the General Election and has a monthly column in The Lawyer.

News and
Future Events

Information on a selection of forthcoming Diversity and Talent Management related events taking place in the UK are set out below:


London Pride
7 July 2018
Click here for more details.

National Inclusion Week
24 to 30 September 2018
Click here for more details.

World Mental Health Day
10 October 2018
Click here for more details.

5th Annual Global Equality & Diversity Conference
22 November 2018
Click here for more details.

Q & A:

Why do you think having good presentational skills is important in the workplace?

In the words of Abraham Lincoln:

“Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated – it is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech.”

We hear all the time that being technically brilliant is not enough and that there are many other skills needed to be a leading lawyer in the 21st Century. Being able to present well is one of those skills as it is essential for bringing in new business, raising your professional profile and differentiating yourself with clients.

So many presentations are unspeakably dull and do little other that serve as a vehicle for the presenter to drone on about how much they know on a given topic. If you take the time to think about what the audience actually needs to know, how you are going to deliver that and then do so with a mere hint of enthusiasm you will set yourself apart from the crowd. Remember what is going through most audience’s minds - tell me something I don’t know, don’t bore me and don’t go over time. Very few people leave a presentation thinking ‘I wish it had been longer and there were more slides.’ Presenting well is important because it will make delivering and developing your business so much easier.

Great public speakers tend to be charismatic and make it look effortless. Are some people just born natural orators?

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone once suggested that there are those who are born to speak and those who are born to do other things. I disagree. I believe that anyone who is willing to learn can become a decent speaker. They may not be delivering great orations but they will have an engaged audience in much the same way that anyone who is willing to learn how to dance may not become Fred Astaire but can get to a point where they can get through a routine without tripping up or treading on toes. The point is that public speaking is a reasonably simple skill that needs a lot of practise. There are those whose personality is arguably better suited to the particular requirements of public speaking and who may naturally be more at ease with it, but it is not the privilege of the happy few by any means.

How can we “present with presence”? What skills are required?

To present with presence we need confidence, competence and content. Essentially these are the three pillars of rhetoric - ethos, pathos and logos. We need to establish competence and credibility (ethos), have the right content (logos) and, to make whomever is listening believe us, we need to have the right level of emotional involvement and confidence (pathos).

You need to believe in yourself, your message and your ability to communicate that. Sit or stand tall, take a couple of seconds to let the audience look at you and then begin. Most audiences want you to succeed (the obvious exception is in the world of politics!) and will make their decision as to whether they are going to engage with you at the start. If you dither and faff about the start you will lose them. Practise your opening lines out loud – I stress, out loud – before the presentation.

Have a very clear beginning, middle and end, and make sure that your content matches what you believe the audience needs to know (which can often be different from what you want to tell them) and finish with confidence. Wrap it up and end it (on time) and ensure that your visual media is clear and aesthetically pleasing as opposed to being a form of corporate anaesthesia. Finally, enjoy it, and if you are not enjoying it, give the impression that you are enjoying it and you might find, after time, that you actually begin to not dislike it quite so much.

What should we avoid doing?

To paraphrase Voltaire, ‘if you want to bore your audience, tell them everything.’ A presentation is not an opportunity to demonstrate to a captive audience (and I use captive in the trapped sense of the word) that you know absolutely everything about data protection legislation. Don’t give the impression that you only prepared the night before (even if you did); don’t speak too fast; don’t try to be funny – humour is great where appropriate – but the rule is, if you don’t do jokes, don’t do jokes. Above all, avoid reading your presentation from your slides. No one wants to sit through a presenter staring at their slides and reading out what they can read for themselves.

Some people dread giving presentations. What tips do you have for helping people overcome their nerves and the fear of public speaking?

There are few, if any, documented instances of anyone losing their life from delivering a presentation. The fear, although very real for a significant number of people, is not a threat and it needs to be treated accordingly. Like any non-threatening fear, it can be overcome with a combination of exposure and confrontation along with a healthy dose of self-belief and preparation. The heightened sense of anxiety may not go away – indeed it shouldn’t. If a presentation is important, it is good to feel the adrenaline pumping around – it is the body getting ready for the big event.

A common fear is that of making a mistake and being caught out. If you choose to wing your presentation then good luck; but if you put in the time to prepare you will feel far more confident during the event. If you make a mistake on the day, then get out of it – none of us is perfect and these things happen. Unless it is an absolute cracker, most people would have forgotten about it by the time they return to their desks.
Finally rehearse and do so out loud and in front of someone who can give you constructive feedback. The more you rehearse, the more you will feel comfortable with the actual delivery.

Is “death by PowerPoint” inevitable in the modern workplace?

No. Whilst PowerPoint has become a default means of presenting and can be a lazy way to present undoubtedly, there is no reason that the ‘death by PowerPoint’ delivery should become inevitable. It is a tool, that is all; a visual aid. It is not the actual presentation. I believe that slides should be the final part of preparation. The main focus should be on the audience, what they need, how you are going to structure your message with relevant content and accessible language and only then looking at whether there are any visuals that can augment what you are delivering.

You can give people a handout at the end which has more detail on it than any slides you use. If you are using your slides to drive you through your own presentation, you do not know your material well enough. Do not fall into the trap of thinking that you have to search the internet for an image for everything you are saying – you need to ask yourself whether a picture of a light bulb is really cutting edge (unless, of course, it is a revolutionary light bulb you have invented and you work in the lighting industry). You do not need a slide for everything and you can simply blank out the screen when you don’t need an image on screen (the ‘B’ key on your laptop performs this function).

My absolute bête noir is the ‘Questions slide’ accompanied by an image of a question mark, presumably in case anyone in the audience hasn’t grasped the meaning of the word ‘questions’. Why has this become ubiquitous? We all know what a question and answer session is. Just because it has become the accepted norm doesn’t make it right.

Which famous person do you think is a particularly good public speaker? What, in your opinion, makes them so good?

I get asked this all the time and it is difficult to answer as there are many – some more obvious than others. Inevitably, we look to the world of politics as it is easy for us to relate to world figures. It should be noted here that some very good public speakers have used their skills for purposes other than good. Good public speaking is very persuasive and powerful. There are many fine actors who speak extremely well too – but this is their stock in trade and a major part of the job, it’s what they train to do so it is expected. And then there are those who are ‘famous’ in their own worlds and speak well.

Inevitably, names such as Churchill, Clinton and Obama are thrown around along with the almost cult-like status that has grown up around Steve Jobs and his presenting style and it is easy not to look beyond them. There are many great speakers around today – as far as famous ones are concerned I will revert to the world of politics and name President Emanuel Macron of France and Prime Minister Jacinda Adern of New Zealand who are both particularly good at public speaking as they not only speak with passion and conviction, but they also deliver their messages with a vocal and physical energy that is engaging, powerful and persuasive.

Did you know?
  • It is estimated that 25% of people experience a fear of public speaking.
  • Audience participation levels begin to drop off quite dramatically after 30 minutes.
  • If you only present facts, there is a 5% to 10% retention rate of the information; if you include visual material, retention can increase to 25% to 30%; if you tell a story with examples and emotion, then retention can further increase to 65% to 75%.
  • As a rule of thumb, your introduction should take up about 10 % of your total presentation time.
  • 46% of employees rarely or never leave a meeting knowing what they’re supposed to do next.

Further reading and resources:

We have included further links to a selection of recently published interesting discursive articles on presentation and communication skills, which we hope you will find informative:

Why Are We Scared of Public Speaking? (Psychology Today)

How to Give a Webinar Presentation (Harvard Business Review)

Tips for Creating and Delivering an Effective Presentation (Microsoft)

Business Communication (Huffington Post)

De Burgh Group Homepage

Comments or Queries

If you have any queries about this newsletter, please reach out to the authors: Selina Sagayam at SSagayam@gibsondunn.com, Anne MacPherson at AMacPherson@gibsondunn.com or Jon Griffin at JGriffin@gibsondunn.com.

Diversity Information

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—The London Diversity, Talent & Inclusion Committee

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Angel Agishi

Charlotte Barrow
London Business
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Graduate Recruitment and
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Besma Grifat-Spackman

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EMEA Business
Development & Marketing



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