The #1 trick to improve a public speaker’s confidence while on stage

15 Apr

Whether you’re brand new to public speaking or a seasoned veteran, one thing remains the same – you should always find your “partners.”

A “partner” is a term coined by TED speaker and author of “Start with Why” - Simon Sinek. And you may have heard of them referred to before but by a different name – as professional speaker Dr. Michelle Mazur calls them SAMs (Spectacular Audience Members).

Regardless of the name the premise behind them remains the same – they are audience members that help you calm your nerves to feel comfortable on stage. And most often without even realizing it, their body language represents eagerness and approval in what you’re saying which is what every speaker needs to see and feel when presenting or speaking to groups.

Many people tend to overlook how the body language of audience members impact the presentation. FLICKR IMAGE @Corbis

Many people tend to overlook how the body language of audience members impact the presentation.


How to identify partners in a group

Every audience should have a few – they’re the folks that are on your side before you’ve already stepped up to the lectern on the stage.  And when you’re speaking to the group, you’ll notice them because their body language is screaming, ”Yes, yes! I totally understand what you’re saying and I like where you’re going with this.”

Once you know what you’re looking for in an audience member, finding a partner can be easy.  The non-verbal cues that you’re looking for are most evident when scanning the crowd during your presentation, but you can try to find them as soon as you take the stage as well.

The following are telltale signs of a partner or SAM in the audience:

  • They’re leaning forward.
  • They’re giving you their laser-focused attention.
  • They can be smiling.
  • And my personal favorite, they’re nodding their head in understanding and approval. Interestingly, the head nod is actually an inborn gesture of submission and agreement. Researchers uncovered this knowledge when they conducted analysis on people who were born blind and found that they too did these gestures for identical reasons.

Now an audience member doesn’t need to do all of these to be considered a partner. They’re kind of the “you’ll know them when you see them” kind of enigmas.

Parters are what help a presenter go from feeling like their energy is low and their presentation is lacking, to making them feel like they’re giving the presentation of a lifetime.

Already have experience presenting to groups? Think back to one of your best presentations, did anything in particular stand out to you? Often times, when reflecting on a great presentation speakers will cite specific audience members as helping them along the journey and giving the the needed boost of confidence and energy to help the presentation go from good to great.

What to do if there aren’t partners in the group

Because being a “partner” isn’t actually a real think to look for or notice beforehand, you’ll have to assume that your audience will contain a few. Or at least one.

However, some experts think that you can not only identify them ahead of time, but also create a few before you take the stage. Some people will tell you that if you’re unsure of the people in attendance that you should head into the conference room or area where you’ll be speaking early and get to know a few folks. By understanding them and building a connection with them beforehand, you can rely on that during the presentation to give you the boost of confidence that you may just need to hit a presentation out of the park.

And if you aren’t able to mingle beforehand, but want to be positive to have an audience member you can rely on for this particular reason – you can be like a magician and plant them in the audience.  Explain to a friend, coworker or audience participant (that you already know) that you’re a little nervous and would love to just have them listen in to your presentation and smile once in a while when you two lock eyes.

How to become a partner to help others

The best way to find the best parters, is to be a parter yourself. It’s karma.

And whether we realize it or not, by being a participant in an audience we are communicating. Our body language is communicating tons of different things – like how we are feeling, what we’re thinking and even can show just how present we are in the room. Maybe our eyes are darting around the room looking at others or maybe they’re locked on the presenter. Maybe we’re leaning way back in our seat with our legs outstretched – or maybe we’re sitting straight up with our legs crossed and arms folded. Help a fellow speaker reach new grounds by being a partner.  Or if the unfortunate situation of a presenter not living up to their potential occurs, help them out by smiling and nodding your head in agreement.

Now all this “partner” stuff may seem like small details, but as anyone who has experienced this before can tell you – applying this new-found knowledge can be game-changing for a speaker/presenter of any level.  And planting partners in the audience is no longer an ideal for most experts – it’s a must.

So what about you – have you experienced a partner in an audience before? How has it helped or transformed your energy and overall presentation? Feel free to share your thoughts below. 


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, grain-free)

31 Jan

Today was the final day of challenges for our HubSpot Academy team.

Chris, Lindsay and myself did 30-days of paleo.

Rachel did 30-days vegan.

And Dee Dee did 30-days of no carbs.

That’s almost 1/2 of our team having specific dietary restriction for 30-whole days. And if you’ve tried to cook or bake for a group that has such dietary restrictions, you know it can be difficult.

Enter the chocolate chip cookie dough bites. They’re paleo. They’re gluten-free. They’re dairy-free, egg-free and grain-free. And most of all – they’re delicious! Actually, they’re surprisingly delicious. I’ve made many paleo sweets over the past two years and nothing compares to these. They’re so simple, anyone can make them.

chocolate chip cookie dough bites paleo

Chocolate chip cookie dough bites recipes (8-10 count):

You’ll need:

  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons almond milk (or coconut milk)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon raw honey
  • 3/4 cup almond flour (or almond meal)
  • 3 tablespoons dark cacao chips (ideally at least 70%)
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons dark cacao for dipping/drizzling


  1. Whisk together the first four items above: coconut oil, almond milk, vanilla extract and honey.
  2. Then add in all at once the almond flour. Fold it in  and don’t overwork as it can lead to greasiness.
  3. Fold in 3 tablespoons dark chocolate chips
  4. Place in container in refrigerator for 30 minutes – to allow them to chill.
  5. Once chilled – roll them in small balls or bites.
  6. Dip them in melted dark chocolate or drizzle melted chocolate over the top.
  7. Eat.

How easy is that? If you decide to make them, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

My Top 10 of 2013

8 Jan

2013 was an incredible year full of adventure in the form of obstacles overcome with accomplishments. In honor of a book I read this year, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, I began writing down important happenings and accomplishments every month that I deemed noteworthy. Here are my top 10 from 2013.

  1. Completed three 30-day challenges. Paleo, fitness routine and vegetarian diet. If you have read this blog before or know a little bit about me, you know that I am a huge fan of 30-day challenges. I found out about them from my old friend Matt Cutts’ TED talk and was immediately hooked. This wasn’t the first year I began them, but it was one of the better years.

January was spent eating a strict paleo diet and resulting in feeling great.

Then in February committed with a few coworkers to get 5 hours of physical activity every single week. The best part about these two challenges is that they were small enough to be sustainable changes and that I ended 2013 with pretty decent eating habits and a consistent workout routine.

And toward the end of the year I ate completely vegetarian which I was definitely not a fan of – sorry veggies!

If you want to try your own 30-day challenge, or just learn more about them – check out the TED talk.

2. Completed the Toastmasters Competent Communication manual. After more two years of dedicated speaking at ToastSpot meetings, I finally completed the Competent Communicator manual.  I think that was one of my longest commitments to consistent personal growth in a while. Next up – Advanced Communicator manuals.  Want to sharpen your speaking skills? Find a local Toastmasters club here.

3. Volunteered for fifth time in a row for SOUL Lanterns.  One of my favorite volunteer projects ever.  My late friend Michael’s mother brought it from Jamaica Plain to Woburn many years ago, and immediately a bunch of us friends joined in to help get it off the ground. When Michael passed in 2007, organizing it and making lanterns became more than just a volunteer project, but a cathartic go-to in time of need. Learn more about remembering loved ones we’ve lost by visiting the SOUL Lanterns Facbook page.

SOUL Lantern Walk 2013

SOUL Lantern Walk 2013

4. Volunteered at Earthfest.  At the ripe age of 18, one of my soon-to-be-favorite people, David Ginsburg, took a chance on a high school student as an intern.  Nine years later, it’s still one of my favorite radio stations and I wouldn’t dare miss the incredible energy that permeates the city air during Earthfest. Plus, I met a super-cute guy this year, too. Meet Gavin.

  1. Earthfest 2011

    Throwback photo from Earthfest 2011

    5. Became President of HubSpot’s Toastmaster Chapter: ToastSpot. It’s no secret that HubSpot has some of the most talented, intelligent and driven young professionals in the game. And from this incredible pool there are many who choose to sharpen their saws even further – the Toastmasters. Joining the group was one of the best decisions I made in my career thus far – and being voted in as President for the 2013-2014 year is  an incredible honor.What was even more of an honor is to be working along with the other leaders within the group. Our officer group is incredible and in just a half year we’ve done some remarkable things, like the following:

    • developed our groups mission statement
    • created the ToastSpot website
    • created a blogging schedule and began blogging on our website
    • tweeting through our ToastSpot Twitter handle
    • we developed and award program to recognize the accomplishments of members
    • purchased a camera and began recording members speeches so members can watch themselves and improve
    • even made our meetings more streamlined with agendas and fun ToastSpot memes.

I can’t wait to see what the second half of our term in office will bring.

ToastSpot Officers (missing - Sir Brad Mampe.)

ToastSpot Officers (missing – Sir Brad Mampe.)


ToastSpot Notebook

ToastSpot Notebook

6. Spoke at BDN What Next! Conference.  An incredible opportunity to speak to a larger crowd than ever before. There I spoke to the group for 40 minutes about attracting visitors and converting website leads with inbound marketing. Another positive? I was able to see one of my favorite marketers, Marcus Sheridan, share his wildly powerful blogging story.

Marcus Sheridan

Marcus Sheridan

Read my blog post about the conference and view the slides here.

7. Helped educate 600 HubSpot customers to receive HubSpot Certifications at Inbound 2013. My partner in crime, Nick Sal and I were part of a team that were able to deliver incredible amounts of education in just one 8-hour day to some of the most passionate marketers I’ve ever met. Want to get certified? You can do so here.

8.  Two week trip in Ireland and Barcelona. Booking this trip was somewhat on a whim. A coworker approached and said we should travel to Europe, and I said… okay! One week in Ireland and one week in Barcelona. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful they were and in such different ways. My favorite part of Ireland was  surfing in Sligo and visiting the Cliffs of Moher. One thing I noticed about Ireland – the grass is so green it looks like somebody turned up the volume on it. Also, here I learned that I love whiskey and that too much Guinness can be a bad thing.

And Barcelona. Wow.  A place I’ve been dying to visit since taking Ms. Orpan’s Spanish class at the ripe age of 15.  The history, architecture, weather, beaches, people and culture were more mesmerizing than I ever imagined. Some of my favorite parts were hiking the series of hills, stairs and escalators to see Park Güell. Taking the telerifico to the top of Mount Tibidado. Taking a boat cruise along the coast. And the entire area around the Christopher Columbus statue memorial – including Las Ramblas (infamous for thieves, luckily for me I escaped unscathed) and Port Vell.  My favorite part of Barcelona was that it was incredible to just be. I didn’t have to “do” anything to find beauty or value, I could just aimlessly mill about and soak in the Bar
ça life. 

Me ruminating out over the Cliffs of Moher

Me ruminating out over the Cliffs of Moher

Park Güell

Park Güell


Top of Mount Tibidabo

Top of Mount Tibidabo

9. Climbed Mount Washington. Also on a whim. I thought we were about 40% up the mountain as I began to get tired. Looking back, I’d say it was a measely 10% up the way of the mountain when I thought that. This was fun, it was challenging and it’s something I think everyone should do.

While it was incredibly foggy at the top we were sure to snap a photo. My favorite part of this trip? One person decided to climb the entire mountain in Vibram 5-finger shoes, a white Hanes t-shirt and brought a Rubbermaid bottle full of ice coffee for hydration. Wow.

Mount Washington

Mount Washington

Mount Washington Summit 2013

10. Added 5 new people to our HubSpot Academy team.  Our team is growing! What started out as an experiment is now a validated necessity for HubSpot customers of all kinds – education.

What a year. Here is to 2014 and the obstacles, challenges and achievements it may hold.

How was 2013 for you? Share your accomplishments or top 10 list for yourself down below!

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