The Art of Storytelling

TRACEY SPICER REALLY needs no introduction. As one of the most experienced journalists and presenters in the country, there is not much she hasn’t done in her 25 years in the industry. In the last two years she has also become a highly sought-after MC and keynote speaker, and is a facilitator for the Presentation Skills course at the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). After completing this course herself, Samantha McLean pulled Tracey aside to ask a few questions about teaching, presenting and how to overcome the inevitable nerves.

After the many years’ experience you have gained presenting on various mediums (radio, TV and in person) what do now enjoy most about teaching others?
I come from a long line of teachers, so it’s in the blood! I love teaching presentation skills because they are incredibly important, every day of our lives. When we walk into a room, chat with colleagues, report to the board, speak at a conference, or say a few words at a 21st, it’s a presentation. I especially like to help women, because often we are less confident than men about how we speak and appear.

In addition to reading the news, you’ve also become an MC at big conferences and events, including the recent REIQ Summit. What do you enjoy most about that?
I thoroughly enjoy meeting people from all walks of life and learning about different industries. As MC, I consider myself to be the ‘glue’ that holds everything together. I never try to be the ‘star’ as MC. It’s my job to set the tone and keep things flowing smoothly. I also enjoy giving keynote speeches about my passions: equality, journalism and social justice.

How do you feel when you kick off a big event? After your many years of experience, do you still get nervous and how do you overcome that?
About 30 years ago, when I began presenting, I was so nervous I almost fainted on stage! Over the years, my nerves have diminished to the point where I don’t even feel a flutter. There are skills everyone can learn to manage their nerves, centred on breathing and visualisation.

What are a couple of general things you need to be aware of before you walk on stage?
Research, research, research! Know everything you can about the topic, company, and fellow presenters. Always test the microphone, lectern and stage. Walk across it a few times to feel more comfortable.

What are your top tips for giving a presentation?
It depends on your audience, really, so I will break it down into different situations:

  1. Presenting 1:1 (for example, a listing presentation) Always open up your body language. No ‘fig leaf’! (clasping your hands in front of you). Also, never clasp your hands behind your back. What are you hiding there? Start and end with a genuine smile. Think about something that makes your heart sing.
  2. To a large or small group of people on stage Every person absorbs information differently. Some prefer facts and figures. Others like anecdote and analogy. Try to combine as many of these as possible in your presentation to broaden your reach.
  3. On video Eye contact is the key. You need to be looking ‘through the lens’, 100 per cent of the time. Wandering eyes make you look dodgy. You also need an extra 10 per cent of energy to reach through and connect with the audience. Visualise you’re talking to a trusted friend.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.