It’s our mission to help people overcome the fear that holds them back

Olivia and Tony

We’ve channelled that mission into a narrow niche – running training courses to help people become more confident and competent presenters. It’s the only thing we do and we’ve been doing it for over a decade. As well as running public courses like this one, we also run inhouse courses for organisations. Our clients include New Zealand Transport Agency, Kiwibank, Air New Zealand, Red Bull, and the Department of Conservation.

Recognized internationally

We write a blog on presenting, Speaking about Presenting, which is recognised as one of the top presentation blogs in the world. We were invited speakers at the 2011 Presentation Summit in Austin, Texas, USA.

But behind our current success are the struggles we’ve both had with fear and nervousness in our lives.

“The instructors were great because not only were they very skilled – but had been through the pain themselves.”
Project Manager, ACC

Here are our stories:

Olivia – “I was really shy”

At school I had just two good friends at school who shared my passion – horses. I never learnt how to mix with people and socialise. When I was in my mid-twenties, I decided I needed to do something about this. At the time I was a lawyer for a Government agency and I could see that my shyness and the fear of public speaking was holding me back in my career. I hated speaking up in meetings, let alone presenting. I joined Toastmasters, did a presentation skills course (like the one you’re considering now) and forced myself to take opportunities to present whenever they came up.

My real breakthrough
Although all that practice helped, my real breakthrough came when I learnt about psychological methods to manage my nervousness (you’ll learn about these on the course). Now I’m a confident, relaxed speaker in most situations. I’ve taken on challenging presenting situations – like being a political candidate and speaking at a conference of other presentation trainers in America. In those high-stakes presentations and I do feel the nervousness creep up on me but I have the psychological skills to manage and harness that nervousness.

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Tony – “Fear held me back from using my talents”

From a young age I was interested in performance and entertainment. At age five I was given a ukelele and I taught myself to play. My parents encouraged me but I was too shy to perform when they asked. I also loved magic and taught myself tricks and sometimes performed at friends birthday parties. I would get really nervous though – my hands would shake uncontrollably – not very useful when you’re trying to perform delicate sleight-of-hand.

At ten years old I started learning the guitar – again teaching myself. After a while I got the confidence to play if other people would sing along – I figured “if they’re willing to embarrass themselves, then so can I.” After a year or so my parents offered to pay for lessons. I should have jumped at the chance but the thought of having to play in front of a teacher and be judged really scared me – so I said “No.”

In my teenage I performed in bands – I was not so nervous if I had other people around me – but the moment an audience started to seriously listen to me perform, I withdrew. Although I loved playing the guitar and entertaining people, I told myself that I could never be a professional musician. I told people that it was a lack of talent – it was actually fear.

I chose a career that would allow me to be connected to my love of music, but wouldn’t require me to perform. I became a sound-engineer, and later, a record producer. I got involved with amateur drama- but as the sound operator, never an actor.

“You’re a shadow artist”
One day I was talking to a person I’d just met at a party. I’d played a little guitar for a group sing-along and she’d asked some questions about how I’d learned to play and my subsequent career. I told her about my ‘connection’ to performing without actually having to be in the spotlight. “You’re a shadow artist” she said.

She turned out to be a psychologist and she explained that what I was doing was quite common. I had the desire and the talent to be “out there” but my fear kept me in the shadow of the other artists – where I was safe. Unfulfilled – but safe.

That conversation changed my life.

The next day I made a plan that would enable me to become the person I really wanted to be. That plan lead to a psychology degree, post-graduate studies in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy, performing the lead role in the play “Liasions Dangereuses”, winning the Toastmasters National Evaluation Competition and setting up our presentation training business, Effective Speaking. I now speak at conferences and run training courses.

My joy is to help people whose fear is stopping them so that they can actually be, the person they are.

Read on for more comments about us or…

“Tony and Olivia work wonderfully together and provided a stimulating, motivating environment in which to learn new skills. They really new their stuff and I liked their enthusiasm and passion for this topic. I found their facilitation of the whole workshop to be inspiring. To Tony and Olivia, You have given me some tools that have made a real difference to me and the way I think about presenting, I thank you for sharing your knowledge with us all”
Nicki Greaves, Contact Centre Trainer, New Zealand Transport Agency

“The trainers were fantastic…they weren’t patronising like most other trainers, and really seemed to care about our progress and helping us overcome our fears.”
Jade Harris, Management Accountant, Palmerston North City Council

“I think having two instructors who work in tandem, but each with different strengths, is a very valuable aspect of the course – much easier to focus and remain engaged as a result of the variety!”
James Harper, Solicitor, Simpson Grierson

“Tony and Olivia are great and very enjoyable to listen to and watch!”
Tim McKay, Chief Dental Officer, Southern District Health Board

“Olivia and Tony are very understanding of the crises that occur when speaking. In that regard I found them to be more like mentors and less like teachers, helping me to find the way through rather than just dishing out recipes for success.”
James Lambie, Environmental Scientist, Horizons Regional Council

“Tony and Olivia are thoroughly dedicated, professional and experienced. Their ‘tandem’ training technique works really well.”
Andrew Watson, Account Manager, Intergen

“Tony’s and Olivia’s enthusiasm, experience and flair made the learning environment wonderfully relaxed and enjoyable. Thanks very much!”
Brian Hesketh, Principal Policy Analyst, Department of Internal Affairs