Welcome to Season 3 Everyone!

It’s been a minute… and now I’m back in full force to share more, so much more GOLD from the Leadership Speaking Toolbox.  I’ve got a powerful season in store for you and it’s going to be all about a brand new obsession of mine: Embodied Leadership Speaking

The premise of this powerful concept is that: “the more that you can connect inside of yourself, the more you can connect outside of yourself…”

This concept is about re-coupling your “head brain” with your “body brain” and thereby becoming “whole”, “authentic” and genuinely yourself again. In all of my years of training speakers across the world and of working on myself, I have discovered that this re-embodiment is what makes it possible to truly shine as a speaker.  As far as I’m concerned, THIS is the secret sauce!

Folks, I am on a mission to go super deep into this topic so that we can all learn more and benefit from the delicious experience of embodied leadership speaking.

So! Get ready and get set to fasten your seat belts and begin our journey.  This episode leads the way.   Vámonos!

This article appeared in the November 2021 Issue of UN Today

By Laura Penn, Ph.D.

In the seven decades since its creation, the United Nations has been in service to humanity, working on the frontline of conflict resolution, peacekeeping, and a wide variety of other pursuits which help to improve people’s lives around the world. My invitation to you as a community is to expand the reach of your service to include how you speak in public. Why? Because to be a great speaker is to be in service to your audience. 

Let me explain…

 A central tenet of Leadership Speaking is that “it’s not about you, it’s about your audience”.  This powerful principle is the foundation beneath every tip and technique in the Leadership Speaking Toolbox.  Deconstructed, it means that your highest purpose as a speaker is to serve the audience what is relevant and interesting to them and what best supports their needs.  Your service to your audience is expressed in everything you do, from how you script and prepare your talk, to how you interact and engage with your audience while you speak.  The more that you do to amplify your service to your audience, the more you connect with them; the more you connect with them, the more your message stays in their hearts and minds.

To help you to understand this more clearly, consider how you prepare and deliver your average presentation. Ask yourself these YES or NO questions:

“When preparing and delivering a presentation do I…”

YES NO   Have ample time to prepare my content (what I will say) and my delivery (how I will say it)?

YES NO   Spend proportionately less time working on the content and more time working on the delivery?

YES NO   Perform an audience evaluation to determine who my audience is and what their needs and interests are?

YES NO   Tailor the content around my central topic to support what my audience cares about?

YES NO   Include stories and anecdotes in my presentation which are relevant and interesting to my audience?

YES NO   Integrate moments of audience participation where I involve my audience directly?

YES NO   Warm up before I speak to help me appear more relaxed and at ease?

YES NO   Use vocal variety to keep my audience engaged?

YES NO   Use “open” body language when I speak to suggest that I am accessible and ready to engage with my audience?

YES NO   Have awareness about the body language of my audience as they are listening to me?

YES NO   Interact directly with the audience asking them questions and engaging with them?

YES NO   Feel fulfilled after my talk knowing that I gave it my all and did my best to be in service to my audience?

If you answered “YES” to most of the questions, then stop reading this article here.  You are already a Master of Leadership Speaking and you know what it means to be in service to your audience every time you speak.  Well done!  If, on the other hand, you answered “NO” to most of the questions, you have a long way to go to understand the art of being in service to your audience.  Read-on and motivate yourself to do the work that it takes to radically up-skill in this core component of Leadership Speaking.  When you do, you will reap what you sow because what you give to your audiences, you will get back from them, in spades.

How to be of service to your audience

From the questions you just answered, it should be apparent that ‘service’ in Leadership Speaking is embodied in two main areas: The preparation of your content and the execution of your delivery.  Here are more insights which can support you to further elevate your service to your audiences:

Prepare with care

One of my favorite words in the English language is the word “presentation”.  It is a noun, derived from the Latin word “praesentare”, which means to “place before”, as in to place something in front of someone.  With this etymological interpretation, I like to think of a presentation as a “present”, a gift of something of significance given to an audience.  The secret to giving any noteworthy gift is to lovingly prepare it with great intention, care, and attention to detail.

Deliver generously

The sooner you recognize that speaking in front of audiences should not be the “me show”, where you are blind to the needs and interests of your audience and you do nothing to serve or care for them, the better.  Reframe how you think about delivering your talks by thinking of it as the “we show”. In this mindset, you surrender your ego and plug in to that place in yourself which gives with no strings attached.  If it helps, go back to square one and remind yourself why you do what you do in your role at the United Nations.  Dial in to the same vision, motivation, and integrity that inspired you to join this noble community in the first place, then deliver your presentations with this same spirit… generously.

Create a win-win situation

Taken as a whole, by serving your audience, you will create a win-win situation for both of you. The benefits for you are that with every smile, clap, and nod of approval from your audience as they listen to you, you will earn their prized attention, recharge your energy store, and feel good all over.  The advantages for your audience are that they will feel acknowledged, valued, and well cared for and this will help your messages to stay in their hearts and minds.  Overall, your service to them will inspire heartfelt humanity and create a sense of harmony where true connections will be made on many different levels and both you and your audiences will thrive.


Leadership Speaking Radio LIVE – Episode # 36

This conversation was such a treat!

I spoke with Sharon Stacey (www.sharonstaceymusic.com), professional vocal coach and Guru in all things “voice”.  We had a delicious chat about the state of our voices when we use them online, vocal care, how to rehearse and so much more!

I hope that you enjoy the conversation as much as I did having it…


UNToday Article by Laura Penn, PhD

This article appeared in the June 2021 Issue of UN Today

By Laura Penn, Ph.D.

I just finished yet another virtual meeting where the experience left me feeling numb, deflated, and unfulfilled. Sound familiar?

The pandemic started more than a year ago, yet I ask myself, why haven’t more people upgraded and elevated how they speak online by now? Why are they stuck doing the same lacklustre speaking repertoire in online meeting, after online meeting?

To help you to understand my quandary more clearly, let me invite you into my recent virtual conversation…

We will call the person I was talking to, Ed. For starters, Ed was cast in a dark shadow. Besides the stale, badly lit office he was in, complete with cluttered, asymmetrical shelves in the background, the only other thing I could see was his silhouette from the chin, up – a curly-haired head, wearing over-the-ear headphones. No facial expressions were visible and there was no body language. During the call, the sound was muffled and I struggled to focus on what Ed was saying. Frankly, I don’t remember much of the conversation and I left our meeting feeling empty.

Spurred on by this negative experience and by a history of so many similar encounters in recent months, I am writing this article to tell you that virtual meetings are here to stay and that it’s time to professionalize how you show up online. So roll-up your shirt-sleeves and let’s fix this.

To elevate how you speak online, begin by noticing that something is wrong

Pay attention to how you feel before, during, and after your online meetings. Ask yourself these ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions:

Before the meeting

• Do I feel unprepared and tense?
• Am I very, very, very nervous?

During the meeting

• Do I feel tired and like I want to give up and totally disconnect?
• Do I feel like I lack control over what my presence, my voice, and my body are doing?

After the meeting

• Do I feel unsatisfied with my speaking performance?
• Do I dread the next meeting?

If you answered ‘no’ to the majority of these questions, you are on a roll. Go for it! You are self-aware, you care about how others perceive you and you have invested in yourself to improve your online speaking repertory. Keep elevating and innovating, and rising to be the best version of yourself every time that you speak online. Aim to improve something new in every virtual conversation that you have. Never stop.

If you answered ‘yes’ to the majority of these questions, it’s time to switch-up your game and massively improve yourself. You are stuck in a rut of bad habits and low standards and you need to radically up-skill in order to rise into showing up as the best version of yourself. Stop dallying the shadows and get to work.

It’s time to professionalize how you show up online

To help you to imagine what this looks like, consider the rock stars of effective camera/online communication – newscasters, the professional ladies and gentlemen who grace our television and computer screens with updates about the state of our world. When broadcasting in their studio environments, they all have something in common, they:

• Have neutral backgrounds which look sharp and clean and don’t usurp attention from the newscaster

• Have lighting which enables viewers to clearly see facial expressions and body language

• Wear lapel microphones, ensuring excellent sound quality

• Can be seen from the torso up (unless they are standing) with their arms and hands clearly visible

• Wear makeup, especially powder to prevent “shine” and eye makeup to enhance the communication of the eyes

• Are well-groomed and wear professional-looking outfits which support their credibility

• Speak clearly and concisely with vocal variety and engaging emphasis

• Are organized and well prepared with their content

Get inspired! and borrow as much from this list as possible to help you to professionalize how you show up online.


The elements I have highlighted here are an excellent starting point for those of you who feel called to professionalize how you speak online. Understand that it takes effort and real skin-in-the-game to do the work I have described. It involves your full commitment of noticing that something is wrong and of taking the action steps necessary to professionalize your virtual conversations.

Also be aware that these points are only the beginning. They constitute the frame of the picture that you are painting for yourself and of the virtual brand that you are building of your online persona. The picture itself is based on your Leadership Speaking: the bold choices you make about your presence, your voice, and your body language so that you can connect with your audiences when you speak online.

But Hey! that’s the stuff of another article. For now, get to work on improving your glittering frame and have fun making it sparkle.


UNToday Article by Laura Penn, PhD

This article was featured in the April 2021 Issue of UN Today

By Laura Penn, Ph.D.

It’s time to disrupt the status quo for how we speak in public.

We are living through a period of great change and our existing model of speaking in front of audiences is outdated. It represents a standard of speaking that deactivates, instead of activates; that is a monologue, instead of a dialogue; and that is zipped-up and tense, instead of relaxed and at ease. Our present reality calls for a different model of speaking, one which connects us to our shared humanity.

As a community of leaders and changemakers at the United Nations, you are in the driver’s seat. What you say and how you say it, matters. Let’s explore three practical ways to meaningfully connect with your audiences.

Activate your voice

We’ve all been there, drowning in the dreary dullness of a monotonous speaker. The air is heavy with the weight of their words and the message has leaked out of the room. We long for movement, laughter, and human connection, but nothing happens.

A secret to defeating vocal monotony is to “play” with your voice. One way to do this is to engage your face when you speak. As you say words, lift your eyebrows and over-enunciate what you say with your mouth. To get a sense of what this feels like, try saying the following quote by Benjamin Franklin three ways:

“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”

1.) Say it with very limited lip movement and no other facial gestures. This is how monotone people speak, can you feel how constraining this is?

2.) Say it and lift your eyebrows up and down at the same time. Do you hear a change?

3.) Say it and over-enunciate the words with your mouth. Notice a difference?
Another way to play with your voice is to use vocal accents. These include varying the volume and the speed of your voice and “popping” your words. Try saying the following sentence while emphasizing (popping) each word separately:

“Why do you love?”

“WHY do you love”; “Why DO you love”; “Why do YOU love”; “Why do you LOVE.” Do you see how the skill of popping makes such a big difference? It transforms the meaning of the sentence. Speakers who know how to use vocal accents effectively, can bring their words to life and connect to the hearts and minds of their audiences.

Make your speech a dialogue, not a monologue

Too many speeches these days are a one-way street. A unidirectional transfer of information from one brain to many. This model is flawed because people don’t remember what you tell them, they remember how you make them feel.

An effective way to activate your audience into feeling something is to make every speech you give a conversation. From the point of view of creating your content, simulate a dialogue. Imagine yourself as the audience asking “who”, “what”, “where”, “why”, and “how” questions. In your speaking, you can actually say: “You might be asking yourself, WHY is this important”; or “Raise your hand if you are curious about HOW this works”. Your aim is to engage your audience in a two-way exchange so that they feel involved. Audience participation is an excellent conduit for this.

Tension is the enemy of connection

Beyond the suggestions shared so far, the very best one is to release tension whenever it surfaces. If you don’t it will tighten the muscles of your face, neck, chest, and lower body, shrinking your presence, limiting the sound of your voice, and making your body rigid. This will chip away your credibility, undermine your message, and make it much harder to connect with your audiences. To reduce tension, get into the habit of warming up your whole body before you speak and aim to keep it tension-free.

No free lunch

The practical suggestions highlighted here are an excellent starting point for those of you who feel called to make more meaningful connections with your audiences. The key to success with this timely and noble goal is to understand that learning the art of effective leadership speaking takes effort and dedication. There is no free lunch. It involves you doing the work of activating the meaning of your words, creating dialogues instead of monologues, and vanquishing tension. When you’ve mastered these elements, there is a lot more to discover about this remarkable art form, especially as it pertains to speaking online, which is how most of us speak in front of audiences these days. Get curious, never stop learning, and stay committed to improving yourself so that you and a growing number of other leaders and changemakers can help make the world a better place, one speech at a time.

Leadership Speaking Radio LIVE – Episode # 34

Integrity is the element of being “whole” and “undivided”.  As a speaker this is a key to showing up as your authentic self.

This episode of Leadership Speaking Radio unpacks what it takes to live in your integrity as a speaker.

Leadership Speaking Radio LIVE – Episode # 33

Do you shrink and contract when speaking in front of audiences, dimming your light in order to please others?

If you do, this Leadership Speaking Radio episode is for you.

It’s time to stop dimming your light…here’s why and here’s how…

Leadership Speaking Radio LIVE – Episode # 32

Authenticity is at the heart of connecting with your audiences and feeling good about what you have achieved as a speaker.

This episode of Leadership Speaking Radio goes deep and explores pathways for you to show up as an authentic version of yourself every time you speak.

UN Today, March 2021 issue, The Leadership Speaking School, Dr. Laura Penn

This article was featured in the March 2021 Issue of UN Today

By Laura Penn, Ph.D.

We are living in the golden age of female empowerment. Never before have so many women around the world been in positions of power as now. Everywhere we turn, we see more and more women in leadership roles taking center stage and making ‘herstory’. Our time has finally come.

As a professional speaker coach who specializes in transforming leaders and change-makers into speakers who are authentic, accessible and memorable, I want to take a moment to observe how powerful women speak in public. I want to pull back the curtain and reveal what they are doing right and what they could do more of in order to elevate their leadership speaking to the highest levels. There are so many lessons to learn from these remarkable women, let’s take a look at what makes them sparkle…

Powerful presence

The biggest gift we can give someone is our presence. Powerful female speakers are generous with theirs. We sense it in the way they enter the stage with their steady gait, their shoulders held upright and the look of calm on their faces. Their presence is spoken through the clothes they wear and the grooming of their hair, makeup and accessories. They look polished and professional and radiate credibility. They embody leadership and you feel safe and guided in their capable hands.

One of my favorite examples of powerful female presence is newly appointed Director General of the WTO, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She has delivered countless talks, and one that stands out because of the presence she embodied, is her 2013 TEDx talk where she danced in her introduction. She created instant harmony with the audience through her abundant presence and made the beginning of her speech unforgettable. She’s an example of best-in-practice of how to light up the room with presence. Imagine if more women would dare to do the same…

Powerful voices

I admire women who have freed their voices. Who are not restrained by tension, fear or over-thinking. Who can consciously tap into the boundless potential of their voice and access the “color” inside, on demand. This, in contrast to a woman who holds her breath when she speaks, who is so blocked by years of bad speaking habits and tightened muscles caused by strained thoughts and self-doubt, that her voice has no “oomph”.

The best female speakers know that their voices are a formidable tool to help them to reveal the meaning of their words. They understand that through “playing” with the likes of volume, pausing and other verbal accents, they make their words come alive.

I relish the sound of a woman who can have fun with her voice, “stretching” and “popping” her words and exploring the outer edges of her vocal range. Sometimes, dialing it up in intensity and going BIG, filling-up the room with her vibrating resonance. Other times, dialing it down, way down, intentionally pulling it inwards into the eye of her verbal storm.

Oprah Winfrey is an excellent example of a woman with a freed and versatile voice. When she speaks, we feel her message. Her sound waves literally touch us. One of her most iconic speeches is her 2012 Commencement Speech for Spelman College. It represents the best of what is possible vocally. Imagine a world where more women could speak this way…

Powerful body language

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a woman in her power on stage taking up physical space. She is steady on her feet, her gestures are open and she moves with purpose. Her movement looks natural, relaxed and flowing, like a curtain that gently blows into the room from an open window on a summer’s day. Her mother tongue is body language and she can speak it fluently. She has a strong mind-body-connection and can effortlessly adjust her physical vocabulary to suit any purpose or situation.

It is rare to see women show-up in their bodies this way. The most common physicality, even for many current well-known women in power, is stiffness and full body tension. They look like robots when they move. A substantial warm-up to shake-out the body and to loosen the breath usually does the trick.

An invitation

Powerful women bring their messages to life through their presence, voice, and body language. Imagine a world where these remarkable leadership speaking skills are a part of every woman’s communication toolbox. Where, from an early age, she has learned how to switch on her presence, speak with a free and versatile voice and take up space in front of others.

This image of our future begins with the present. Ladies and Girls, look around. Inspiration is everywhere. Copy what you see and make it your own. Aim to show up as the best version of yourself every time you speak in front of audiences. The right time is now!