Tell me about your career up to this point.
I always wanted to act, since I was 7 or 8, so I went to drama school in Glasgow and worked in the Scottish theatre scene for a couple of years, before moving to London and working on films, commercials, and TV shows like Coronation Street, Eastenders, and Casualty.
I became interested in the effect drama can have in building confidence when I got involved in an afterschool club at my childrens’ school. It wasn’t about creating actors for me; drama made a difference to group dynamics, helping children to work as a team, and it especially helped those who found it difficult to express themselves.
I still act, and recently directed an award winning short film, but I’m very interested in confidence building, team building and public speaking, and how helpful drama can be in these areas.
Marnie as Anna Politkovskaya at the Edinburgh Festival in "Anna" Are there any misconceptions about public speaking that you’d like to dispel?
Everyone is scared! People who fear public speaking tend to think that it comes so easily to others, but everyone needs to put in a lot of hard work. Even Benedict Cumberbatch needs to work at it.
Do you have any tips or tricks for building confidence with public speaking?
It’s mostly clarity and preparation. Making a speech is all about communicating to an audience. When you’re really clear about why you’re there and what you have to say, and you know you have prepared to the best of your ability, you will find that confidence will follow.
Marnie playing tough businesswoman Joe Lefoe in Coronation Street A number of polls indicate that public speaking can be a fear greater than death to some – what do you attribute that fear to? And how do you help others overcome that fear?
It’s fear of failure, a fear of looking stupid, especially if you’re addressing colleagues. A fear of going blank, losing your place. I understand all these fears as I have to deal them at times on camera, or in the theatre.
In my sessions I help clients find exercises suited to their specific needs, relaxing bodies, hands, voice, mind. Its crucial to take 5 to 10 minutes to get prepared, with the right exercises suited to you, everyone is different! As an actor I need to warm up my body and voice before any performance, and it’s the same in public speaking.
What’s the biggest frustration your clients face with public speaking?
A lot of the time clients have been asked by a superior at work to speak, but they may not want to push themselves. The majority are excellent at their job, but they may never have had to express themselves in front of a room full of people. Preparing for a speech can help people realise just how good they are. It’s important that they realise why they have been asked, and put that into play when working out what to say.
Marnie as Cerys on Casualty What’s success for you with your clients?
When a client delivers a succinct, intelligent speech with confidence, and when they make it their own.
One of my clients, terrified of public speaking, had been asked to give a speech in a field of work she had just been studying. We realised she was incredibly engaging when she told me about her work, chatting across the table, but when she stood up and did her ‘speech’ she fell apart. I helped her to transfer what she told me over a cup of tea into a speech that worked in front of a large audience, but still engaged in the same way.
Another client was terrified of freezing up, and forgetting everything when he first stood up in front of an audience. So we spent a part of every session practicing his introduction over and over, so that he really knew he could start off well. He did amazingly in the end, and has been asked back by the company to speak again several times.
comes terrified and leaves prepared is a success for me. Clients often come back to tell me that it [the speech] was so easy in the end, and that really can have an impact on their life and career – it’s terrifying but that terror is also easily conquered with the right guidance. Marnie on BBC's Shetland, where she played Jenny
Marnie Baxter is an actress, director, and confidence building, teamwork and public speaking coach who conducts sessions with professionals who struggle to speak naturally in public, and need to work on the delivery of speeches and presentations.
Email us to arrange a private or team consultation with Marnie
and contact her directly click here to view Marnie's profile