A CEO explains how to land that killer speech

Sunrise Cambodia CEO Lucy Perry. Source: supplied

Lucy Perry is the CEO of Sunrise Cambodia and regarded as one of the best not-for-profit bosses in the world. Born in South Africa, she grew up in Sydney, going on to work as CEO of Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia after a 20-year career in graphic design. She’s taught childbirth education to men, creating “Beer + Bubs”, which is run in pubs for fathers-to-be, and last year, after being threatened by lawyers for tweeting that an awards night was a male-dominated “sausagefest”, she turned the term into a major fundraiser for Sunrise Cambodia.

Perry has been on the international speaker circuit for 10 years and next month is running a one-day fundraiser called “Like a Boss”, on how to improve your presentation skills and digital media communication.

Perry will present alongside futurist, business adviser and social commentator Bernard Salt, one of the world’s best social media influencers, Jonah De Vries, comedian Catherine Deveny, Xero CMO Andy Lark, Instragram’s Sophie Blachford and Mary Gourley from Google for Business.

Perry says she’s handpicked the best in the business, with valuable skills to benefit anyone in the corporate and communication sectors, for the event.

“Delegates will learn fast, laugh hard and change the world at the same time,” she says.

Like a Boss is being held at Sydney Town Hall on Friday, September 2. Details and registrations are here, or call 1300 894 591.

Proceeds from the not-for-profit event will go to Sunrise Cambodia’s programs for at-risk kids, struggling families and poor communities.

Ahead of the event, Business Insider asked Perry for her top tips for presenting a killer speech and keeping the audience in the palm of your hand.

Here’s what she said about what you need in the best speeches:


“My speeches have been dissected and it turns out that I speak in three-minute blocks. That’s the average length of a song and the attention span of your audience for one topic. If your speech is 30 minutes long you have ten sections to fill: Your introduction, conclusion and eight points in between.

“It’s that simple. Know your content off by heart. Your notes should be one key phrase for each three-minute section. Never ever read to your audience or they will start fiddling with their phones.”


“Put your energy into keeping a nice high pace. Move from one concept to the next, fast. Don’t waste time or words with segues. Don’t hide behind the lectern, instead use the stage to focus on different parts of the audience and hold their attention.”


“No one remembers a boring speech. But no speaker wants to deliver a flat joke either. Practice your humour in conversations and if people laugh at your jokes your audience will too.

“A good joke usually includes surprise and delight where your audience thinks you are taking them in one direction and you land them in another.

“One of my favourite stories is about the founder of Sunrise Cambodia, Geraldine Cox, and the day she met Angelina Jolie. This was her big moment. She was standing in front of the most famous woman in the world, she had to ask her, it was now or never, so she said to Angelina, ‘Can I ask you a question?’ and Angelina replied ‘Of course, ask me anything.’

“So Geraldine looked up at her, took a deep breath and said, ‘Can I kiss your husband?’

“See what I did there? You thought she was going to ask Angelina Jolie to help Sunrise Cambodia. Instead she asked for a quick smooch with the most famous man in the world. Funny.”


Just be yourself. Speak the way you normally do in conversational language not over-developed prose. Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the ride. Remember that your audience wants you to succeed from the get go. Make yourself available to meet and greet after your speech; you meet the best people that way.


“Stories are the glue in your speech. It’s the stories that people will remember and re-tell. Keep them brief and on point.

“Stories tap into the emotions of the audience. They might be really funny, they might be heartbreakingly sad but they have to be something. Good stories move people.”

Cracking ending

“Either end your speech with the most heart-stopping story in your arsenal, or make a brief summary of your whole speech in one sentence and refer back to the hero story of your speech. You and your audience have been through something together and referring back to a now familiar story completes the journey and binds you together.”

* Catch Lucy Perry is speaking in Sydney on 2 September at #LikeaBOSS, a turbocharged one-day live event. Get tickets from likeaboss.org.au.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.