May 4, 2018 Heather James

The Power of Public Speaking

By Andy Likes, Senior Vice President, The Vandiver Group

It’s one of those things that’s typically not on someone’s bucket list; get up in front of an audience and “say a few words.”  There mere thought of public speaking creates anxiety and strikes fear into the hearts of most people.  In fact, it’s one of the reasons I spent the first part of my career behind the camera.  I was a TV producer and I was more than happy to write the words that someone else said on camera.

That all changed when I left television over 12 years ago and started my trek in PR at The Vandiver Group.  I remember being asked in my interview if I’d ever facilitated training.  After more than a decade of training thousands of people, I’m now the lead trainer for TVG, hosting classes like media training and crisis communications training, plus new offerings like presentation skills and storytelling.  That last one, storytelling, has easily become our most popular session at TVG.

Over the last two months, I’ve traveled across the country preaching the benefits of “The Art & Science of Storytelling” to travel journalists, Convention and Visitors Bureau executives, corporate leaders, environmental teams, state agencies and club managers from North America and around the world.

black and white image of andy likes' father

The father of TVG’s Andy Likes was an accomplished speaker, as well.

As PR executives, our clients often go “off the menu” to order.  Since we often create unique solutions for them, filling an order like speaking to a group or doing the keynote or plenary session at a conference, is nothing new.  I’ve been speaking to groups for more than ten years.  There is a power to public speaking; a trick.  How do you get people to listen to what you have to say? Especially in this day and age of checking your email, your stocks and your social media feeds on your smartphone?  Turns out that trick is to be engaging, and I had a pretty great role model, my dad.

I grew up going to conferences with my family.  While dad was in meetings during the day, the family would see the sights.  At night, we’d all go to conference dinners in the largest ballrooms in town. Dad would join us eventually, after he took the stage and addressed the conference, spoke to the group or generally engaged the audience.  My dad commanded a room.  At 6’6” he not only had a strong physical presence, but he had a big, booming voice people couldn’t help but listen to.  He gave them something they wanted and, in many cases, needed to hear.

After all those years behind the camera, I found my public speaking voice as well.  It should be no surprise that I ended up at a family-owned business like The Vandiver Group.  Now I’m the one going to PROI Worldwide conferences all over the world chairing committees, just like my dad did for his hardware organization, AHMA.  I may be the newest storyteller in my family, but my dad was the original.  He could tell you stories about the hardware industry, his birdie on the golf course, or the time he visited The White House to meet President Ronald Reagan.

He had a presence that was unmistakable and engaging.  Sadly, we lost my dad last November after over eight decades of public speaking and yes, storytelling.  It’s no surprise to me that I’m speaking to audiences more than ever, now that he’s looking down on me.  I used to speak two or three times a year; now I do that in a couple of months.

Public speaking isn’t for everyone.  Whether you are speaking to a group, doing a media interview or addressing your team, it is a challenge. But, there is a power to public speaking.  When you have a role model or a guide to help you, it can make all the difference.  I enjoy speaking to groups, helping subject matter experts talk much more conversationally and generally making a difference for others. Just like my dad.

Whether its media training, crisis communications, presentations skills, storytelling or another custom session, the training and executive coaching practice at The Vandiver Group stands ready to help you and your team update your skills, be better speakers and ultimately talk to others better than you thought you could.

What can we do for you?  Check us out at or find us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

To learn more about The Vandiver Group, call (314) 991-4641 or email us at

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