What can you learn about public speaking by coaching public speakers?
Here’s three things I’m seeing lately:
- Back to the basics
Whether the person is a beginner or an experienced speaker, their key areas to improve tend to be in the basics.
For example, it’s surprising how many speakers forget to ask themselves what the goal of their talk is, or who their audience is, and how that should influence what they say. Hint: ”Informing the audience about x” is not a good goal for a presentation.
- Improving, fast and slow
Some aspects of a person’s speech can be improved quickly, sometimes all that is needed is feedback in the form of a single sentence.
For example, if someone talks too fast and monotonously, I often ask them to identify the single most important word or phrase in their presentation, and focus on saying that one slowly and clearly. The audience immediately gets the message better.
Other stuff may take years to fix, but the pay-off could be huge. For instance, I needed a speech therapist and endless drills to learn how to pronounce the letter ”r” in my native Finnish.
- Observing a symptom is just the first step towards the cure
When you see an issue with someone’s presentation, you often only see a symptom. To help the speaker overcome that symptom, it helps if you understand a bit more deeply the person you’re coaching and where they come from.
For example, I met two speakers who both talked too fast.
It turned out the first one had a background in college debate and simply had to unlearn the habit of always speaking fast when on stage.
The second one had spoken too fast because she wanted to deliver the maximum amount of information in the allotted time. Here the fix was different: to ditch all material that was not mandatory to achieve the goal of the presentation.
…which brings us to an additional conclusion: trust is essential when coaching public speakers.
What do you think?