Tag Archives: Public speaking

What can you learn about public speaking by coaching public speakers?

What can you learn about public speaking by coaching public speakers?

Here’s three things I’m seeing lately:

Puhuja

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

How do you turn a journalist into a public speaker performing to sold-out audiences in one month?

This Saturday morning was pretty special at my local Toastmasters club, where we help people improve their public speaking and leadership skills.

My club held a meeting at Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest newspaper.

Jaakko Lyytinen and Riikka Haikarainen in action.

Jaakko Lyytinen and Riikka Haikarainen in action on December 1, 2018.

The highlight of the day was a talk by two award-winning and super-innovative journalists, Jaakko Lyytinen and Riikka Haikarainen, who created the Musta laatikko (Black Box) public speaking performance at the Finnish National Theater.

Musta laatikko is a performance where about ten Helsingin Sanomat journalists each give a 10-15 minute talk about one of their news stories before a live audience. You can think about it as something similar to TED talks, yet something quite different and unique.

Musta laatikko has been running for almost three years at the Finnish National Theater and it’s already been seen by a whopping 18,000 people. About 100 Helsingin Sanomat journalists have spoken there and this year the performance was awarded as the Best Journalistic Act of the Year in Finland.

Here are some takeaways from the yesterday’s talk by Jaakko and Riikka:

  1. Content is king. Focus on the delivery of your speech only when your content is in shipshape.
  2. The best speeches have been given by those humble enough to take the coaching that was offered. Those who thought they already knew all the tricks of the trade tended to perform worse.
  3. The best speakers still continue to spend more time training than the rest of the pack.
  4. For the Musta laatikko speakers, one of the best experiences has been the peer support and development of their speeches in a safe and encouraging environment (anyone recognize the Toastmasters ethos here 🙂 )
  5. The journalists have very much enjoyed the chance to face and overcome their fear of public speaking. For a writing journalist, public speaking doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

A bonus tip: if you have an exceptionally innovative idea, the first thing to do is NOT to tell your boss. They’ll most likely kill it. Instead, first develop your idea further with a couple of trusted colleagues. Then present an irresistible case to management and they’ll buy the idea.