One of the first things I ask my public speaking clients is for them to tell me about their speech training. There’s usually a pause. They may tilt their heads this way and that like a Golden Retriever, mull the thought over, and then give me a blank look. Training?
Aside from the exceptionally gifted, most of us require instruction to learn how to do the things we do. It’s much easier to learn a skill when someone who knows what they’re doing shows us. That’s why we have coaches and editors and teachers and mentors. And yet, for some reason, it seems we all are expected to just know how to put together a presentation, an annual report, a sales pitch, a eulogy, a toast, and then how to rehearse and deliver it with ease and confidence – all by instinct or intuition. No wonder so many people are nervous wrecks when it comes to public speaking. (I feel the same way every time I’m asked to play a harp solo at Merrill Auditorium. Oh wait, I don’t play the harp.)
Just like any other discipline, mastering the art of public speaking takes time. It requires study and practice practice practice. I have been involved with it in one form or another for nearly 40 years – as a student, competitor, coach, university lecturer, slam poet, speaker, author and performer – and I’m still learning. But there are also simple remedies. I once had a client who told me she delivered her presentations sitting down. “Try standing” was an easy fix. I had another – a former journalist – who consistently ran overtime. “Periods and paragraphs,” I told him. “When you finish a thought, stop.” Simple? Yes, but it was an editorial directive he understood.
How and where you stand, where you look, what you do with your hands, how you hold your head – simple tweaks such as these can make a momentous difference in one’s delivery, and yet without the right instruction and direction, how are you supposed to know what to do?
That’s where I come in.
I can tailor a program to your individual needs. If you want an objective eye on a big presentation, I can provide an informed critique. Need help getting your thoughts organized? I can show you how to break them out into a clearly structured outline. Want to get rid of that I’d-rather-have-a-Dumpster-fall-on-me-than-give-this-speech feeling? Well, I can’t make all your anxiety go away, but I can give you a plan to manage it and make that nervous energy work for you.
At the risk of sounding like I’m offering you a set of Ginsu knives, satisfaction is guaranteed.
I've done informal public speaking throughout the course of my adult life, but when I was invited to speak before a larger audience of people I'd never met before, I got smart and hired a coach: Elizabeth Peavey. She helped me take a good story and craft it into a motivating, inspiring, witty, interesting speech (so my audience told me afterwards).... which led to another invitation to speak at a professional conference. In working with Elizabeth I learned a lot, gained confidence and had fun. Even if you're a natural at the podium, another set of ears and eyes never hurts. She's a pro.
– Michie O’Day, painter and cycling advocate
First, a little background...
Back when I was a blushing college coed, seesawing between the English Department (take me seriously, I’m a poet) and the Theatre Department (look at me! look at me!), I was given an ultimatum by my then-writing mentor: It’s us or them. You can do one or the other – be a writer or be a performer – but you can’t do both. The gist was I was breaking the rules, and I wasn’t going to get away with it. On my part, the decision was easy. If you were going to make me choose, I choose them. Besides, the theater people were more fun.
Fast forward 30 years, and here I am today, proud to say that every one of those years has been spent integrating my love of both the written and spoken word. In addition to my long career as a print journalist and a celebrated author, I have taught public speaking at the university level for nearly 20 years. I have competed on a national stage as a slam poet, performed my work in venues spanning from New York to Montreal and have served as a keynote speaker at corporate and educational events – all the while supplementing my income as an award-winning copywriter. I have coached writers and other professionals to feel comfortable and confident in front of an audience. I have done the same with a group of resettlement refugees and immigrants (none of whom spoke English as a first language), as well as a classroom full of prepubescent boys. I’ve been a guest lecturer at Master of Fine Arts programs and have taught writing to library groups, seniors, kids and women inmates. In 2010, I coauthored and appeared in a two-woman show, Finding ME, and had unexpected overwhelming success with my one-woman show, My Mother’s Clothes Are Not My Mother.
I guess you could say I’ve made a career of breaking rules. As I like to tell my students, sometimes the best way to get something done is to be told that you can’t.
So, thanks for stopping by. Bye for now.