Speech Coach

Little known fact: public speaking is a skill. A learned skill.

I offer both corporate and private training, ranging from individuals to large groups. Each program is tailored to the client’s particular needs. 


CORPORATE TRAINING 

Most professionals go into their careers untrained in public speaking, despite the fact effective communication is critical to success in any field. This often leaves people to muddle through the process on their own and hope for the best, which can range from agonizing over-preparation to winging it. Neither yields optimum results. What’s most curious is we don’t send staff to nearly any other task without proper training. No wonder public speaking makes so many people uncomfortable – and, well to be honest, are bad at it. 


I break training into the two basics of effective communication: content and delivery. How one crafts one’s message greatly impacts how the words are said. The point must be clear, with all non-essentials stripped away. I cover how to develop a clear and focused thesis, construct a lean outline, mine out distinctive facts that will make the message more memorable, and develop a plan to pull it all together. 


In terms of delivery, I tailor coaching to meet individual needs. We can focus on presentation basics, or I am available to massage speeches and presentations, and/or to coach and critique presentations before they're given.


Following is a menu of curriculum:


PRESENTATION BASICS: 


Massaging the Message, Managing the Body & Empowering the Voice

We first determine who your audience is, then develop a clear and focused thesis, construct a lean outline, mine out distinctive facts that will make the message memorable, and develop a plan to pull it all together. 


Next, we cover how to physically prepare, how to enter a room, where and how to stand, where to look, what to do with your hands, how to move and use the space and deal with visual aids – even the dreaded PowerPoint. We can then focus on articulation: the way the words come out of your mouth. We talk about breathing, stretching, warming up, as well as using vocal variation and managing your vocal range. I also offer a special breakout session for women, who can face particular challenges in infusing their speaking voices with power.


PEER-TO-PEER REVIEW

This comprehensive program creates an in-house review pool to critique peer presentations before they go live. Staff is trained in the critical elements of public speaking and effective critiquing techniques. They are then given the opportunity try out their speech and review skills with each other in a collaborative setting, which I facilitate. Once they “graduate,” they are ready to have other present for them, so no presentation leaves the house without being thoroughly vetted.


IMPROVED LISTENING 

The late Senator Edmund Muskie once said, “If you want to be heard, you need to learn how to listen.” Most people don’t realize active listening is a skill, one that needs to be cultivated and practiced. We discuss ways to become better listeners and how to make a speaker feel he/she is being heard, both with verbal and non-verbal cues. We also talk about ways to make listening easier for your intended audience.


HOW TO BETTER MANAGE MEETINGS

Poorly run meetings not only waste time and sap energy but they can also derail targets and thwart objectives. Establishing clear goals helps keep the meeting on track, but doing so requires a plan. We talk about how to anticipate and strategize, how to establish and maintain control and how to leave all players with a clear sense of what they should do with the information gained.

 

CONSTRUCTIVE CRITIQUING TECHNIQUES

Some people are naturally gifted speakers and can wax eloquent with zero outside input. Most of us, alas, need an objective eye and ear to give our ideas shine and our words polish. But how to deliver and accept this input without bruised egos and hurt feelings? By setting boundaries and using appropriate language. I offer effective critiquing techniques and how to best employ them so that you can create an in-house peer-to-peer review pool.


THE ART OF PERSUASION

In the end, almost every form of communication is a variation of sales. Whether you are selling yourself, a product, or an idea, persuasion – or rhetoric, as it is more formally known – is at the core of achieving your goal. We can talk about the tools necessary for effective persuasion and how to adapt them to individual situations.


INDIVIDUAL TRAINING

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. 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.