Do you know someone who is a charismatic and effortlessly charming conversationalist but, if you were to put that exact same person in front of an audience, they would immediately become a fumbling bundle of nerves? Or, how about my favorite, the brainy, office introvert who’s forced to give a presentation because she’s the only person qualified to speak on a particular subject. As she approaches the front of the room, anxiety suddenly takes over her mind and insists that she “come out of her shell” in order to make a successful presentation. Of course, she drastically overcompensates, overshooting the mark and comes off as being uncharacteristically boisterous. Somewhat jokingly, colleagues ask, who was that? Why did a few seemingly insignificant additions (stage, microphone, audience) transform these individuals into totally different people? Why didn’t their instincts come to the rescue?
The fundamental difference between public speaking and a conversation is minuscule. However, the skills needed for successful public speaking are herculean. In a conversation, there is a back and forth exchange between the parties, which goes something like this ― you speak and I listen and then I speak and you listen, an interaction very similar to watching a tennis match. Contrarily, public speaking requires you to balance the weight of your thoughts with every word while leaving spaces for your listeners to mentally fill in the blanks.
The better you are at leaving context clues to be mentally sniffed out by your audience, the more your presentations will feel like authentic conversations. Essentially, public speaking is a one-way conversation (monologue) delivered as if it were a two-way conversation (dialogue). Although it sounds easy, this is the point where public speaking becomes unnatural and requires mental agility and much practice. Experience has taught me that the better you are at thinking publicly, the better you will be at speaking publicly. For this reason, unlike most speech coaches, I coach my clients more on how to think publicly than speak publicly.
Since the days of cavemen, humans have been hardwired with the desire to be heard and understood. Today, that desire is most apparent in business settings where marketers and corporate influencers clamor for the opportunity to persuade their target audiences. If you’re in business, there’s an extremely high probability that you will find yourself standing in front of an audience at some point in your immediate future.
Regardless of the topic, one goal shared by every presenter is to avoid embarrassment and reputation harm. The biggest challenge for most executives is not one of skill; instead, it’s not having the time to fit a lengthy, iterative speech development process into their busy schedules. My experience coaching hundreds of corporate executives and TED speakers has made me intimately familiar with the frustration that results from cramming for a high-stakes presentation. For this reason, I created a speech development process called Better Presentations Now. It’s specifically designed to save you time and increase your ability to recall content.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking, “thanks, Dez! I got it now. The public thinking piece was all I was missing. Why would I hire a coach?” I say, if coaching is good enough for people like Michael Jordan, Serena Williams and Tom Brady, you might want to consider taking a page from their book. Here are three reasons why it makes sense to consider hiring a speech coach:
Content creation and evaluation
In most cases, speakers are too close to their content to judge it objectively. It’s impossible to read the label from inside the bottle. Your speech coach will be familiar with the standard of excellence and, similar to a jeweler who appraises the quality and character of a diamond, they will give you a true assessment of how clear and compelling your ideas are.
Your speech coach is primarily your thought partner. They are the experts whom you should trust to take a sharp eye and sharper knife to your content. He or she will help you unpack and explain the deeper meaning behind your messages. Additionally, they can help you find unique patterns in your content; those elements represent your authentic voice and separate you from your competitors.
Speech coaches offer comfort before, during and after your presentation by providing a process plan for you to develop and test your content. Additionally, your coach will provide a safe, private place for you to be both vulnerable and a little bit clumsy as you sharpen your platform skills.
Fear, anxiety and confusion are all indicators that you may want to seek the help of a speech coach or, as I like to say, a thought partner. As a result of working with me, clients experience clarity, reduced anxiety, more time to fit preparation into their schedules and the respect of their colleagues.
The best part of my work is the follow-up session after a client has delivered their presentation. Their sense of satisfaction for a job well done reminds me that I was put on earth to help presenters transform from self-doubt to self-confident. If you are interested in a thought partner, I know a guy. Schedule a connection call with me today at email@example.com.