By Laura Stack, MBA, CSP
Professional speakers who’ve been on the beat for a while generally think of speaking coaches as guides and mentors for those new to the business. And, yes, a coach can prove especially valuable when you’re first getting started. But even the most experienced speakers can use the occasional refresher course, just to make sure their skills haven’t gotten rusty and to continually up their game. I’ve benefitted from the help of MANY speaking coaches in my 20-plus-year speaking career and would recommend: Dianna Booher, Mark Sanborn, Lou Heckler, Patricia Fripp, Tim Gard, Bill Stainton, Jeff Justice, Ed Tate, Ron Culberson, David Glickman, Max Dixon, and Ron Arden.
But why should you bother to hire an actual coach, when you can head for the local library and check out a dozen books on the subject, or buy a DVD to watch on TV in the comfort of your den? Books deprive you of the greatest benefits of a speaking coach: one-on-one, personalized interaction, and feedback on your specific speech and style. Books and DVDs can provide nuts-and-bolts theory, but not the personal touch and input offered by a flesh-and-blood coach.
Among other things, a speaking coach can evaluate your performance, teaching you how to:
Affordability vs. Effectiveness
Joining a Toastmasters International group in your area will be cheaper than hiring a speaking coach and will give you practice speaking in front of groups. While you won’t get the specific personal attention you’d enjoy from a private coach, you willreceive personal attention to your speaking skills, and the price is right: about $36 every six months. Furthermore, working with a group can help tame the twin beasts of nervousness and shyness. You learn by doing in a no-pressure atmosphere...but it can take a while.
On the other hand, a private coach is especially useful if you prefer to work one on one, intensely, and in private, focusing 100 percent on developing your skills without having to split your attention with others in a group. Personal coaches also tend to be more flexible in terms of where you meet, and with modern communications technology, you don’t even have to meet face to face. If you live in Los Angeles, your coach can live in Miami...or anywhere using Skype or a Webinar platform with Webcam. The downside? A decent coach can cost you hundreds of dollars per session or thousands of dollars per day—though it’s worth the investment if you really need the help. They’re ideal for crash courses before a big speech and brush-up sessions when you need to up your game.
Here’s what to look for in a speaking coach:
Being a good presenter is a developed skill, not an inborn talent, so a private coach may provide the edge you’ve been looking for—especially for newer presenters. However, even experienced speakers should work with a speaking coach to help iron out any wrinkles in your presentation style—especially if audience response has been lackluster lately or you’re bored.
Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, is an expert in productivity. For more than 20 years, her speeches have helped entrepreneurs, leaders, teams, and organizations improve output, lower stress, and save time at work and in life. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides time management workshops around the globe that help attendeesachieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time. An expert in the field of performance and workplace issues, Stack is theauthor or co-author of 10 books, most recently “What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do.” Connect with her at http://www.TheProductivityPro.com; http://www.facebook.com/productivitypro; or twitter.com/laurastack.