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I am passionate about helping and coaching people to become better public speakers. But I don’t necessarily do it in the structured way that Toastmasters or our school system might teach us.
So today I want to deconstruct the coaching process and give some tips to people out there who may be coaching others about how they can become better and more effective speakers.
The majority of these methods are actually taken from Tim Ferris – the author of The Four Hour Work Week. He is a professional at learning things very quickly and I’ve taken the way that he goes about learning new skills and applied it to public speaking to help you be a more effective speech coach.
Tip#1: Question best practices
Just because people have been taught the same way every single time doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to teach.
Questioning best practices can help our students accelerate and learn faster.
A best practice in public speaking is to focus heavily on technique. We do this by doing two things.
We firstly study the greatest speeches of all time. We break them down and analyse their techniques. We learn about pauses and repetition and using metaphors and stories. And then we try and teach our students to add these into their own speeches.
But what if we didn’t follow this progression? What is we changed the way that we taught people public speaking?
We will later look at the notion of sequencing but I believe that the way that we teach people is not the way that we should be going about doing it.
Changing the order of the way we teach people can actually help to build confidence. And that is probably the biggest thing we need to teach people.
Tip#2: Establish a base line
We want to establish the competency of our students.
We want to understand where they’re at in their level of public speaking. You can do this in a number of ways.
But I suggest that the best way is two-fold and both would be while filming them on camera.
The first thing would be to get them to deliver a prepared speech of three to five minutes. Use that as a baseline of their speaking skills. How much do they refer to notes? How much do they say “umm” and “uhh”? How much do they stammer?
And the second thing would be to get them to give an impromptu speech of approximately two minutes and measure how well they did when they were put on the spot.
Obviously there’s a myriad of different ways that you can measure their ability. It’s up to you how you go about doing that. But that’s what I would recommend and something that I’ve found to be effective.
Deconstruction is so important in public speaking because so often we fail to realise that public speaking is actually a multidimensional task.
We don’t just get up and public speak. It’s not one thing that we do.
We need to learn how to prepare our speeches. We need to learn how to deliver our speeches. We need to learn how to pause. We need to learn how to avoid stuttering. We need to learn how to use body language. We need to learn how to move across the stage. We need to learn how to hold a microphone and many other things as well.
So deconstructing the many skills that we need to learn can help our students become better public speakers.
It is the same as learning to drive a car. Your teacher hopefully deconstructed the driving process for you. You’d learn one step and then the next. You’d progress from straight lines to turning, from back roads to highways. You slowly build up to the big leagues.
Look at every single aspect of public speaking and deconstruct it so you can teach your students each individual aspect.
Don’t just throw it all at them at once. Give them a chance to learn some parts of it and then move up to the next parts.
Tip#4: Use the “80/20” Rule
The 80/20 rule states that 80% of the results that we get come from 20% of the work that we put in.
I believe that same is true for public speaking. 80% of our improvement will come from 20% of our practise. Breaking down public speaking and focussing on the things that are most important will help to bring your students up to a very high standard.
Use the 80/20 rule and deconstruct all the facets of public speaking. Break them down into just a few tasks and I believe that we can teach public speaking more effectively.
Sequencing refers to changing the order that we teach people.
The way that I learned in school involved talking about technique and then watching some professional speeches. We would then deconstruct those speeches and look at the different techniques that they used.
We started with technique and then talked about body language. We talked about how to structure your speech. And then it all concluded at the end with me needing to stand up in front of a crowd and give my first speech. It was absolute mayhem.
Public speaking is a skill that we learn. It’s not something academic that you can just take from books. You need to practise.
And by changing the sequence of things I believe that we can learn more effectively.
The way I learned to become a decent public speaker was to start by recording podcasts sitting down. I didn’t have to worry about moving. I didn’t have to worry about body language. The majority of my first podcasts were never published online. They were only for me.
I then progressed from podcasts to “talking head videos”. I filmed myself from the shoulders up. You can never see my hands so I got to focus on just my facial expressions and getting used to the camera.
Moving from podcasts to speaking heads and then further back allowed me to progress through the different facets of public speaking.
Break it down and structure your learning sequence. Your students can learn better and you can be a better speech coach.
Tip#6: Practice without stakes
Those first coaching appointments are going to be some of the most important moments that you have with your students.
Often people have shaky confidence and fear when they start. A great way to overcome this is to create what Tim Ferris calls “no stakes learning environments“.
These are environments where you can’t make mistakes with no repercussions.
It’s like learning cooking techniques. You don’t start with the sharpest knife. You use a lettuce knife – no risk of cutting yourself and all the freedom to learn.
We can do the same for public speaking. Don’t get your student to practise and then speak in front of an audience straight away.
Instead help them to practise in no stakes learning environments. They could record themselves in the comfort of their own homes. They could speak one-on-one with you if they are comfortable to do that. You could even turn your back and not face them when they first present so they’re not worried about you watching them.
Tim Ferris recommends that the first five lessons need to be in that no stakes environment before we move up to things that have meaning.
Tip#7: Build incentives
Once we’ve gone through the no stakes process we can then look at building incentives.
Tim recommends a site called Stickk.com. Here you can pledge a certain amount of money to a charity that you would hate for your money to go to. That money is contained. You then allocate someone you trust to be a referee.
And if you grow and acquire the skill then you can get the money back or give it to a charity of your choice. But if you fail then that money goes to your unfavoured charity.
Money is a massive motivator so that’s one way that we can build incentives into our coaching. Or you can create your own incentives if you can think of some.
Tip#8: Always choose positive feedback
There was a psychological study that was done with two soccer teams.
One team was trained with standard constructive criticism. “You didn’t kick the ball correctly because… Here’s what you can do better next time.”
The second team focussed only on positive feedback. They would look for opportunities within the team to praise someone for a skill well done. This not only uplifted the praised player but also help the rest of the team to understand how they could take that person’s praised skill and apply it to themselves.
So don’t simply tell your public speaking student that they’re doing something wrong. Instead go online and find examples of people who do a skill really well. Sit down with your student and ask them to observe how they use pauses or how they command the stage or how they use body language.
Focus on what people do well and reinforce your student with positive affirmation on the things that they do well.
Speech coaching is extremely valuable. I hope that these speech coaching tips have helped you to understand how you can be more confident in teaching your students and how you can build your students’ confidence and skills faster by doing things in a non-traditional manner.