When you choose a public speaking coach or presentation trainer, you want someone who knows their stuff. This means someone who actively practises what they preach and with the experience to add value to your communication.
Only with this expertise can a public speaking coach help you compose your talk and rehearse you properly.
To sort the genuine from the quacks, we’ve identified five regularly-quoted pieces of advice that are complete bunkum.
If your prospective public speaking coach, trainer or advisor talks about any of these things, we recommend you start looking elsewhere.
1. The Mehrabian Training Myth
2. The Nerves Myth
3. The Learning Styles Myth
4. The Acting Myth
5. The PowerPoint Myth
Beware of anyone who says something like “How well you communicate depends 55% on how you look, 38% on how you sound and 7% on the words you use.”
These statistics are based on a misinterpretation of the 1970’s work of Albert Mehrabian, a Stamford academic. If these statistics were true, you would be able to watch foreign language films without subtitles. Google ‘Mehrabian Myth’ for more on this.
If you hear 55/38/7 from a public speaking coach, run a mile.
If you are advised to ‘imagine the audience naked’ or to do some breathing exercises – then the person advising you does not understand how to genuinely help you overcome the fear of public speaking. They are trying to treat the symptom rather then the underlying anxiety. Imagine an audience naked if you want – just don’t tell your friends about it!
Based on some theoretical hokum, many people teach that your audience interpret better either through either auditory, visual, or kinesthetic communications.
Psychologists have disproved this idea of learning styles. Ignore anyone who talks about adapting to different learning styles. Good communication will incorporate elements of all three.
There are some who coach public speaking and presentation skills who are very good at building on what they learned at acting school. But a great talk or presentation should be more about your words and your structure than your acting skills. In reality, a mediocre actor can perform a great play well. But a great actor will always come a cropper with a crap play.
The final trap to avoid is the PowerPoint Myth. This is when you are encouraged to create your PowerPoint slides first. Many companies fall into this trap when the communication is all about “The Deck.” Focusing on a deck-first approach is a sure way to create Death by PowerPoint.
The good news is that there are many other experienced expert trainers and coaches who can help you build long lasting presenting and public speaking skills and expertise. What is more important that anything is to find someone with plenty of experience and someone with whom you can relate.
It’s not always easy to choose a public speaking coach, but at least we can help you avoid some of the quacks.
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