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 Acting Myth
2. The Mehrabian Myth
3. The Nerves Myth
4. The Learning Styles Myth
5. The PowerPoint Myth
This coach will teach you everything they learned at stage school. You’ll learn how to control your voice and a prescribed set of gestures to bolt onto every talk you give.
Unfortunately this coach underestimates an audience’s ability to sniff out inauthentic behaviour. Focusing only on voice and gestures is as superficial as putting a coat of fresh paint over a cracked wall. A great actor cannot rescue an awful movie script.
To create a great presentation you need great content. And that means working on your messages, your structure and the words you use before thinking about delivery. We agree with the presentation experts who point out that 80% of the value of a great communication is in the content. Great communication coaches will help you polish both your content and your delivery.
This coach will say 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. (Mehrabian’s results were more about how sincere a speaker appears.) Google ‘Mehrabian Myth’ for more on this.
If you hear 55/38/7 from a public speaking coach, run a mile.\
This coach will tell you that breathing exercises and visualisations – such as ‘imagine the audience naked’ – will calm your fear of public speaking.
However, 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!
Instead, focus on three things:
Nerves can be very personal. Over the 15+ years that we have been coaching speakers, we have found at least a dozen ways of helping individuals feel confident when speaking or presenting in public.
This coach will advise you that different people learn through different styles of communication. He or she will tell you that people interpret better either through either auditory, visual, or kinesthetic communications.
Psychologists have, after 30 years, disproved this idea of learning styles. Ignore any ‘expert’ who suggests you adapt to different learning styles. Good communication incorporates elements of all three.
This coach will talk about your Powerpoint or Keynote slides as if the slides are your presentation.
This slide-led approach is the quickest way to bore your audience and kill the life from your talk.
Instead, we use the A.I.M method: start by analysing your Audience; define your Intentions clearly then develop your Messages.
We help you create a great talk and only then develop powerful visual aids to help your audience.
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. What is more important that anything is to find someone with plenty of experience and someone with whom you can relate.
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It’s full of practical tips and insightful quotes that will help you make immediate improvements to your leadership talks and presentations, including:
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