Top 10 Reasons You Need a Speech Coach
You have passion, you have expertise and you have experience - why whould you hire a speech coach? I’ve got ten wonderful reasons for you, but they all boil down to this - if you hope to be the kind of speaker that makes your audience want to cry and cheer and congratulate you all at the same time, you can! It’s just going to be nearly impossible to do it by yourself. To find out why, let the countdown begin....
10. Practicing in front of your best friend (or significant other, grandmother, etc.) will only get you so far.
Generally speaking, practicing in front of anybody is helpful, but if you’re expecting your friends or family to be able to give you the constructive criticism that you need and help you fix the problems they pointed out, that’s not realistic. It’s kind of like expecting your gardener to be able to look at your hair, give you style feedback, and also trim it up real quick. Besides that, those loved ones of yours are probably gonna go easy on you because they don’t want to hurt your feelings.
9. While watching yourself on video is both brave and excruciating, it won’t help you know if you’re explaining your topic clearly.
You know how when you get a “For Dummies” book, you feel like an even dumber dummy because you can’t understand it? The problem is that these writers are so immersed in their field that they can’t imagine what starting from zero really looks like. In the same way, it’s likely that you’re so familiar with your material that you don’t realize all the assumptions you’re making about what your audience does and doesn’t know. In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath call this the “Curse of Knowledge.” They write:
Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listerners’ state of mind.
To overcome this “curse” and to make sure you’re making yourself understood, you need someone else to give you feedback. (And if you’re serious about creating radical change, I highly recommend this book.)
8. Even if you’re a “natural” on stage, everyone needs input on delivery.
There’s a popular misconception that speech coaches want to turn you into something that you’re not, including forcing you to use weird, awkward gestures that make people embarrassed for you. That’s not the kind of delivery input I mean.
I’m talking about working on the deliberate use of elements such as pauses, eye contact and body language to strengthen the overall impact of your presentation. You’ll still be 100% “you” - you’ll just be the enhanced version best suited for public speaking.
7. You need targeted practice.
A good coach will make you practice in ways that not only challenge you, but prepare you for all manner of catastrophes, including but certainly not limited to crashed computers, lost files, broken glasses and wardrobe malfunctions. You’ll prepare for normal situations as well, because sometimes things actually do go as planned.
6. Moving from “great idea” to “great speech” can be very challenging if you don’t have extensive experience as a speaker and/or writer.
Knowing how to develop your ideas in a way that doesn’t bore everyone to tears is a learned skill. So is crafting a compelling story that will both engage and move your audience toward the desired outcome. You need these skills and more to create powerful content.
5. You probably forgot about your audience.
It’s easy to forget that you aren’t the most important element of your presentation - the audience is. Think about it - without them, where would you be? So before you ever step on stage, you’ll need to make sure you’re considering your audience and the specifics of your presentation that are going to speak to them as individuals (no pun intended).
4. Persuading an audience requires a strategy.
This strategy will include several tactics. You can probably find some good suggestions on how to be persuasive, and perhaps even come up with a decent strategy on your own. But if this is an important talk and the stakes are high, do you really want to run the risk of not being as persuasive as you could be? I mean, I like to bake, but if one of my kids decides to get married, we’ll be hiring a professional. Just sayin’.
3. It’s likely that you haven’t organized your speech in the most effective way possible.
If you’re starting by introducing yourself and explaining what you and/or your organization does, I rest my case. That’s not a good way to start. Yes, that introduction and explanation belongs somewhere...just not in your opening remarks. Good organization helps your audience focus on the material because you 1) make it clear from the beginning where you’re taking them 2) help them navigate along the way 3) demonstrate from the get-go that it’s gonna to be a helluva ride.
2. Your slides could be better.
Building a PowerPoint slide deck (or Prezi, Keynote, etc.) includes so many important components that I’ve written a 30+ page slide guide! Fortunately, if you’ve been working hard on deleting unnecessary slides, editing down long bullet pointed lists and finding compelling images, you’re likely well ahead of the game.
Nevertheless, you need an objective eye to tell you what’s confusing, redundant, and (hopefully not, but quite possibly) just plain ugly. It's like hiring an editor. No writer worth their salt would consider putting something in print without having an editor look over it first.
1. You’re boring.
Okay, okay, you’re probably not boring the whole time. But I would bet that at least part of your presentation is boring. Why? Because most talks are. And most speakers do what everyone else does. Unfortunately, passion, expertise and experience are not enough to overcome this problem. You’ve got to do something different!
Lucky for you, there’s hope.
Obviously, you can hire me. I’d love nothing more than to help you blow your audience out of the water with an amazing presentation. It’s the best part of my job. And if you can’t hire me because, I don’t know, you don’t have an internet connection, you can start by addressing the ten issues above, and you’ll be well on your way.
And just one more thing...if you’re afraid of harsh criticism, I get it. I hate mean. That’s why I work extra hard at helping you relax and find your groove. In fact, it’s one of my specialties.
I will definitely point out where you need to improve, and show you how. But I’ll also tell you all the things you’re doing well, and I’ll encourage you along the way.
So go here, and let’s get started! Your audience will thank you for it.