Training

How to choose a good public speaking training course

Gaining investment for any training and development programme is rarely easy, but it is critical to the success of most businesses to support your people. Training and development is an amazing investment and you can get ROI many times over… when you do it right. 

In this blog, we aim to help you to make a good decision so you and those around you will benefit.

Training courses should not be purchased just as a tick box exercise, they should be done because you want to get a great result for the participant and your business. If you are the boss or HR contact, have you had…

  • People come to you saying they feel nervous, they don’t feel confident or they want to know how to portray the right body language?
  • Employees tell you that individuals are not achieving the results they need from their presentations, or that they need to improve their communication skills?
  • Maybe people have fed back on an individual’s performance when giving a presentation, saying they lack the gravitas expected at a senior level?
  • Or maybe you noticed that they have some distracting habits like speaking too quickly or filling their talks with too many “ums” and “ers”? 
  • Perhaps you hear others say they aren’t clear so they fail to get their point across? 

Whatever the situation, you probably want to support your people and help them to make a greater impact, so a training course would help them get some good quality experience and test it out in practice.

In this blog, I’m going to use the example of a public speaking training course selection process, but many of the points made here are relevant to all sorts of learning and development programmes. 

Who had the idea to do training?

Has the learner been told they need to go on some public speaking courses (or it has been strongly suggested by someone else)? 

If so, then it is important to understand the learner’s issues and challenges not just the perception of the other people, for example, the boss. It is, of course, important to incorporate the boss’s constructive feedback, but remember it is also possible that they have a bias and want somebody to behave in a certain way (often a way that is more like them), rather than appreciating that person’s unique style. In reality, you probably want a balance between the two, but be careful if you only brief in the boss’s views – this could be so far away from the learner’s personality style that they will not implement any of the training and possibly even resist it. We talk more about Personality Styles, especially ‘Presenter Personality Styles’, in our programme and in Dee’s latest book ‘High-Performance Presentations’.

Often the learner is the one who has brought up the need to search for public speaking courses. This is good because they are then aware of their own challenges, but is sometimes bad because it is just taken at its word and assuming there is budget, someone is set the task to Google generic public speaking courses. It is much better to understand the specific needs of the participants and then select a supplier to match those needs. In the example of public speaking courses, there are many needs, but a big differentiator is what we refer to as the need to ‘Survive or Thrive’.

What is needed from the training – survive or thrive?

If you want the learner to just be able to survive public speaking or presentations and to get through them without being sick, then sometimes generic public speaking courses are enough to help them feel a little less nervous. BUT if the learner has nerves that impacts on them and their body language or a fear of public speaking, this type of generic course may make it worse, not better. And worse still, the participant may be embarrassed and not want to admit the full story to the person organising the public speaking courses.* 

Being thrown in at the deep end is not a good learning strategy for everyone. That’s because the very thing they fear, i.e. humiliation in front of a group of people, is happening in the training room when they are asked to practice and present in front of a group of people. In our experience, people with a high level of public speaking fear and nerves often benefit from smaller groups to practice in, or one-to-one training, so they can address the fear state of mind first. 

You might want your learners to thrive, to become strong public speakers, for example, if they do one or more of the following:

  • They have a senior-level job
  • You are looking to develop them as talent within the business
  • They have a customer-facing role
  • They need a good structure to follow instead of reading from slides
  • They do frequent talks and want to improve their impact
  • They want to get consecutive unbiased feedback
  • They no longer want to be a nervous presenter 
  • They have little preparation time
  • They present internationally
  • The kind of public speaking they do is high profile
  • They often present to a large audience
  • They frequently host webinars

If you are looking for the person to thrive in front of an audience, to demonstrate strong communication skills and become an engaging public speaker (rather than scrape by) then we recommend one-to-one training or smaller group in-house learning**

100% participant openness is needed

If you are doing the full training needs analysis yourself, then ensure you create an environment where the learner feels it is okay to be open about their shortcomings without worrying it will impact on your perception of them or their career progression. The good thing about public speaking training is that most people think it is okay to say that they are not good at giving a presentation i.e. they lack competence. However, when we get into conversations about the specifics, often people confide in us and also tell us how they are lacking confidence, even though they look 100% confident to the outside world! 

Do they feel judged? 

People often feel that they are not as good as their peers or they feel that senior people are looking down on them, so if you sense there is more to the problem than they are saying ,then trust your instincts and encourage the learner to speak directly to the public speaking coach for a confidential conversation where they can feel safe and open expressing their concerns rather than feeling they’re being ‘judged’ (which is often the thing they are worried about in the first place!) 

Mind over matter? Confidence, competence or both!

Most generic soft skills courses, no matter what subject, teach practical skillsets and tools, but rarely address the mindset. We believe that mindset is the key to unlocking great learning potential in everyone because: 

  • Left to its own devices without any clear direction in mindset, the participant’s state of mind is more likely to keep running the old patterns and old habits and behaviours even though they know they shouldn’t
  • Without a positive frame of mind and the confidence to make the changes, learners will not implement any toolsets or skill sets they learn, or they may try it once and at the first hurdle default to their old ways 
  • Learning about using our minds properly means permanent learning is more likely rather than being a flash in the pan and going back to their old habits the next day!

This is why we specialise in ensuring that we tackle the mindset challenge in addition to skillsets and tools. Indeed, even when we purchase training for our team, we only select training courses that have that angle to them. 

Get your training provider involved early on

If you suspect that you need ‘Thrive’ level training a – especially if you suspect they need to improve their confidence – we often encourage the participant to speak to us directly in confidence,. This encourages them to be 100% honest about what they need to ensure that we are the best training company for them (and they are ready to do what it takes to get the best results!) Ask the training provider to get involved early in the process because they have experience with this on a daily basis. That also makes it easier for them to bespoke the training to the learner’s needs rather than rolling out a standard training course. Having said all that, if the learner is confident but just needs to learn some basic presentation skills, then generic public speaking courses (we don’t provide them) can deliver good value for money because they work with bigger group numbers meaning there is a lower investment price per head.

Decide on one to one learning or group learning 

Busy executives especially want to ensure that they get the most out of the time they spend in training, so rather than learning with everyone else, one-to-one public speaking coaching can be very effective and time-efficient. It allows them to directly and quickly learn from the trainer’s experience and focus on the few important areas that will make a very big difference for them.

We also find that working with a small internal team delivers great results because the individual can still have bespoke training and at the same time they can learn alongside colleagues. There is also the camaraderie of going through a challenge together – we encourage follow up support groups with colleagues buddying one another after an in-house public speaking training programme. 

All courses are not created equal 

Sometimes purchasing public speaking courses is considered a commodity where a well-meaning assistant (perhaps with no experience in the area) phones around to find the cheapest course, or the one that lasts the longest, or accepts the most number of participants. But often these people haven’t been briefed correctly. When you speak to them, it becomes obvious they know nothing about the participants and their needs. They want to work out a price per head and go with the lowest. That’s approach is okay if you want to achieve a very basic level of results, so if that is the case, be clear with the learner what results are expected as an output of the training. 

First, do no harm 

You know the Hippocratic oath don’t you? It is the oath doctors take to agree that first, they must do no harm. In our experience, it’s worth checking that your choices follow this oath and that the approach you choose won’t make them worse! Many of our clients have been to these generic types of courses before they see us. Some say it was OK (but not that good otherwise they wouldn’t come to use afterwards!) but a few actually find the experience sets them back even further as they got critiqued and the little confidence they had did a nose dive!

So take care when choosing the right training provider and the right course for the needs of your participants and your business. Especially in times of tight budgets – this may be the only training they are able to access for many years to come, so make it a good choice. 

Want to know what to look for in a training provider?

Works for the real world

It is important that the skills and techniques learned are practical – i.e. they can be applied in the real world. For public speaking, spending hours and hours on crafting a speech is unlikely to be practical for most business people. So unless presenting and giving speeches is a major part of the participants’ role beware if people talk about ‘speech writing’, for example, or if their only credibility is based on how many public speaking competitions they have won. Remember, just because they can do it, it doesn’t mean they can teach it, so ensure the programme and trainers are effective at training others. 

We developed our unique Simply Amazing Structure (SAS) system which eliminates the need for a script which turns most presenters into a nightmare – they’ll look down at their script, lose their thread and become monotonal! SAS gives people structure and improves all their communication skills, it gives them tracks to run on meaning they can deliver their presentation (or any other message) with impact and confidence.

Effective trainers and programmes

It sounds obvious, but you want your public speaking training provider to help the participant to become a good or perhaps great speaker depending on your goal. So make sure that you are convinced that the trainers have helped and been successful in working with many other people like you.  

Practice what you preach 

Ask your public speaking coach when they last were in front of an audience giving a training, pitch, talk or presentation. We are out there in the real world doing it all the time, not just in the classroom. We enjoy networking, we speak at events, we train and coach of course, and some sing (one even raps!). We aim to be good role models for our clients and we never ask you to do something we haven’t done! When we give constructive feedback after each practice, it’s based both on theory and practice. 

Testimonials from clients 

Look out for testimonials on the website, and not just written ones – in this day and age you really should be able to look at video testimonials from clients so you can see for yourself how they feel and look more confident and credible following the programme. 

Credible/Professional

Check that the provider is an expert in their field. Dee Clayton, founder and lead trainer at Simply Amazing Training, won Silver at a national business award for “Influential Business Woman of the Year”, trains internationally, has written two books on public speaking and has specialised in the field for over 12 years. She has developed her own trademarked, multi-award-winning approach to helping people increase their confidence and improve their mindset though the renowned ‘Taming Your Monkeys‘ approach. Her team of public speaking coaches and trainers are personally trained by Dee over a 6 -9 month programme so they are as passionate and professional as she is. Not only that, they bring in new ideas from their areas of expertise (like singing and psychology) and we continuously respond to these as well as feedback to develop and improve our already multi-award winning programmes and approaches.  

Practical and flexible

If you value time then you’ll want your provider to work around your timings, locations, and needs. For example, we see lots of clients in London and know that travelling across London to a training programme can waste valuable time. That’s why we can come to you in your London offices. For one to one coaching, we can meet you in a location outside London too, near your home even, because we know that one size or one time does not fit all. In fact, we often have London clients who jump on the train and come and visit us at our Bournemouth offices. They say the distance (and seaside) helps them to focus more, away from their day to day lives.

We know that business is constantly changing and you might want your provider to be flexible and understanding. We have a general outline for the programmes we offer because many people need structure, but within this, there is the flexibility to work to everyone’s individual needs. 

Authenticity

Obviously you want your training provider, trainer or coach to be authentic and when it comes to  public speaking coaching, you want them to teach the participant how to be an authentic public speaker. We believe that if you choose a training provider who teaches participants to act, then they are more likely to ‘act’ in front of the audience, rather than come across as an authentic public speaker. We work very much on the premise that we will help you to become confident in your true self.

We hope this has given you plenty to think about when choosing a training provider or a public speaking coach to help to build confidence as a public speaker. As a handy shortcut here are 7 questions you might want to ask when chosoing your next training provider:

7 questions to ask your training provider to ensure you get what you need

  1. Can you give me an outline of what we will cover during the training sessions?
  2. How easy is it to implement the techniques you teach into everyday life?
  3. Do you have three video testimonials of previous clients?
  4. How do you adapt your teaching techniques to the participant’s style of learning?
  5. Do you offer a money-back guarantee?
  6. Would it be okay to speak to a previous client of yours?
  7. When was the last time you were ‘doing/using’ the skill personally (i.e. on your feet presenting to an audience outside of public speaking training)?

With training budgets not always easy to come by, be sure to make a good decision. By using the tips in this article you’ll be able to do that. But equally, don’t take too long either! Good providers get booked up early so if you or the participant are on a deadline (often their next big talk), do your research quickly and get them booked in asap!

If you need anything else or have some handy tips of your own to share, please do get in touch. If you’d like to know more about our public speaking courses in Hertfordshire, London, Leicestershire, Kent and Dorset, or anywhere in-between, we’d love to hear from you.

Public Speaking Training Courses…

Dee Clayton

Posted by Dee Clayton on 13 Sep 2019

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