If you reckon you’re hopeless at public speaking, it’s because you haven’t had the right coaching. That is the unequivocal truth. Everybody can be good at public speaking; it’s simply a question of finding the approach that works for you.
As regular readers of my blog will know, an area I find particularly challenging is the great outdoors and I’m always trying to bolster my skills and confidence in bushcraft and so on. I’ve been on a couple of survival courses, where one of the modules was fire-lighting. The instructors presented it as a terribly difficult task and made a huge song and dance about nurturing a tiny flame. Only a couple of star students managed to get any sort of heat going and I couldn’t even generate a spark.
Last month, I went on a course with a different slant, run by an excellent little company called Taste the Wild. Here, the point was to get a fire lit so we could concentrate on cooking delicious food on it. The instructor showed us what to do and then it was our turn. In this relaxed environment, I had a fire burning in five minutes flat.
It would have taken me forever to work out by myself how to light a camp fire and I would almost certainly have given up trying long before I got there. After the first dispiriting lessons, I thought I would never be able to do it… but it turns out I can.
The same principle applies to public speaking. If you find it difficult and you’ve never had any training, your problem is easily solved by seeking out a course. If you’ve already been on a course and you’re still struggling, don’t be put off! That was the wrong course for you, so try another approach with a different trainer.
I’m proud of my success rate and the feedback I receive from clients but there will inevitably be times when my coaching isn’t as well suited to a given individual as someone else’s might be. The point I’m making is not so much that some trainers are good and others bad (though obviously some are better than others) as that, if you’ve come away from a course without having acquired the skills you were there to learn, don’t think you can’t do it. Sign up with a different coach and you may well get a far more positive result.
(To read about my approach and how I work, please check out the newly made-over Public Speaking Skills website.)
Take heart. If I can light a fire, you can make an effective speech or presentation.