Tricia Karp Tricia Karp
03 September 2013

Why most public speaking courses are a waste of time and money

tri08My career has been focused on speaking exceptionally well – as a TV and radio presenter, voice artist, and public speaker – and training others to do the same.

As a corporate communications adviser, part of my role was to train leaders to be better presenters and speakers.  I used to video tape them, give them feedback on their body language, teach them tips and tricks to appear confident even though they weren’t, and help them structure their talks so they could make an immediate and strong impact on their audiences.

While the leaders I trained gave me great feedback about our sessions together, I knew something was missing.

I noticed that, most of the time, these people didn’t really care so much about their presentation topics.  They were stiff and wooden when they spoke, behaving how they thought a person in their position should behave.  They wanted me to arm them with techniques.  They wanted to be told what to do.  They had no concern whatsoever about being authentic.

Out of all the people I trained, to this day I remember just one.  He was a man whose job it was to ensure proper safety procedures were adhered to in his organisation.  No-one was very interested in his talks, by his own admission, given the dryness of the topic.  We worked together to make those talks a whole lot more interesting, by starting them with a story about an employee who’d been killed in an accident on the job.

The thing is, when this man told me the story, he was genuinely moved by it.  He had tears in his eyes.  And at one point, he even choked them back.

There were three other men in the room that day.  As they listened to this man speak, they were captivated.  The silence in the room was palpable.  These men had their attention 100% on the man speaking.

It occurred to me that, if he could continue to tell the story with such a willingness to embrace and reveal the impact the accident had had on him, he’d instantly win over his audiences.  They’d listen to him.  And they’d take the safety issue at work very seriously.

When I started my own business, I reinvented the way I work with people who want to be powerful speakers.  Because I realised that most presentation skills training that’s heavily focused on techniques takes people further away from themselves – their presence, and their ability to connect with and inspire others.

Presence doesn’t come from fake gestures, making sure you stand up straight, and not moving your hands too much.

Presence is born from the inside out.  It engenders trust and respect.  Presence naturally connects.

Here’s what you need to know to help you access more of your presence as a speaker:

There’s no such thing as a right or wrong way to present

Every presentation skills trainer is likely to tell you something different.  In every audience there’ll be people who relate to you and think you’re fabulous and those who don’t.  Develop your own style.  It’s yours.  Own it.  Your right people will connect with you when you’re passionate and aligned with what you’re saying.

There are no rules

Truly, there are no rules.  Some of the most engaging and compelling speakers I’ve watched, especially in my workshops, are inspiring and fascinating AND reticent at times and awkward.  The reason they’re so captivating is that their presence shines through.  They have deep care and passion for their topic and area of expertise.  It’s glorious!

Being real wins every time

We’re good at sniffing out fake.  We want real.  When a speaker genuinely cares about what she’s saying, she connects with her audiences.

Authenticity = credibility and trust.

It’s that simple.  It really is.

And you already know how to do it.

We all tell stories every day.  We connect with people – friends and family – without even giving it a second thought.

The problem is, that seems to get lost or you forget when there’s stress about getting up in front of a group – often filled with strangers, or people you know and want to impress.

You become a great public speaker by being more and more You.

You’re not broken.  You don’t need fixing.  

It just might be a case of undoing what you’ve been taught before by a well-intentioned presentation skills trainer.

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