For the past few months, my firm has sponsored a series of workshops with a presentation consultant, a woman who helps with presentation style and skills. Not wanting to pass up free training and wanting to see how years without debating competitively had treated my speaking skills, I signed up.
The training was very interesting. It’s one thing to have someone tell you their impression of how you speak. It’s another to have a professional presentation consultant videotape your presentation and then play it back to you while explaining specifically why she said what she did about your speaking style.
The verdict? I speak clearly. I vary my intonations and speed and word choice to fit the story that I’m telling. My gestures aren’t distracting. I convey passion about what I’m speaking about. These are all good things, she said, which many people fail to do.
But, my main problem is that I present too much like a debater. I am too adversarial. My speech tells a logical story, but the story is presented from the perspective of someone trying to convince a skeptic, something which was ingrained in me as a science student but not a tactic which lends itself towards building consensus or compelling action. Instead of establishing a personal connection, on a logical and on a emotional level, I focused on content and delivery.
This she pointed out very well on camera, as even I was shocked at the difference between “debate mode” me and “normal” me — my posture, speaking tone, facial expressions were all suddenly different.
After pointing this out to me, she helped me come up with ways to present the same material but in a more emotionally and logically compelling way, and I was able to practice this a few times before the one hour session was up.
In all honesty, I was very skeptical of what a presentation coach could do, but I am very satisfied by this particular experience, and would recommend this type of coaching to anyone who wants to improve their public speaking.