When To Hire A Speech Coach

by Speaking Tips | November 10, 2003

Few people know that there are professionals whose business it is to help them further their communication goals. While it is true that most of us could probably get by without turning to a speech coach, this may not always be the right choice. In the best case, your speech or presentation will likely come accross as a well researched but amateur attempt while the worst case scenario is not something any of us would really want to contemplate.

As we all know, the best preparation for delivering a speech or presentation is to practice it in a forum that enables us to recive quality, constructive feedback. However, many people are too embarrassed to ask friends and colleagues for such feedback. This is actually a good thing because unless we are already accomplished speakers, the chance of our circle of acquaintances containing someone with the appropriate coaching skills is vanishingly small. Organizations such as Toastmaster clubs can provide an excellent forum for developing basic skills and techniques and should certainly not be igmored, but for most of us engaging a speech coach may be the best choice.

Hiring a professional speech coach is something anyone who speaks on a regular basis should seriously comtemplate. Even accomplished speakers can benefit from coaching since preparation for one speaking engagement is not necessarily preparation for another (giving a lecture is different from delivering a eulogy for example). There are far too many and too varied opportunities for most professionals to have their communication skills so well-honed that they are ready for any presentation situation they might encounter. You may even want to consider getting some professional coaching for a one-off speaking assignment if the stakes are high enough for you or your organization.

When To Hire A Speech Coach

Before you start looking for a speech coach, pinpoint your reasons and objectives for doing so. This will help you focus and select the best person for your needs. Some of your objectives might be to:

  • Add polish to existing basic skills
  • Gain high-level stage skills
  • Establish a commanding presence
  • Learn to be yourself
  • Master how to tell your personal stories
  • Help organizing presentation material
  • Improve your voice and vocal production
  • Relax and use gestures
  • Add humor
  • Learn to work with technology
  • Prepare to be video taped
  • Develop media skills
  • Present before an international audience
  • Speak when the audience is unseen (radio and TV)
  • Be interviewed on TV
  • Run for public office
  • Handle a press conference
  • Deal with an hostile audience
  • Persuade the audience to specific critical action
  • Improve your visuals
  • Stand out over your competition

Important Considerations

To locate a speech coach, use search techniques similar to finding any expert - check the yellow pages, surf the net and seek for recommendations from your friends and colleagues. Try calling the speech and drama department of your local college or university. Be aware that speech coaches use several different titles such as speech coach, speech consultant and communications consultant.

Speech coaches may charge by the hour or by the project. A good speech coach will be able to quickly identify areas where you can improve and achieve results fast. You can aid the process by taking the time to self-diagnose yourself and communicating where you believe you can improve before you meet with your coach. This will allow the coach to prepare in advance and consequently save them time and you money.

Some people feel sensitive about their accents. Through a series of drills, a speech coach can make selected modifications in pronunciation but more importantly show that accents are part of a person's persona and not necessarily an impediment to audience understanding. Plus unanticipated language constructions often evoke humor.

In summary ...

A speech coach can provide individual attention that is focused on your specific development needs. Coaching is private, fast, results oriented and need not put too great a strain on your bank balance. You should view hiring a speech coach as an investment in your professional development. You will come away with polish, refinement, encouragement, sophisticated feedback, confidence in new situations, better presentation skills, and a new dimension added to your communication portfolio.

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