Expert Advice On Training To Become A Public Speaker

Author: Ian

Date: November 13, 2015

Becoming the best public speaker you possibly can takes a lot of rehearsing, researching and listening to advice from others in the industry.

We got the opportunity to speak with Tony Coll, a Communication Coach who is one of the UK’s most experienced media and presentation trainers.

In the world of speaking, he does pretty much everything except polish the lectern. He spoke with us about the processes he takes to help a speaker write a great speech and the key principals you need to remember before you hit the stage.

If you’re training to become a public speaker you have to appreciate that it all comes from you. Tony touches on how writing an influential speech comes from focusing on meaningful topics and not changing yourself to mold into the audience’s ideology of perfection.

Hi Tony. What do you do in the world of speaking?

If you don’t know what to say, I can write the speech for you. If you’re not confident about how to present it, I can coach you in public speaking skills.

If you want me, rather than you, to be the speaker, I speak on a variety of media and communications topics. I draw on my background as a BBC journalist, corporate communicator, storyteller and soft skills trainer.

My main keynote is called ‘The Great Story of You’. It uses journalistic and dramatic principles to draw together all the good bits of you, the person and you, the team. The result is that you will feel more confident and positive about yourself, others will feel more favourably disposed towards you, and teams will get a greater sense of bonding.

How do you train speakers to become the best they can be?

I work on the content and the delivery as two separate exercises. I elicit the content by starting with an extended audio-recorded interview with the subject, in which I elicit all of the content and anything relevant about the audience, their background, preferences etc.

I then transcribe the interview and rewrite it into a speech of however long is required, adding sparkle dust where required. I then send it to the client for approval and we make whatever changes are necessary.

One of the benefits of this approach is that you get the client’s own natural words and speech patterns, and speaking should come from the recipient’s heart and not be forced words on paper.

We then have as many coaching sessions are required to get the client confident, relaxed and committed to what they are about to say.

At the end of the day, if you aren’t confident on stage, you’ll project a nervous energy to the crowd and they’ll pick up on it. You have to believe in what you’re saying and talk about things that matter to you. Practice, practice and practice more until you’re completely confident.

Do you think the content of a speech is more important than the way it’s performed, or is there an equal balance to them both?

The three Vs of presentation – Visual, Verbal, Vocal – are equally important in my opinion. The famous, and erroneous, statistic than the content is only worth seven percent of any communication, has been widely misunderstood.

What you say is important, how you say it is important, but how you look and behave as you say it are also important. That’s why facial gestures and body language are key components to a great speech. Think about professional singers… you want to see a performance, not just hear a great voice.

If one of your clients has an upcoming event, what would be some ‘quick tips’ you could provide them with?

Be yourself – only more so! Don’t act in the sense of pretending to be someone you’re not. But do present the most positive, energetic version of yourself possible.

John Lennon said the two most important words in the English language are ‘yes’ and ‘wow’. Get some ‘yes’ and some ‘wow’ into every speech. Don’t worry about stumbles, stutters, umms and errs. Just mean what you say, sound like you mean it and deliver it with passion.

We’re all human, so not everything will go perfectly, but have fun and forget any small mistakes. It’s likely that nobody will even pick up on them!

If you think too much about impressing the audience, you’ll lose sight of why you’re doing it. Be the best version of you and don’t be so conscious of how much people will like you.

What do you see the future for public speaking looking like? Is it on the rise or do you think people don’t see it as a necessity to an event?

YouTube has made a huge difference to all forms of public speaking. Religious sermons, stand-up comedy acts, ceremonial addresses, media statements and exhortations by CEOs used to be very different from each other.

But now, everyone can see how the other half performs and it’s making a huge improvement to all genres. Speeches are getting shorter, livelier, more human and more colloquial. These things are all positive developments.

It’s also an option nowadays to make a short speech-to-camera for YouTube, instead of speaking in person. Face-to-face contact is still the best way to convince a bunch of people that you’re right, but where that’s not practical, video is pretty good.

Although you may not choose to hire a communication coach, it’s still helpful to take Tony’s advice on board because it can be intimidating to stand in front of a room full of strangers and pretty much let them judge you. Remember to stick to the core of why you started public speaking in the first place and keep with the flow of how the industry is constantly evolving, or you risk falling behind.