I just finished facilitating a full-day Presentation Skills Training session—this one for a team of medical sales people at a bio-tech company—and am feeling exhausted but exhilarated.
Exhausted, because, as usual, I gave it my all for seven hours, modeling an energized, in-the-moment, give-it-everything-you’ve-got presence for my attendees.
Exhilarated, because I’d yet again witnessed the surprise, delight, and personal transformation that comes when human beings come face-to-face with obstacles—and then overcome them—in a group learning setting.
Now, you may know me—and have perhaps even worked with me—as a coach who engages individually with thought leaders, business leaders and authors to bring a more powerful, clear and confident presence to their speeches and presentations. As a coach, I’ve witnessed again and again the kind of deep, sustainable personal development that can only happen over time and in the pinpointed, private sessions of a personal coaching relationship. Private presentation skills coaching is essential if you want to achieve mastery as a public speaker, or raise your executive presence to its highest, most influential level. That’s why I love, love, love my coaching work.
But I also love, love, love facilitating group presentation skills training. Group training is a completely different animal than coaching, and deeply beneficial in its own right.
Here are five reasons why I think presentation skills training in a group format is a valuable, essential option for anyone wanting to develop their public speaking skills:
- You learn by observing others: As an actor, I participated in professional acting classes for years. While I learned and developed my skills by acting in rehearsed scenes in front of the class (scenes which were thoroughly critiqued by my teachers) I learned just as much by watching my peers perform their scenes for critique. This holds true for the participants in my presentation skills training They watch and learn by observing the struggles and achievements of their fellow class participants—something I can’t offer them in a private coaching session.
- You learn by sharing your struggle: At the start of a presentation skills training class, I encourage attendees to take the risk of sharing the specific issues and struggles they experience when they give public presentations. They are often surprised to discover that a frustrating or embarrassing issue they think is unique to them (e.g. experiencing fear of public speaking, or fight-or-flight symptoms like trembling or sweating or blushing) is also shared by their classmates. “I thought it was just me,” they’ll say, palpably relieved that others (even people they perceive of as confident public speakers) experience their struggles too. This public “airing and sharing” by attendees of the inner fears and behaviors that are holding them back is an important first step towards managing them. It also builds the kind of trust between training participants that allows for deeper growth and personal development.
- More people means more support: My best acting teachers emphasized the importance of being a supportive, engaged audience and class member. That meant learning how to give positive, useful critique to—and celebrating the achievements, growth and development of—my fellow classmates. I distinctly remember how affirming it was to have a classful of people go out their way to help me see what I did right on stage, and to encourage me to keep taking forward strides in my development as an actress. That’s why I take pains to create a safe, supportive atmosphere in my presentation skills training classes, and encourage participants to be kind, gentle and affirming when they deliver critique to their colleagues. I even go so far as to give each attendee a notebook in which to jot down useful, supportive feedback specific to each of their training colleagues’ presentation performances. At the end of class, I ask them to rip out and share those notes with their respective colleagues, so that attendees have written affirmation of their abilities and potential as speakers to refer to long after the class is over.
- You learn better in multiple formats: Multiple attendees allow me to employ multiple learning models, which can expedite growth and development. With a small group, I can, for example, pair people up, get them on their feet, and have them practice right speaking and right listening techniques. I can do improvisation exercises with a whole group, or I can select an individual out of that group to come up in and work solo, in a “hot seat” scenario in front of the class. I can break a large group down into smaller groups, and have each group discuss their best preparation practices or audience engagement techniques. I can have each member of the group work on an individual written exercise, and then reveal the results of the exercise to the rest of the class. Finally, a group format provides a ready-made audience to whom the members of my presentation skills training class can give their presentations. And, I assure you, there’s nothing quite like the energy of an audience to kick a presenter’s adrenaline into high gear—for better or for worse!
- You develop multiple accountability partners: When properly executed, a group learning experience, like my in-house presentation skills training workshop or Two-Day Presentation Skills Deep Dive, becomes a team-building experience, strengthening trust and bonds between participants. This often results in participants choosing to continue the friendships and connections they developed within the training experience, supporting each other’s development and growth as public speakers in the days, months and sometimes years after the training’s completion.
When it comes down to it, group learning experiences can be downright magical, providing goose-bump worthy “Aha!” moments than can transform a person’s beliefs, behaviors and abilities and set them on a path towards greater mastery as a presenter. Time and again, I’ve been gratified to see my presentation skills training participants walk out of the class more confident about their ability to give public presentations, more willing to risk being genuine and vulnerable in front of others, and less fearful of taking risks in the name of learning and growth.
But don’t take my word for it—dive in and experience a public speaking training class for yourself. Because when you do, you’re sure to have an insight—an aha! moment—that challenges your perspective, opens you up to a new approach or technique, affirms your talents and potential, and makes you exclaim “I’m so glad I came!”