Why Every Speaker (even you) Needs A Coach
Why Every Speaker (even you) Needs A Coach
by: Garrison Wynn & Adele Cehrs
Adele Cehrs, contributor to the Wall Street Journal and Inc. Magazine, sat down with veteran speaker Garrison Wynn, CSP, an Amazon #1 bestselling author who is former Fortune 500 leader and a former professional standup comedian, to discuss why it is essential for speakers in today’s changing market to have a coach.
You have been earning a living as a speaker for 21 years; what do you think is the biggest mistake speakers make?
“When speaking to an audience, you need to leave them feeling inspired, valued and energized. It is not just about having a great story that you tell really well; a big focus should be educating your audience – and making them feel better about themselves – as a result of having seen your talk. I think some really qualified and experienced people forget that.”
“Validation is a key component when addressing your audience. The first step in any speech is acknowledging the audience’s situation and their existing knowledge, not just having the keys to the kingdom…the tablets from the mountain.”
“By validating them you get them hooked in on what you’re saying, they accept it, then you’re positioned well to get buy-in on what you want them to learn.”
“Evergreen topics like change, leadership, customer service and sales need to be implied at some level to a business audience; even if you are just telling your own personal journey. You also have to customize to a specific audiences experience, if you want to be viewed as instantly relevant. They will not value your message if you talk over their heads in order to seem brilliant!
Clarity is King; it does not matter how smart you are, if no one knows what you are talking about! And, how it is connected to what they do for a living.”
“Make your point, tell your story, relate it to something and connect it all together. Making your audience feel significant is critical to getting asked back, preferred by bureaus and referred by meeting planners.”
Why do you think it’s essential to have a speaking coach?
“Regardless of topic or area of expertise, how you position and describe the story may not be the same way the audience receives it. When you work with a speech coach, they can act as a third-party to assist you in shaping the story and thoughts about the topic so it has maximum impact.”
“A good speech coach will help you create a formula that keeps the audience interested, hooked and listening. I believe it is best to choose a coach that has real-world professional experience speaking in front of audience. Coaches who have not had the same or least a very similar experience as you, may not really have a lot to offer.”
“The more involved they are, the more insight they can provide you. From setting up the room for optimum audience interaction to what you should request when you do a sound check.”
“An experienced coach should know what it takes to really influence an audience and ensure they remember your speech for years to come. They should be willing to help you become a better speaker and capitalize on your existing experience to increase your impact on an audience.”
“I have often said, ‘While you may be an expert at helping others, critiquing yourself, is like a surgeon trying to take out his own liver – not a good idea on many levels.”
What is the best way to hone your skills?
“A knowledgeable coach can improve skills that you may not have considered like understanding and adjusting your level of animation. You need to learn how and when to emphasize the right words at the key time and fill the room with your voice. Interacting with the audience and immediately grabbing their attention is not always easy, but it is critical. But the big thing is to speak; speakers who speak often are typically the ones who have the most honed speeches. However, honed does not mean too canned or phony. I good coach will be honest with you about how you come across and help you make improvements.
How do you handle speaking in front of over 2,000 people?
“No matter the size, the best way to become more confident in yourself and your speech is to practice it. Practice playing to the camera in large rooms where interaction may be almost impossible. Knowing the information is not enough. Rehearse it to your coach, your friends or family, even in the mirror.”
“The more familiar you are with what you’re going to do, how you want to say it and how to best portray yourself, the better you look and sound on 20’x 20’ IMAG screens. Additionally, meeting planners want to book reliable and predicable speakers who are clearly experienced in the exiting format.”
“You can also take stories from your personal life that are always popular among friends and apply them to your speech. They are tried and tested antidotes that will make you comfortable and relatable to your audience.”
“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel for each speech. You’ll be better off than a speaker who changes their speech on a whim because they read a cool story in the Harvard Business Review. Don’t inject new material into an otherwise honed speech unless you are sure it is going to work.”
“The trouble is, when you are trying out new material at your big event in front of 3500 people – you can look obviously less polished – and the audience will notice. Try new material in breakout sessions, small meetings or less formal speaking engagements to see what people respond to.”
As a professional who speaks often, how do you keep it fresh?
“I create a story grid and write out stories that I tell often and that people respond well to. If you record your speech and when you play it back pay particular attention to the laughs your jokes get so you know what’s working and what’s not. Do not keep telling funny stories that don’t get laughs; if it’s a good story, focus on what’s most interesting or get some help for someone who is funny to punch it up.”
“Finding a coach that has beneficial insight for you and your future as a speaker can make a huge difference too. Do the research, watch videos of successful speakers and read testimonials that others have written about them.
“If they are prominent, and other speakers have advanced from their coaching, that means their knowledge can be an asset to you as well.”
A special thank you to Adele Cehrs of The Epic Group for a great interview.