Friday, December 11, 2009

Wrapping up Step Up Your Speaking

I'm rolling out the red carpet for Stephanie Benoit, who this week completed 15 weeks of online coaching in our Step Up Your Speaking program. She entered our contest in July, and started her coaching in September--and you've seen all of it online. Here what I've noticed about Stephanie's progress:

  • She has a more confident speaker presence: One of Stephanie's major goals was overcoming a fear of public speaking. She's done that through the weekly practice called for in this coaching--and today, you can see that confidence implied in her posture, appearance, gestures and more. I think she's thinking more about how she wants to come across, always important for any speaker.

  • She's taken advantage of camera practice: Having to submit her work via online video meant that Stephanie needed to rehearse and record every week, a simple step anyone can take to improve her speaking. But more than that, she's now gesturing within the camera frame so we can see her hands, and has used the camera to learn about unintentional facial expressions--like visual "ums"--so she can correct them.

  • She's built on or discovered some great speaker strengths: Stephanie's been able to discover and build on existing strengths she possesses, but may not have been aware of previously. She has a pleasant and expressive voice, and uses it naturally and well for emphasis. Her enthusiasm and personality come across, even on camera (and it's tough to put that across without a live audience). She doesn't look as nervous as she may have felt going into this process, even from the beginning. And she's willing to try and practice, again and again--as a coach, I can tell you that's the key to success in public speaking!

  • She's starting to shape her messages. When you're just starting out as a speaker, sometimes it's hard to come up with what you want to say. There's more work here for Stephanie to do as she moves forward, but she's made a great start at coming up with messages and finding ways to make them stick with her audiences. Now she needs to work through all the things she wants to say and put them together in short and long presentations, so she's ready when an invitation arises.

Here are Stephanie's questions after 15 weeks of coaching. You'll notice that they don't sound at all ike a beginner's questions:

  1. What other resources--books, links, ideas--can we recommend for her to keep her going?
  2. What else does she need to successfully book a speaking engagement?
  3. What does she need to do to turn this into a successful business?

I could list plenty of resources for each of these questions, but none of them would work as well as these three: Patience, persistence and practice. Stephanie will need patience in waiting to land a speaking engagement, and then another, and another. She'll need to persist in seeking speaking opportunities, asking and networking in all her circles and beyond them; she may need to join some professional groups, a local Toastmasters organization or a local networking group to meet and make contacts. And she'll need to practice her delivery skills as well as her messages, until she has fully developed a core of messages that she wants to communicate, and has figured out where her audiences are.

She already has one of the best practice tools I know, the Flip MinoHD Camcorder, and if she spends just an hour a week working on her message content and then on its delivery, I know she will continue to improve. And I have links at the end of this post with books and other tools she can acquire to practice as well as get new ideas and inspiration.

Does she need slick marketing materials to get a speaking engagement? I don't think so. Stephanie may want to develop a website with basic information about her business, including her biography, videos of her speaking, and some background on the topics about which she wants to speak, and she may want business cards for face-to-face networking. She's active on social-media sites and should use those to let her networks know of her goal to get a speaking engagement.

When it comes to making a business out of public speaking, I'll caution that very few people make their entire living that way. Even when you move beyond the beginner stage, there are many speaking opportunities that don't pay directly. But you may gain other worthwhile but indirect benefits, such as promoting your business, building your audience, spreading your message and making yourself more visible as a speaker. To start making speaking pay, Stephanie will need to begin as an unpaid speaker--but use each speaking experience to get those indirect benefits.

I'll say this: After going through this program in a very public way, Stephanie now has a compelling personal story to tell about her quest to improve as a speaker. When I came up with the contest, I wondered who'd be brave enough to submit a video and commit to online coaching. Stephanie's been a delight to work with, and stayed focused throughout the 15 weeks--that's a coach's dream, as is the chance to see someone progress as she has clearly done.

Stephanie's still eager to get your ideas, tips and resources, so please leave them in the comments. And stay tuned for more resources to come from the Step Up Your Speaking program....

Related posts: What's your speaker presence?

Message development: Glue to make your message sticky

All the Eloquent Woman posts on books we like for speakers and

all our posts on products for speakers

See the entire Step Up Your Speaking program, from contest to coaching

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