Tuesday, October 26, 2010

12 ways to get the most out of a speaking or presentation training session

I'll be leading the "Good on Your Feet" workshop on dynamic speaking skills next week--you have signed up, haven't you?--and I've been thinking about how to give the participants a great experience and valuable learning opportunities. But if I'm honest, the participants themselves can make or break a training session.  Here are a dozen things you can do to make sure you can get the most out of your next presentation or public speaking training session.  And if that's my workshop, you'll find registration links above and below. Sign up now--we're doing this next week!

Before you arrive:
  1. Alert the instructor to special needs or issues.  If you're the only trainee, your special needs or issues may be the basis for the training--or an area in which your trainer isn't expert, so clue her in early.  If you're in a group training, be aware that special issues or particular points you want to cover may or may not be covered. If you're in doubt, ask first.
  2. Think about whether you want to get focused or go general.  It's fine to come to training with a particular presentation in mind. If that's the case and you're in a one-on-one training, it will help your instructor to know your goals, audience and any special factors you want to address. If it's in a group training, fit your responses to the exercises to your task, and clue the instructor in when you can.  Going general? Feel free to make up a topic and audience and focus on learning the basics.
  3. If your visual image is of concern, wear what you'd wear to a presentation.  I always say my sessions require just "business casual" dress, but if you want to rehearse in an outfit you plan to wear for the big event, by all means, wear it to your training and ask for feedback. At a minimum, you'll get to experience what it means to be in the shoes (and clothes) you chose.
  4. Rest up.  You'll do better if you're rested and ready for the training. Trust me on this.
After you arrive:
  1. Arrive on time. Whether you're in a personal training or with a group, we can't start without you--and you're wasting precious training time.  And if we do start without you, we're not going back.
  2. Unplug.  Normally, I encourage people to tweet during presentations--but not when they're trying to learn how to do a presentation. That's because speaking skills require your full attention. The lessons involve movement, thought, speaking and listening, so put that mobile device or laptop away.
  3. Share your goals, wishes and aspirations.  Don't just share with the trainer, share with your fellow participants, if you're in a group training. Being able to air your concerns and questions helps make the training better for everyone.
  4. Understand the limits of the time allotted.  We won't get you to Winston Churchill status, no matter the length of your training. But you should be able to have time to practice, watch, listen and pick up tips, as well as ask plenty of questions. Not sure? Ask the instructor.
  5. Keep an open mind.  Much of what goes into a great presentation involves skills that seem counterintuitive--so when you encounter those tips, try them before you decry them.
  6. Watch your fellow trainees if you're in a group session. No two trainees are alike, but you can learn as much from others as from your own efforts, if you're attentive.
  7. Embrace the video.  If video recording is part of the training, jump to volunteer. You don't have to be recorded, but you'll get to see what no speaker ever sees in real time: Herself, as others see her.  You'll see the things you don't realize you're doing and get visual cues it's tough to get any other way.
  8. Stay open to suggestion.  If you're coming to a workshop with a skeptical attitude, that's one thing. But if you find yourself rejecting every idea and piece of feedback, you may miss out on what's holding you back.
Learn how to be a dynamic speaker in my next two-day workshop, Good on Your Feet: A dynamic speaking skills workshop, November 3 and 4 in Washington, DC. And if you subscribe to Step Up Your Speaking, the free monthly email newsletter from The Eloquent Woman, you'll get 25% off the workshop registration fee. Go here to subscribe...then become a fan of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook and join the conversation with thousands of other women (and men) about public speaking skills and confidence.

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