Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why Formal Training Always Trumps Experience

While attending a networker recently, I met, Phil, a born and raised Texan, who was President and founder of a medium-sized company where he had carved a niche in the real estate commercial market. He came across as confident, knowledgeable about his service. We immediately dived into the usual small talk. I went first, asking the usual questions, like "What do you do there?" and "How old is your company?" He had started his company 5 years earlier and, after conquering many challenges, a lot of hard work and persistence, he boasted his best year's earnings of $2 million, after which he asked me "...and what do you do?"

I gave my elevator speech ending with "We help executives at all levels, gain the confidence and professionalism they need to present before any group, any size, any where." I then handed him my card. He looked at it saying, "Public Speaking Coaching and Training. Well, Sir, that's something many people need...it's a good skill to know." I agreed. He then added while looking at my card, "Why...I've been speakin'  for 15 years in front of all kinda groups and I make presentations at events that I sponsor in the community and to my employees all the time, and you know what? ...I don't get nervous and nobody has ever told me my presentations stink. In fact, I get asked to come to speak to community groups all the time. While I don't need coaching or training myself, this is a great skill to know." Then he smiled, saying it was good meeting me as he put my card in his pocket.

This is common dialogue when it comes to the subject of  public speaking formal training.  Experience is great and should never be belittled, BUT knowledge through formal training by a professional expert in the field of public speaking, coupled with experience, contributes to one's success in delivering an effective and powerful presentation.  Given a choice, formal public speaking training always trumps experience in "winging it" or "just getting out there over and over".  Other speakers believe that it's who they are, that's important.

Unfortunately, "experience only" advocates and the "who they are" proponents, don't know, that they don't know about what to do, what to say and how to say it properly, in front of an audience when it comes to making a presentation.  This can be a very painful experience for the audience.

Here are some considerations:

1. If you are the President and large contributor of sponsorships to an organization, do you actually believe that people are going to approach you after your "marginal quality" presentation and tell you that your presentation was awful? Nope. Most people are kind and save their remarks about your presentation for later discussions among themselves. You heard them before, like, "Geez! That was boring!" or "Did you follow that?" or "What a waste of time!"

2. If you've never had formal training, have you ever noticed how you get an anxiety attack just before the presentation no matter how much you have rehearsed?  Every wonder why? All the rehearsing in the world will not fool your subconscious into thinking that you know what you're doing.  No one likes to feel that they're making a fool of themselves in front of people, especially if they don't realize that it's happening!  It's the Don't-know-that-you-don't-know Syndrome attacking from your subconscious.

Trying to convince yourself that "Practice makes perfect" won't help either because, as your subconscious will remind you, "you don't even know if you are rehearsing the right things!" Every speaker's worst nightmare is being unaware of mistakes in delivery that are causing a loss of credibility in front of the audience. Cure: Big dose of knowledge by an expert that can coach you in what to do, what to say and how to say it, so that you do know-that-you-know what you're doing, will free you to focus on the presentation itself and not on how you're going to come across to the audience.

3. Then there's complacency. As an example, there is John, IT Manager, for a large software company who's worked his way up the ladder through numerous certifications, hard work and experience.  Although he's had no formal presentation skills training, he presents before the CEO, CIO, and VP often and feels he doesn't need formal training because management, he says, doesn't care about "ah's" or gestures or pretty slides.  Management wants facts and updates of viable information. Period. He believes he's doing just fine, thank you. John's is doing great...for now. He's in a comfort zone. Yes, he's doing a great job...inside the confines of that company world. Outside that company, things could be quite different. Sooner or later, there will come an opportunity to present to that outside world (at a conference, to a potential client, or to a potential employer) which will require a different set of delivery skills and approaches. What then?

4. It's very likely that there are people in your audience who have had formal presentation training and are aware of the in's and out's of a good presentation and its delivery. Odds are pretty good that these are heads of corporations, companies or organizations that may be your next business client, associate or sponsor. Impressions here can be critical.

For sure, once acquired, excellent oral communication skills become part of your "brand" as a professional, no matter where you are. A dynamic presentation is always a great way to make a good impression, demonstrating your professionalism, knowledge, self-confidence and expertise. Experience is always good, but when coupled with knowledge about formal public speaking techniques, your credibility in any field is enhanced - even yours, Phil.

Irene P. Zucker
VerbaCom® Executive Development
©2011 VerbaCom®

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