I’m always surprised at the diversity of circumstance for those who attend my workshops. There are the people you’d expect to be there: business people who lack confidence in their voice, hair stylists who feel they need to up their social game. But I’ve also encountered students who are to speak at a wedding. And their problems might be different as well. They may be terrified when they have to present and almost hyperventilate. They may speak from the back of their throat and always get hoarse after a speech. Or they hardly move their jaw, lips, and tongue. They seem to recognize their differences before I do though, because in the end, regardless of circumstance, the approach and the results are the same.
My students tend to bring coffee and breakfast to my workshops, but it’s not a lecture. We’re not all here to sit and discuss the benefits of public speaking skills, we’re here to do it in practice. It’s the only way. Most speeches are said on our feet, after all, so you might have to save the Danish for later.
But just because we’re on our feet and practicing, doesn’t mean we have to rush into anything too frightening right away. People who’ve taken my workshops have told me that the optimal class size is ten. Not too big to scare anybody away, but big enough to be able to gain a bit of confidence going forward. Everyone’s in the same boat, and to be able to be familiar with each other is pivotal for peer criticism. We cover a lot of territory in three hours, so it’s important for me to be able to speak to everyone on a familiar level also.
And you know what, working in a group can be a networking experience. That diversity of circumstance? It’s amazing what getting out of the office can do. I’d like to think I foster a pretty familiar environment; people are always taking down each other’s contact info. I’ve even had one participant get a job lead from another.
But ultimately what I want to see from the people that come to my workshop is results. I want everyone who leaves my workshop to feel they’ve gained new skills, even in the three hours that I have with them. And don’t be shy. It’s called painless public speaking for a reason!