One Year of Better Communicating

Everyone wants it for their employees.  We long for it in our relationships.  Students want it from their instructors.  Instructors want it from their students.  It seems like the need for improved communication is everywhere these days.  So, I’m making 2020 The Year of Better Communicating.  Come along with me as each week we explore a different aspect of communication, with foundational concepts, action items for you to work on developing it for yourself and resources for continued improvement.  Fifty-two communication fundamentals over the course of a year.  Think about how much better you will be at communicating if you follow along.

So, be sure to subscribe to this blog so you’ll get notifications of when a new post goes up each week.  Read along, do the action items, ask questions and most importantly, look for improvements!

Most Wanted Skills – Communication

Recently, LinkedIn’s Learning blog reported on their research into the top skills (out of the 50,000 they’ve found to exist!).  When I read the post (which was basically advertising for their online learning platform), I couldn’t help but notice that Communication Studies teaches most of the soft skills mentioned and even a few of the hard skills.  Creativity, persuasion, collaboration, and adaptability are all taught in multiple classes for the Communication Studies degree.  I want to stress the term “taught” in that last sentence, because these skills may be developed indirectly in other majors and experiences, but Communication Studies is one of the few places where you are taught how to effectively work in groups collaboratively (rather than just being assigned to work in a group), where you are taught theories of persuasion (rather than just being told, “sell me on an idea”), where you are taught about fostering creative thinking and encouraged to look at things in new and different ways and where you are taught about audience analysis and adapting to that analysis.  The time-management skill was the only one that isn’t directly taught in our classes as part of the curriculum, but I believe that any college experience is teaching students (by try-or-die at times) that skill.

I have heard a number of people saying “sure companies want soft skills, but they want them in combination with hard skills not without them,” when discussing skills or majors.  This may be true in some high tech professions such as engineering, IT, etc., but I think there is still a call for all of those professionals to have the skills to communicate well.  So, why don’t we spend more time “teaching” these skills to students, from K-12 through college?  I believe that part of it stems from that assumption that because we are always communicating, we don’t need to actually teach people how to communicate.  But, I believe our current society is an example of what happens when we spend too much time teaching people “hard” skills without correlating it with instruction on how to get along with others, be supportive, deal with conflict, and persuade instead of coercing.  “Might makes right” or “lie as long as you don’t get caught” have too long been an acceptable means of getting others to do what you want/need them to do.  But, without instruction as to what the ethical and healthy alternatives are, people model what they see work for others.

So, I’m glad that LinkedIn has recognized the need for these skills, but I would ask why we need to be paying high dollar amounts to enroll in online learning platforms to teach us skills that should be included in every curriculum across America, K-12 and beyond?  Is anyone asking that question?  We used to have an Oral Communication standard in K-12, but it was done away with as budgets became tight and the focus was put squarely on test performance (we don’t have verbal testing).  We have an incredibly minimal general education requirement for Oral Communication at the college level.  Most take one class and that is it.  And often-times, the one major that has a focus on communication, Communication Studies, is chided as the “easy major” or the major for extroverts only.  Until we begin to recognize that one single class in our 16-year educational experience is not enough to teach people the skills they need to succeed, we will continue to be asked or forced to pay for these supplemental trainings after college graduation.


Skills Wanted (2)

Why You Need a Speech Coach

Hello and welcome to my blog!  I have been involved in coaching and teaching public speaking, debate and advocacy for over 20 years.  The one thing that has remained consistent during that time, despite changes in technology, diversity, and so much more, is that the people who are often the most resistant to speaking out publicly are the ones we most need to hear.  So, if you stumbled upon this website because you’re considering speaking out in a public setting, but you’re unsure of how to guarantee your experience is good and your goals are reached, a speech coach is exactly what you need!

Microphone - people who are most resistant to speaking out are the ones we need to hear.

The problem with public speaking is we see the end product of planning, preparation, and practice and we judge our ability against that end product.  Public speaking is a lot like social media – we only see the best and the brightest and we measure our everyday performances against that.  But, the best and the brightest didn’t start out that way.  The speech you are seeing is the not the speech they had when they began.  There are very few individuals who have a “natural ability” in public speaking and unfortunately, we have very few opportunities to develop the skill unless we are very purposeful about it (or we become famous and are forced into developing those skills). Too many people lack the confidence to get out and speak publicly simply because it is something they are not comfortable doing.  But, how does one become comfortable doing something without actually doing that thing?

This is why I think everyone needs a speech coach.  You may not currently be in a job that requires you to speak in front of groups of people.  You may not be planning to go to the City Council or School Board or PTO meeting to advocate for something that is important to you.  You may not have the next big idea that will be featured on a TEDTalk.  But, at some point, you will be in a position where you have an opportunity to say something important in a context that can make a difference about something in which you believe. some point, you will be in a position where you have an opportunity to say something important in a context that can make a difference about something in which you believe._

A speech coach can help you make the right choices in your planning, preparation, and practice whether you have a specific opportunity at this point or just want to be prepared when the opportunity arises.  The better and more strategic your planning, preparation, and practice is, the better your product will be in the end.  The problem is those opportunities often arise without the lead time to do all the work to build confidence, plan a specific message, prepare for the specific audience, and practice delivery and so the opportunities slip away.  But, just like someone who starts working out without a specific event in mind and later runs a 10K successfully because their workouts gave them confidence and strength and endurance to do so, a speaker can train for the opportunities that might arise without having a specific opportunity scheduled.

So, whether you are the person who knows they have the opportunity at school or work or in your community and want to be properly prepared for success or you’re someone who wants to build confidence and train for the opportunities that will arise in the future, a speech coach can benefit you.  My years of experience working with high school students, college students, community members, and professionals have allowed me to see many different contexts in with public speaking can be effective.