10 Questions For Your Public Speaking Coach

I was asked the following 10 questions by Worth Magazine. In addition to the answers included below– an amalgamation of information from a few coaches– I would include the following, most important point:

There is no point in working with someone who leaves you feeling overwhelmed and or/like a failure by creating beautiful sound bites or speeches that you have to strain to remember. A good coach works with you to understand your vocabulary and breathing pattern so the final product sounds like you– you on your best day. Confidence and authenticity are key. A good coach brings out both, leaving your audience charmed and you longing to speak again.”

By Lynsey Santimays

Whether it’s a conference call with reporters, a shareholder meeting or a company-wide address, executives depend on speech to motivate, disseminate and market. Here’s why—and how—you should hire a pro to make sure that what you say (and how you say it) is up to snuff.

1. I don’t have a fear of public speaking, so I don’t need a coach. Right?

Wrong. Confidence alone doesn’t make you a great public speaker, and the consequences of misspeaking can be enormous. “One poor response can do millions of dollars in damage to a company,” says Matt Eventoff, founder of Princeton Public Speaking. Even the best public speakers benefit from help. “The most gifted speakers you can think of work with trainers all the time,” says Frances Cole Jones, founder of Cole Media Management and author of executive self-help book How to Wow.

2. I have a speech scheduled for tomorrow. Can you help me?

Yes and no. “The only thing you can really do the evening before with someone who has had no training is smooth out some minor delivery issues,” says Eventoff. Patricia Fripp, head of business communication firm Fripp & Associates, adds, “I cannot make an inexperienced speaker look like Tony Robbins in two hours.” Plan for several sessions and even a rehearsal in the actual venue.

3. Can we meet in person?

You not only can, you should. Establishing a rapport with your potential coach is critical to the success of your training—and the best way to do so is face-to-face. “It’s not like working with a psychiatrist, but you have to be equally as comfortable,” says Fripp.

4. How much do you cost?

Price depends on factors including the duration, type and level of intensity of the work. But anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 is standard.

5. Have you coached executives in my industry and at my level?

“You don’t want to waste time educating your coach on what communication looks like in your field,” notes Aileen Pincus, president of media-training firm The Pincus Group.

6. Will you videotape me?

Even if you’re not going on TV, video is a great tool for improving your presentation skills. “Seeing yourself as others see you is enlightening,” says Pincus. Just make sure to get the original videos when you’re done. “You can practice from them or destroy them,” Eventoff says.

7. Will you sign a confidentiality agreement?

You don’t want your image and presentation undermined by embarrassing videos turning up on YouTube. Walk away from a coach who won’t sign a confidentiality agreement.

8. Do you focus on content or delivery?

Most executives believe they only need help with the latter, but any good coach will insist on working on both. A flawed message makes the messenger look bad.

9. What kind of follow up service do you offer?

Don’t stop training once your presentation/speech/appearance is over. “A good trainer will give you drills, tips and tactics to help you improve on your own,” Eventoff says.

10. Are there communication problems that you can’t help me with?

“Many people come to me and ask for help with accent reduction or a lisp,” Pincus says. “These are specialties that might involve a different profession. So it behooves someone to know the difference early on.”

For more information, contact: Matt Eventoff, Princeton Public Speaking,matt@princetonpublicspeaking.com, 609.681.5044, matteventoff.com; Patricia Fripp, Fripp & Associates,pfripp@fripp.com, 415.753.6556, fripp.com; Frances Cole Jones, Cole Media Management,frances@colemediamanagement.com, 212.473.7609, colemediamanagement.com; Aileen Pincus, The Pincus Group, apincus@thepincusgroup.com, 301.938.6990, thepincusgroup.com.