Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my speaker coaches Nick Morgan and Nikki Smith-Morgan of Public Words. I meet with them about once a year so they can help me fine-tune my presentation skills. Sometimes they attend one of my live gigs and we meet after to debrief. Other times, like yesterday, we watch a recorded speech together and they provide honest feedback so I can improve.
Some people wonder why someone who has delivered about 500 speeches still needs a coach? Actually the better question is: After you become skilled in your field, who else but a coach can provide you with valuable insight? You need to call in an expert.
Yesterday we watched a recent keynote that was filmed. We focused on a few very particular issues of my speaking style including my breathing and the way that I plant my feet when I make an important point. These are the issues I'm working on now and once I nail these, we will move onto another area of my presentation skills.
You must never stop improving.
I'm a fan of Bob Lefsetz writings. His post about coaching talked about the music industry and how it is virtually impossible for musicians to get honest feedback. He suggests hiring a coach and points to a fascinating article in the New Yorker Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you? by Atul Gawande.
In the New Yorker piece, Gawande talks about how an important surgeon, someone at the absolute top of his profession, hired a coach and learned small things he could improve like how he held his elbows and how he draped the patient and its affect on the other medical professionals in the room. The surgeon improved.
You need a coach.
Top athletes have coaches. Michael Phelps is the best swimmer in the world but he spends hours each day with his coach Bob Bowman.
Your coach could be your boss. Or your spouse. You coach could be a peer. But the person you choose as your coach needs to give you the honest feedback you need to improve.
Nick Morgan and Nikki Smith-Morgan, my speaker coaches, are a very important reason that I feel comfortable on stage because I know I am performing at the peak of my abilities. That knowledge gives me the confidence to deliver a great talk that audiences enjoy and those who hire me are happy with bringing me in.
Who is going to be honest with you? How can you improve?
Image: Shutterstock / Maria Dryfhout