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Public Speaking Classes Worth the Investment

Are you capable of captivating an audience?


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It doesn’t matter if you’re standing up before one client or an audience of 1,000: You have a message that needs to be conveyed effectively. But can public speaking really be taught?

That question has been the subject of ongoing debate, and plenty of executives have walked away from speech coaches feeling dissatisfied, to say the least.

Denver Arts & Venues Deputy Director Ginger White questioned the efficacy of public speaking classes, but she needed help preparing for a presentation she’d be delivering to the mayor and Denver City Council. So White signed up for a multi-class public speaking course through Denver Center for the Performing Arts. She was blown away by the broad, practical skills she acquired.

“Anybody is capable of captivating an audience,” says Allison Watrous, DCPA’s executive director of education.

And public speaking skills aren’t just for CEOs and top executives. “Employees down the chain see how the ability to be persuasive correlates with success,” says speech pathologist Elizabeth Peterson, owner of Speech and Voice Enterprises and author of “How to Speak like a Broadcaster and Lead like a CEO.”

There are two prongs to public speaking: what you say — and the way you say it.“Great speakers tell great stories,” Watrous says. Sign up for corporate training or public speaking classes at DCPA, and you’ll have plenty of time to work on crafting your content as professional actors lead you in kinesthetic (read: super-fun) storytelling exercises.

But being an effective public speaker isn’t just about what you say — it’s about how you say it, too. Whether you’re learning to control your fight or flight instinct through breath work, or you’re weeding out pauses and “ums,” public speaking is all about technique. “Fine tuning little things has an incredible impact,” Watrous says.

Peterson’s courses dive deep into those mechanics, focusing on the non-verbal signals sent through speech, voice and body positioning. “I also teach professionals how to read their audience,” Peterson says. Because, hey, a good presenter knows when the group has had enough.

But if you’re getting your checkbook out, you need to ask the right questions. “Be wary of the term ‘speech coach,’” Peterson says. After all, anyone can say they’re a speech coach. “There’s no licensing for that.”

After you’ve looked at a prospective coach’s credentials and checked out the reviews online, set up a consultation. A professional coach should start every new relationship with a meet-and-greet. “We do initial sit-down planning sessions free of charge,” Watrous says. If you’re considering group classes, Watrous advises finding a small one — think 12 students, not 30. And Watrous adds, “Make sure you know what skills will be worked on, and how you’ll be able to use them right away.”

CLASS COSTS

Speech and Voice Enterprises
Two-day public speaking seminar is $1,050, including breakfast, lunch and materials. All other speaking classes are custom designed, and prices vary.

DCPA
Public speaking classes range from $65 to $125 per hour, and prices vary for group coaching.

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Jamie Siebrase

Jamie Siebrase is a freelance writer based in Colorado.

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