ECG's Principal Lynne Howell Wiklander writes about public speaking training and the core values it must embrace to be effective.

The myths and misconceptions surrounding being an effective speaker are numerous and well documented. There are nearly as many misconceptions about speaker training.

Once upon a time, speaker training programs were over-hyped, wrapped in exclusive packaging, with promises of miraculous, fast-acting techniques and tricks that would transform an individual from a quivering sack of nerves into a magnificent public speaker overnight. These unrealistic seminars were seldom effective and, at their conclusion, attendees suffered from lingering self-doubt about why they ever took the program and of their (potential) speaking prowess. We at ECG know that everyone can become an amazing presenter – but want to make sure the truth about training is clear.

Appropriate and efficacious speaker training is based on three basic concepts:


Business speakers are driven to create change – that is the purpose of their speaking, not some disguised aspiration to be a paid “circuit” speaker. Genuine speaker training for business professionals does not claim to provide nor focus on mutating a well-placed manager into a show business celebrity and it certainly is not about creating a bunch of presenter robots with the same pace, same stride, same gestures and same tones. It is about capitalizing on the assets and style of each individual and learning to best apply those traits during psychologically stressful situations in a way that leads to the greatest probability of success.


No one is capable of objectively evaluating their own behaviors and performance in the moment of speaking. We are all victims of exquisite self-critique and a modicum of self-love. Relevant review requires an external observer who knows what to look for and can support selecting the appropriate items to modify. While recording ourselves with the intention of solitary review may be more comfortable, it also means you lose that critical external input that will enlighten you on how to accommodate different changing contexts (which is not to say it's not helpful – it is! – but it cannot be the only form of review).


Seminar participation cannot perfectly mimic a typical business environment. However, that does not preclude developing a better understanding of your impact on listeners and creating a repertoire of positive, engaging behaviors to access in formal speaking situations. Business leaders must be inspiring for diverse personalities and in a host of contexts if they are going to be impactful. Well-conducted seminars provide that framework.

Successful oral communication is a key tool to facilitate change within organizations. But trying to learn speaking skills from a book or generic video is like trying to learn to play piano or become a golfer the same way. You can get good ideas, even tips and tricks that you can employ – but the practical application must be in a safe environment that models real world situations to create sustainable new behaviors.

You don't need to be perfect to be successful. You do need to develop your skills to consistently project presence and enthuse your audience. Don't let anyone or any training program tell you it can be done like magic. A strong outcome requires hard work, but it's worth the effort! You can learn to deliver clear, concise, and compelling messages - and those career assets will have life-long true value.