What's the value of good public speaking?

Speech coaches say effective presentation is key to getting ahead in business.

Sarah Gardner:President Obama tonight gives one of the most important speeches of his life at the Democratic convention. Both he and former President Clinton, who spoke last night, seem pretty at ease in front of a big crowd. Clinton spoke for more than 45 minutes, some of it ad-libbed. And it made us wonder, what about the rest of us? How would we do in front of a crowd that size? Today, there's a big business behind public speaking.

From Washington, Marketplace's David Gura reports.

David Gura: Friends, listeners, countrymen, lend me your ears. If you want to become a better public speaker, that’ll cost you.

Aileen Pincus: Well, the kind of training I offer is expensive. And there’s no doubt about that.

Aileen Pincus is a speech trainer -- she works mostly with high-level executives -- and her rates range from $100 to $500 an hour. For that, you get one-on-one coaching, objective feedback, and tips. One tip Pincus has is not to focus all your attention on your delivery. She says everyone she coaches gets nervous. You might worry the audience is judging you.

Pincus: You know what? They are. And that’s the power in this. It’s that you’re going to let them judge you. You’re going to let them see your great ideas and communicate them.

These days, communicating great ideas is important. Brian Callahan is a public speaking consultant based in Washington. And he says the price of what he offers is worth it.

Brian Callahan: It’s the good presenters. It’s the good public speakers. It’s the confident communicators who are rising up the business ladder.

Another consultant, Stephanie Silverman, says business is up since the economic downturn. She says effective public speaking skills are a way to get a leg up on your competition.

Stephanie Silverman: I think that what was once considered a throw-away soft skill has been growing in importance as people begin to realize that knowing your business is not enough.

Silverman says it takes practice -- and work -- to communicate comfortably. And I should know. It’s not easy to butcher one of Shakespeare's most-famous lines on a national radio show.

In Washington, I’m David Gura for Marketplace.

About the author

David Gura is a reporter for Marketplace, based in the Washington, D.C. bureau.
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Mr. Anderson makes a good point in his posts. Toastmasters, for many, is a great place to practice skills and develop a sense of comfort in front of a group. What speech coaching offers that a forum like Toastmasters does not, is strategy and development of personal style. Many of my clients have attended those events and come to me because practicing what they already know is not leading them in the direction they wish to go.

It's apples and oranges, really. If you need an environment to get up in front of a group, TM is a great choice. If you wish to learn strategy and maximize your effectiveness as a speaker, a more personalized approach may be your best bet. The latter will obviously cost more but, when you see the results, you'll find it's money well spent.

Visit www.silvermanspeechcoach.com for more information about coaching and how it may be the best choice for you.

Your local Toastmasters club delivers 1-on-1 coaching with objective feedback and tips in a fun and enjoyable atomsphere all for less thant $1 per hour. Millions of people worldwide have improved their public speaking and leadership skills throug this proven method. Please visit www.toastmasters.org to find a local Toastmasters club and build your confidence.

While expensive coaches and consultants are all well and good, I would like to advocate for Toastmasters as an accessable and cost-effective place for "the rest of us" to gain valuable public speaking and leadership skills. Speaking from experience, joining Toastmasters when I was unemployed helped me regain confidence and eventually transitions from being a scientist to being a writer and social media person.

www.toastmasters.org to find a club near you.

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