There are hundreds of different presentation training courses out there, all promising to quell your jitters and make you a skilled public speaker. How do you choose the right course for you?
At first glance, if you google “presentation training” you will get a very long list of different providers offering the same “presentation training”. On closer inspection, however, you will see that some trainers approach the subject from a theatrical perspective, some from a business perspective, and some from an educational perspective. While most courses cover the core elements of public speaking, they each cater to their own area of expertise:
- Theatrical performances – breathing, vocal exercises, posture
- Educational Presentations – How to Become a Trainer, Learning Styles, Slide Design
- Business presentations – Influencing people, motivating them, inspiring change
First, consider the type of presentation you are likely to give. Is it about the speech of a best man, is it about business or is it about presentation technology? If it is a business or a sale, then you must opt for a business presentation training course. There are many aspects of delivering a business presentation that may not be covered by a one-stop public speaking course.
Does the course give you the opportunity to give at least two presentations? You need to practice and get feedback on your presentations, if it’s just spoken by the instructor you won’t learn nearly as much. However, beware of courses, almost all of which are practical. You need to have some class time to make sure you’re practicing the right skills.
As for how many people are allowed to take the course, I recommend a maximum of 6. If you are more, you will spend too much time listening to other people giving presentations. The larger the class, the less opportunity the instructor has to address your individual concerns or focus on the type of presentation you are most likely to give.
How long does the course last? Most courses are one or two days. If time and cost are not an issue, a 2-day course usually offers more practice time, but can you afford to take 2 days away from your desk? A competent trainer should be able to cover all the important points of structuring and presenting a presentation and allocate enough time for practical exercises in a one-day course.
Do they use video feedback? It’s really useful to see and hear yourself presenting. Only video feedback can tell you how you really look and sound. Don’t be afraid of courses that use video, they’re usually worth it.
How are the practical presentations evaluated? Is it just the instructor’s comments, or are other participants encouraged to comment on your presentation? Everyone is different and different people will pick up on different things, so a broader judging panel is usually better.
With a business presentation, you invariably try to influence your audience in some way. They’re either trying to get her to buy a product or service, or to think about something in a certain way. This adds an extra dimension to the public speaking skills you need to learn. A good business presentation course will cover how you can influence people and get them to think the way you want them to.
The price of presentation training courses varies tremendously, but in my experience price is not always representative of value. Just because a course is comparatively cheap doesn’t mean it may be of inferior quality to a far more expensive course. However, consider the average number of participants and the duration of the course. Cheaper courses often have a higher number of participants.
The training companies themselves differ in size and structure. Some are huge organizations with many employees training in a variety of different subjects. The lecturers in these companies are usually career coaches. Then there are the other apparently large training companies that actually outsource all the work to smaller companies. Then there are the specialists and one-man bands. Almost every training company offers some form of public speaking training on the basis that their trainers always speak to people standing up, so they should be able to teach other people how to do it. I would suggest that in the case of a business presentation this is not always true.
As good as the agenda may seem, the success of any training session depends on the trainer. Who is leading the course you are attending? If the training company cannot or does not want to determine who will conduct a particular course, be very careful. Does the company provide feedback and customer testimonials for individual instructors? Do not rely on general company-wide testimonials, they may not relate to the person who will be conducting your course. Ask for specific credentials for your specific instructor. Ask if you could speak to someone in a similar position to you who has taken the same class with this instructor in the past. Good training companies should be able to arrange this without any problems.
Look for trainers who have been there and done it, not just those talking about it. If you are looking for a business presentation training course, look for one run by a business person who has given many business presentations, not an unemployed actor, who knows how to be on stage but little or nothing about the business.
Finally, review what course materials you will receive. If it’s just a copy of the lecturer’s pages, it’s pretty much useless as a source for additional learning. Look for courses that provide a source of ongoing reference material, checklists, and the support to ensure your success in the future.
I wish you every success in choosing your presentation trainer and in your future presentations.