Now that you are scheduled to attend a training course to improve your public speaking skills, I know that you are looking forward to being transformed into a brilliant presenter upon completion. And while I, too, would like to see that happen, alas, my magic transforming wand can only accomplish so much.
Given that slight limitation, I offer you these suggestions for participating fully in the transformation process:
1. Come to the course with a specific objective. You have undoubtedly already had a small amount -- possibly a great deal -- of experience speaking in public. Reflect on what has gone well and what you wish could go more smoothly. From that analysis, pick 1 or 2 specific things you want to focus on in the course. Examples might be: manage presentation nerves; determine a process for organizing my content; create an interesting opening for my presentation; handle questions more effectively.
Although you will be tempted to focus on everything, picking just a couple things at a time will allow you to more effectively internalize the new skills.
2. During the course, question anything that doesn't make sense to you or that you couldn't see yourself doing. Ask for alternative methods. The instructor should certainly be able to help you modify various techniques to be more aligned with your personal style or circumstances.
For example, if the instructor recommends that you use small note cards to help you remember the main points of your presentation but you feel uncomfortable with that because everyone else in your organization uses PowerPoint notes, the instructor can show you how to either use the note cards unobtrusively or help you use the notes section of PowerPoint without compromising your eye contact with the audience.
3. Participate robustly in the videotaped practice. The feedback you receive from seeing yourself on video and the critique from the instructor and other participants will be the most valuable aspect of the course. You may feel shy, nervous, terrified or all of the above about being videotaped but find a way through those feelings so you can be present for this powerful piece of the learning. If necessary, speak to the instructor about your concerns and she can likely give you some perspectives that will help you manage your fears.
4. Take copious notes. Don't trust your memory to retain all the great ideas and techniques you're being exposed to. When you get ready to deliver a presentation, the elapsed time since the training and nervous anxiety will block out things that were crystal clear during the course. Take notes not only of the concepts being presented but also of thoughts that occur to you about specific applications or a particular [upcoming] presentation that would benefit from one of these new approaches.
5. Be generous in your feedback to others. By generous, I don't necessarily mean nice, although you certainly do want to look for the positives in others' presentations and comment on them. But equally important is the constructive feedback -- pointing out to others where they could have done something more effectively and what impact that would have had on you, their audience.
In many instances, if course participants are all from the same organization, you will have a better idea of company culture and context than the instructor and so your feedback will add valuable nuances. And best of all, if you're generous with your feedback, others will return the favor.
So, dear participant, embrace these five suggestions and you will speed up your transformation to brilliant presenter...and save me some wear and tear on my magic wand.