Teaching Public Speaking Skills

I have been teaching public speaking skills since 2014. However, this year has been special because I am celebrating my 20th anniversary teaching a wide array of skills. I started my journey teaching pre-ballet classes, adult ballet, flamenco, modern dance, creative dance, dance fitness, ESL and now public speaking skills.

My Teaching Philosophy

My philosophy as a teacher, product of a background in performing arts, TESL, Toastmasters and Conference Interpreting, has evolved thanks to every student I’ve met along the away and can be summarized as follows:

  • I love to teach fundamental skills. I believe that if students have a strong foundation they can go on to developing their own learning.
  • I believe in positive and honest feedback. This approach takes a great deal of humility, respect and the ability to observe, diagnose and offer strategies based on different learning styles.
  • Hands-on learning. Why? Ask Confucius: I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
  • In order to keep teaching I have to keep learning. Based on the principle that I can only teach what I know, I study and stay open to comments from students and fellow trainers.

Teaching Highlights of 2017

I generally teach Public Speaking skills for non-native professionals, and this year, for the first time, I have a review in Spanish. If you would like to get an idea of what my classes look like, go ahead and have a look.

Fortunately for me, that has not been the only review this year. Conference interpreter Aida González del Álamo was kind enough to publish a review of one of the workshops I taught as part of the InterpretimeBank program to reward its supporters. These workshops are unique in their kind because they bring together conference interpreters and speakers, both as trainers and as students.

Bringing Conference Interpreters and Speakers Together

Brussels1Conference interpreters often complain about speakers’ poor performance, but there are very few opportunities to discuss this issue and see how communication could be improved.

During the public speaking workshops I taught in Madrid and Brussels, we all learned some valuable lessons that I would like to share with you.

  1. Speakers and interpreters are a team with a common goal: communicating a message perceived as important by the speaker. We often ignore what our “teammate” does and the pressure each side has to face.
  2. Oftentimes, speakers get to be in conferences as a result of their position in an organization, but this doesn’t mean that they have had proper (or any) training to improve public speaking skills. Therefore, they may not have the necessary strategies to cope with problems such as nerves and anxiety, voice projection, articulation, speed, rhythm, logic, structure and relevance of the content.
  3. Interpreters sometimes forget all the pressure that speakers face when delivering a speech or giving a presentation.

Quotes from Students in Brussels

Read and draw your own conclusions.

Speakers are not as used as interpreters to receive feedback from their peers, so it’s useful to practice public speaking in a group. We can learn from our own mistakes just as much as we learn from seeing how others cope with theirs.

It is easy to see what aspects a speaker should improve from the outside, but it’s not easy to put oneself in their shoes and stand the pressure that comes with speaking in public. Only by doing that can we provide constructive feedback and help the speaker improve.

Practicing in a relaxed environment helps us to improve so we can later face less friendly situations.

   Being aware of one’s own breathing at a time of tension is quite difficult. That is why it’s important to practice breathing exercises that improve voice projection separately.

This workshop has taught me that breathing correctly and having the right posture can help shape the speech and reduce anxiety.

 Pauses help with intonation, which in turn make it easier for the audience to understand what has been said.

 Much like an interpreter, a speaker can really improve by practicing and receiving feedback, but also by giving feedback to others.    


My conclusion

Both speakers and interpreters benefit from getting some public speaking training. Join a club, take some workshops, get a coach. Ultimately we both are “the voice” in charge of delivering the same message to a multilingual audience, therefore, the necessary skills should be up to par on both sides.

Credits:  Photos and art –Lia Giralt. Proofreading –Nuria Campoy Sánchez. Communication –Anna Svalova, Mónica Díaz.