Thursday, June 9, 2011

7 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Speaking Coach

So you're looking for a speaking coach. The fact that you realize you need one is a good start. But now what? What do you need to consider before hiring a coach? Below are seven questions you should ask yourself and your potential coach before you begin the next great adventure of your life - learning to Speak & Deliver!

1. What's at Stake?
Do you have a speech you have to give in the next few days or weeks? Has your boss 'suggested' your speaking skills are less than desirable? Are you planning to use speaking to promote your business thru seminars, cds, or videos? Perhaps you simply have an interest in self-improvement, and becoming a strong speaker is on your 'Bucket List'! Knowing what's at stake at the beginning of the process will help you narrow down your choice of coaches as you go along.

2. Real World Experience
What has your potential coach spent their time doing in the real world beyond speaking? Does it parallel your potential application of speaking? Just because you are in semiconductor sales doesn't mean you need to find a coach whose sold semi-conductors, but you might want to find someone with a successful sales background.

3. Speaking Experience
When was the last time your coach spoke in front of an audience? Are they more teacher than speaker? Teaching theory has its place, but working with someone who understands the demands of today's audiences, and has been battle-tested, carries obvious advantages.

4. Location, Location, Location!
Can your coach meet with you at the corner Starbucks, or do they live half-way across the country, or in this Skype-enhanced world, half-way around the globe? Would you PREFER they live half-way across the globe?

Using a local coach can add flexibility, enhance the speed of the coach/coachee relationship, help you with the local speaking landscape. Never hurts to support your local business community, and there's likely a strong coach within 10 miles of you.

There are advantages to working with a coach out of your area, however. Working long distance can create a more directed environment. Instead of putting something together at the last second because your coach will be over in 10 minutes is quite different from preparing a written speech or uploading a video you will be critiqued on during your next phone call. And if you use SKYPE or even video messaging available on most any standard chat program, you can bring your coach to your couch from anywhere in the world.

Don't assume there isn't someone in your hometown that could help you, but don't be afraid of working with someone 10 time zones away, either. The world is getting smaller everday!

5. What Do Others Say?
Who else has worked with your future coach? Give them a call - ask them how it went. Is the testimonial on the webpage an accurate portrayal, or just the best line the coach could find? Don't call just one, though - its not a broad enough sampling. Try to get ahold of at least three. If they don't have three recommends, perhaps they'll lower their fee in return for one!

6. What are You Willing To Spend?The better the coach, the bigger the cost - Sometimes. How much a coach charges is determined by several factors - demand, their perceived level of self-worth (experience, awards, degrees), amount of time and effort required, and even their own desire to coach! High and low fees are in the eye of the beholder, and depends what prize the beholder has in their eyes. If your job or financial future is at stake, you are likely willing to spend more than the person who wants to feel comfortable reading to kids down at Barnes & Noble.

Ask yourself these questions before hiring or not hiring a coach because of their fees:

A. How much is coaching worth to your desired outcome?
B. How important is it that you work with a specific coach?
C. How much time/value/material is being offered for the fee?
D. What are my other coaching options both up and down the fee ladder?

While 'You get what you pay for' may be the rule, don't close your mind to finding the exception, on either side of the equation.

7. How Do You Want to be Coached?
For me, I like to be hit over the head - Jillian Michaels, if you're out there, come yell at me. Other people need a softer touch. Coaches in any arena have their own personal styles - and do what works for them most of the time. Do you want a disciplinarian or a nurturer? Do you want a coach who shapes their style to your learning preferences, or do you want to be taken out of your comfort zone?

You may choose one style, and quickly find you wanted the other! Prepare yourself by spending time with the coach before you hire. Most coaches offer a free consultation - don't waste it getting their qualifications, which should be be found on their website. Find out about them as human beings - would you be friends with them? You might not want a coach you'd be too friendly with, by the way. Your coaching sessions may break down into chit-chat, creating a $500 an hour coffee buddy.

You may notice a common thread through these seven factors: YOU. What do YOU want? What do YOU need? And does your coach agree? How invested are THEY in YOUR success?

Don't stop at the first coach you see, even if it's me. Look around, shop a bit. Don't settle for an uncomfortable fit, and, at the same time, be willing to let yourself be challenged.

Now get to it - find your coach. It's time for you to Speak...& Deliver!

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