Certified Speaking Professional
Having trained and performed as a classical musician, I became aware that I was in a field where formal qualifications were relatively unimportant. If I am a lawyer and I want to promote my credentials, then where I studied, where I have worked and recommendations from clients and colleagues are very important, because you will not be able to tell how good I am as a lawyer simply by looking at me. As a builder or decorator, having good testimonials and personal recommendations is also going to help, but a client could still get a good idea of the quality of your work by asking to see a project that you have recently finished.
As a musician there was always the sense that despite the CV, the scholarships and where you had studied, by far the simplest way to measure competency was simply to say:
And maybe it is similar with Public Speaking; a couple of minutes with someone in the room is probably going to tell you a lot more than a sheet full of testimonials and recommendations.
Does that mean attending a certified Public Speaking course is not valuable?
Of course not – but it is important to understand what it does mean.
Why should I bother to get a certification in Public Speaking?
Reassurance for yourself might be important, but more important is reassurance for the people around you.
As long as you don’t expect your certification to open all the doors for you, having some form of credible certification will reassure a potential employer or organiser. It will start a conversation or potentially open a door. At a job interview if the potential employer sees that you have an ILM or another recognised certification in Public Speaking, that will reassure them that you have taken steps to broaden your professional skillset.
It does not mean in itself that you are a great Public Speaker, but if the employer is aware that they might need someone to speak to clients or present their products, it will certainly help.
There are International Speaking Organisations that you can join and attend regular weekly or bi-weekly meetings, but often length of membership says more about durability than it does about speaking ability.
In the work-place, as part of a CV, a Public Speaking certification can be a very useful and reassuring addition, but if you are applying for accountancy or HR role, your prime qualifications and experience will be in accountancy or HR, your speaking certification will act as a bonus and might therefore make the difference in separating two candidates. Remembering of course that most people dread Public Speaking and run in the opposite direction, if you have a certificate that says you ran towards or even embraced the opportunity, that in itself will set you apart.
If on the other hand, your ambition is to be a professional speaker, specifically paid for standing up and speaking to an audience, then no amount of certificates or speaking association membership will achieve more than maybe getting you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills in some form of audition.
If I was applying for the job of school music teacher and I could tell them that I had Grade 8 ‘cello and have regularly played in local groups that could be a great asset alongside my teaching qualifications and experience. If however I was hoping to use my musical certificates to gain a position in a professional orchestra, - that may not work so well!
A properly certified Public Speaking programme will offer the added reassurance that the whole programme has been thoroughly assessed by an external certification body, and that the credentials of the trainers have also been examined. When I first became involved in Public Speaking, I joined a local Speaking Club, I took part in their speaking sessions, entered their competitions, and started to do well in them. People started to come to me for tips and guidance and I offered it! I am not sure how qualified I was at the time to offer the advice I gave.
Over time I built up a track record of experience and as a member of my Speaking Association managed to win four national contests in Public Speaking. Consequently, over time the advice I gave became centred not just on what I had read, learned and observed, but grounded in what I knew worked in practice. I then made sure that the formal training programmes I offered were externally assessed to confirm the content reflected the highest standards, with the added assurance that the trainer was speaking from a position of practical and proven experience.
The saying goes:
Practice makes perfect.
In truth it should say:
Perfect practice makes perfect.
As many of us will realise who have followed our own fitness and strength programmes, sometimes without properly qualified supervision, rather than making things better we can actually make things worse!
So although the main advice to ambitious speakers is to get out there and do it as much as you can, that advice should be tempered with the recommendation to find a mentor or to take advice from someone with proven experience.
I have seen and heard many speakers who continue to approach every presentation like an essay assignment and consequently continue to create speeches that never escape from being bound to a script or to a structure that constricts rather than supports what they want to say;
or speakers that are unable to free their voices from a flat monotone, because they have not learned how to use words, gestures, and imagery to allow their voices to break free;
or speakers that remain unaware of unconscious or habitual physical habits (shuffling, swaying, wringing hands or ‘vocal ticks’) that detract from the impression they want to make on stage.
A proper professional public speaking course will not in itself make you a professional speaker but if embraced properly it will give you and your clients or employers the reassurance that you have taken the proper steps to make sure the foundations for first-class speaking skills have been put in place.