A "therapist" for public speaking

When clients come to me with issues of nerves or anxiety around public speaking, I tell them, “I’m like a therapist for public speaking.”

It’s accurate, but I also get some raised eyebrows in response. Sadly, in our society, seeing a therapist is often seen as shameful; you must be “weak,” or, if you have to talk to a stranger about your problems, something must be wrong with you. I don’t subscribe to either of these beliefs - not at all. Not by a long shot. I’m pro-therapy.

When I had personal problems, I saw a licensed therapist or psychologist. When I injured my back, I saw a physical therapist. When I injured my hand, I saw an occupational therapist. When my shoulders are too tight from too much desk time, I see a massage therapist. Recently, I injured my vocal cords (thanks, chronic laryngitis!) and am now seeing a voice therapist (aka a speech pathologist).

So when you have trouble presenting in front of a group, or some anxiety before an interview, why wouldn’t you see a “speaking” therapist? (Like me!)

Here’s why I use the “therapist” analogy: I don’t believe in, nor do I use, cookie-cutter solutions. What makes you comfortable in front of a room will not necessarily work for someone else. My gift is being able to tap into what works and what doesn’t work for each of my clients, depending on their needs and feelings about the upcoming presentation, interview, whatever. I collaborate with each client to create ways to make the speaking process easier. I prescribe simple methods that set each person at ease.

My methods are varied, from Improv-based exercises, to breathing, to visualization. Sometimes a conversation helps us tap into a way to ease the nerves. No matter which approach we take, each client will stand up and practice the speech ( or interview, or presentation, etc.) because real-life practice and repetition will make the new, easier approach stick and show up when it’s Go Time.