How coaching skills can make you a more powerful conference speaker

Sagrat Cor overlooking Barcelona Spain

This week our Managing Director Tiffany Gaskell and Head of Digital Charlie Kneen travel to Barcelona for the 4th Annual Corporate Learning & Development Summit. As they were preparing, we asked them how a Coaching Leadership Mindset can be applied to conference speaking.

– 5 mins read –

When is this year’s L&D Summit and what’s the focus?

Tiffany: The summit is this week, on 23rd and 24th May. It will bring together L&D decision-makers and senior leaders. I’m speaking on Thursday afternoon and looking forward to lots of rich conversations around performance, leadership and organizational culture.

Charlie: I’ll be there both days. Some of the key topics we’re focusing on this year are innovation, digital and social learning.

What will you be speaking about?

Tiffany: I’ll be speaking about how you can really change the mindset and create the optimal culture for performance, and how L&D needs to be at the heart of organizational strategy.

Charlie: I’m Chairing the conference. There’s lots of opportunity to use my coaching skills in this role and I’m really looking forward to facilitating an engaging event.

We’re obviously all jealous, have you been to Barcelona before?

Tiffany: Yes, a long time ago. I’m thrilled to be returning to this exciting city.

Charlie: I was there for last year’s L&D Summit. I’m taking a few extra days afterwards so my wife and I can have a mini-holiday.

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Do you enjoy speaking at conferences?

Tiffany: Yes, I’m so pleased to be going to the 4th Annual Corporate L&D Summit. It’s a great opportunity to share ideas that I believe will really make a difference to people’s lives. Remembering that helps me overcome any nerves about public speaking!

Charlie: I attend more than I speak. I find them a great way to connect with other leaders, find out what current priorities are for companies and stay up to date with the trends in digital learning and coaching.

What tips do you have for leaders or coaches speaking at conferences?

Tiffany: There are lots of relevant coaching skills you can apply. I like to “walk alongside” the audience to meet people where they are, asking questions to generate thought and, as much as possible, make it a conversation. As with coaching, my aim is to be a facilitator of learning.

Charlie: My tip would be to draw a graph of your conference talk. On the y axis put experience (high or low) and on the x axis the different parts of your talk. Then plot how you think the audience will experience it over time. Obviously there are highs and lows. The question is, what can you do at the lower points to improve things at those moments? My second tip is simple, smile! So often I see speakers who look like they’re hating every second of the talk. It makes the audience feel anxious and they’re less likely to learn something useful.

Anything else?

Tiffany: I think it’s important to remember that people will be hearing you with different levels of experience of your subject, sometimes none. It’s easy to forget that and speak at a level that people can’t connect to. So, generally I test my talks on someone who doesn’t have a coaching background to make sure it makes sense to them.

Charlie: Everyone is different. I’m usually pretty relaxed and happiest when I’ve prepared the key points, but like to react to what’s in the room. Other leaders I know prepare everything to the nth degree. There’s no right or wrong, the key is to be comfortable with what you’re doing.

Thanks for chatting. Anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

Tiffany: Come on down! If you’re in Barcelona get in touch with us, it’d be great to have a coffee to discuss your goals and challenges.

Charlie: I’ll try and post some videos on social media, it’s @charliekneen or @coachingperf.

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