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In praise of… praise

July 28, 2012

When you’re engaging in public speaking at work, feedback usually gyrates between general, limp, insipid and unspecific praise – and abuse. No wonder the corporate world is full of so many dire speakers.

Over the last few years I have had the privilege of watching some of the best mentors, coaches and speakers in action at London Corinthians. What’s unique about their feedback is not just the constructive suggestions that they offer for improvement, but their supportive words of praise.

I didn’t always feel this way. When I first joined London Corinthians a couple of years ago I asked my very first evaluator not to bother with any of that soft soap. I didn’t need any of those commendations. I wanted brutal, hard, no compromise recommendations. Quite rightly, my evaluator at the time, a former club president, told me to put a sock in it. I was going to get praise, whether I wanted it or not.  So what role do the commendations we get at Corinthians have in making us better speakers, and why does it work?

Firstly, at London Corinthians, the praise we get is specific. That means it is genuine as everyone’s speaking can be praised for something. That specificity means that the praise we get at Corinthians is not idle flattery, but something we can rely on.

Secondly, when you’re starting out in public speaking and suffering from stage fright, or when you’re a master of the art later on, praise is helpful because it marks your progress. “I used to get told I fidgeted, now everyone tells me my stance is firm.”

Lastly, public speaking, unlike Sudoku, algebra and crosswords, is a performance art. Conquering public speaking is about having confidence in public speaking. And there is no better way to build confidence than getting specific praise you can rely upon, which demonstrates that you’re making progress.


Working or living in the LondonVictoria area? Want to know more about becoming a better public speaker? Visit London Corinthians on the 2nd, 4th and 5th Thursdays @ 7.30pm.

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