I recollect once receiving a call from a client who works in public relations for a large professional society. She was pitching a communications training program to her senior staff, and asked whether I knew of any studies that proved the efficacy of media training or presentation skills training. This is a question that arises every now and then, and I’m always keeping eyes and ears open for new research on the topic.
I first turned to a few of my fellow communications training consultants. These are folks with whom I collaborate on occasion and for whom I hold great respect. It turns out none of them could point to any studies that offered supporting data.
So began the quest. Now, before I tell you what I unearthed, let me stake out a few caveats. First, blanket answers must be treated with some degree of suspicion. Why? It is difficult to ascertain efficacy given the wide-ranging variables from organization to organization and person to person. It is like trying to prove that good art is really good art. That definition varies depending on the eye of the beholder. Second, how do you measure the effectiveness of one’s message? What’s more, what value can you give to nonverbal signals to prove their effectiveness or lack thereof?
Also, how does one measure the level of simpatico between a consultant and his subject? What results are viewed as positive/negative, and how are they measured—questionnaire? Real time performance following the training? If performance is the measurement, how is it gauged—decibels of applause level? A lack of heckling? Lower speaker anxiety level (and how does one gauge that — with a heart monitor or a dermatological measurement)?
I know communications training works. I see it with my own eyes. But can I tell you I have made someone 100 percent better as a speaker, or raised their ability to get their message across to a reporter by 50 percent? Of course not. This gets back to the issue of art vs. science.
I will dig up those studies I found a while back and post the citations over the next few days. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, why not chime in with any hard evidence you have unearthed about the efficacy of media and presentation skills training?