Here’s another installment in our occasional series dedicated to those in need of communications training services for their organization’s executives.
You need to ascertain a few key facts about your prospective media or speech training consultant right from the top. Make these the very first questions you ask:
- Do you focus exclusively on communications training?
- What percentage of your business is dedicated to training?
- How much experience do you have as a training consultant?
Why are these issues paramount? Communications training is a highly skilled niche. It demands an authority dedicated to advancing his learning day after day, year after year.
Beware, for a pack of wannabes stands ready to pounce. Large public affairs and public relations agencies have slashed senior staff in recent years. This factor puts you in potential jeopardy on two fronts.
First, many agencies—even recognizable global names—are now populated by less experienced staffers. Agencies that once maintained outstanding communications training departments have, in most cases, eliminated or eviscerated them. The name of the firm itself means little if they intend to farm out your project to an unproven junior account person.
How do you address this risk? You have the right to press for the specific name of the advisor who will lead your sessions. Any reputable agency will not hesitate to provide you with a copy of your trainer’s biographical sketch when you sign your agreement. Read that bio carefully to ensure a heavy emphasis specific to his bona fides in the communications training discipline. After all, you deserve more than simply a veteran public affairs or media hand.
The second prospective pitfall for you: The economic downturn of recent years has put a lot of hungry PR people out on the street. Many were forced to hang out their own shingle when confronted with an unfriendly job market. What did they decide to specialize in? Basically, anything that put your money into their pockets. If you ask some of these individuals, they will tell you that they do indeed provide training services. Of course, they also will knock out a news release, slap together a web site, and perhaps even change the oil in your car.
Don’t get me wrong, such generalists often possess useful skills. But when it comes to the rigors demanded of a communications training consultant, you would be cheating yourself and endangering your organization by settling for a jack-of-all-trades.
Think of it this way. You may have the highest level of comfort and trust in your family physician. But if the day should come when you need open heart surgery, my guess is you will not ask that folksy doctor to perform the operation. No, you would demand the top cardiac surgeon. Consider your communications training consultant as your personal communications expert.
What techniques have you used to separate the wheat from the chaff when in search of media training or public speaking expertise?