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Approach to Coaching


Tricks or Relationships?

There are essentially two approaches to coaching. The differences are profound:  Skills-based coaching works exclusively with behavioral modification techniques. This approach trains people to adopt behaviors that are fundamentally opposed to those required to present effectively. It emphasizes “tips and techniques” over building relationships.

This inevitably results in people who are stiffer and less comfortable speaking in public because they’ve learned “right” and “wrong” ways to do everything. Worse, they can only draw upon a limited “bag of tricks” as opposed to adapting their behaviors naturally to changing circumstances. You’ve undoubtedly heard many of these “tips and techniques:” don’t fold your arms, look over the audiences’ heads to manage nervousness, compliment a question, picture the audience naked and so forth. Skills-based coaching alone simply doesn’t produce effective speakers.

Relationship-based coaching, which I offer, is designed to help each individual participant to become aware of and responsible for his or her own presentation and behaviors in order to help him or her to use their unique talents, presence, quirks and skills to build stronger relationships — the foundation of “effective speaking.” Within the context of relationship-based coaching, “tips and techniques” are used to develop each individual’s unique abilities to build stronger relationships and are never presented or intended as manipulations of an audience. This approach produces speakers who can adapt seamlessly and powerfully to changing circumstances.

The Typical Process for Customized Coaching Services

I will structure a customized, individualized coaching program for your organization that includes these phases:

  • Assessment

  • Design

  • Group session

  • Individual video work and coaching

  • Assessment

I use two tools to determine which of many potential elements to include in an initial group coaching session:

A self test designed to determine which of four competence/confidence levels applies to each participant.


  • Individual interviews following the self-test to review the results of the self-test and to determine the specialized objectives, needs and wants of each participant. In part, in the individual interviews I’ll work with the results of the self-test by reviewing the likely implications of each person’s test score. 


Design/Group Session

During the approximate three-week design phase, I will use the information gathered from the self-assessment and individual interviews to develop a customized four- to six-hour group training session for the participants. I will design it to deliver relevant fundamentals that apply to all of the participants, to establish basic coaching and participant-support relationships and to introduce and practice common strategies that will be developed in individual coaching sessions. This session may use some of the modules I already have developed and/or entirely new modules I’ll develop for the purpose, based on a vast body of adult-education techniques, research data and other materials I have at my fingertips. 


Individual Video Work and Coaching

Following the group session, I generally conduct a minimum of two, two-to three-hour, one-on-one coaching sessions with each of the participants:
The first session uses videotaping, mirror work, mocks, simulations and other techniques to give each participant the opportunity to discover and work with strengths and weaknesses in relationship-based presentation skills. The participants will be required to do some preparation for this session, chiefly developing simple practice materials. They also will be given specific “homework” assignments to prepare for the second session.


The second session will use similar techniques to validate each participant’s progress since completion of the first individual session and to work on any issues that are appropriate to each participant. Depending on the degree to which media relations issues are relevant to a participant, I will, at additional cost, add an exercise that employs a mock interview with a journalist. This session generally also includes a before/after video review.


Each participant will complete an evaluation of the program and his or her progress, at the conclusion of the second session. The sponsoring executive(s), of course, receives a summary of these reviews to help evaluate the effectiveness of my work. These reviews also will include identifying areas in which each person would like to do additional work. At this stage, I will give you a report that will include, if any, additional plans to address the participants’ needs.

Personal Coaching Services for Public Relations Practitioners

You're a public relations executive in need of a second opinion from a senior colleague on issues such as recruitment, department structures or staff development.

Or perhaps you're tackling an organization-threatening issue with tools, staff and resources more appropriate to marketing communication and publicity. Or you have a periodic need for specialized guidance in communication specialties such as research and evaluation, investor relations or crisis management.

I frequently accept short-term coaching requests from other public relations practitioners, from all sorts of organizations ranging from small not-for-profits to international corporations. 

 If your coaching needs relate to the concerns of a sole practitioner, you may enjoy this article, which originally appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of the Public Relations Student Society of America's newspaper, Forum, "15 Tips from a Veteran of Independence."

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