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Automatic English For The People

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Confidence!

by AJ

Quick breathe, tight throat. I barely squawked my name, "Im AJ". My gut turned. I stared at the ground as I talked.

This was my first public speaking experience. I was a student in the Dale Carnegie public speaking course... and I was terrified. I was a recent college graduate- while most in the audience were accomplished business people.

Midway through the course- a transformation. I paced energetically as I talked about a rock climbing experience. I looked directly into the audience.. into the eyes of the participants. My delivery was rough, but I spoke with energy and enthusiasm. That evening, I was voted "most improved" by the other participants.

Towards the end of the course, I gave a speech about my father. It was an emotional speech... not easy to deliver. But my confidence had exploded since the beginning of the course. I was sure of myself and the speech went well. That evening my speech was voted "best speech".

The Dale Carnegie course transformed my public speaking ability. Whats more, the increase in confidence bled into other aspects of my life. Of all the formal educational experiences Ive had in my life.. the Dale Carnegie course produced the most dramatic and most relevant results.

How?

The key is their instructional approach: Dale Carnegie trainers NEVER criticize a student. They explain this to you in the first class and they adhere to the principle throughout.

All of the instructors' energy is devoted to "building on strengths". They tell you what you are doing right. They give sincere praise. They shout about your strengths. Thats what the awards are about. By the end of the course, nearly every student has earned an award for something.

Contrast this with the traditional exam approach... which is designed to make 70% or more of the students feel mediocre or worse.

Dale Carnegie Instructors build confidence. In the process, they transform timid, mumbling, terrified speakers into clear, confident speakers. The transformations are amazing. I wish Id videotaped the first class and the last... I can think of no more powerful testament to their approach. The Dale Carnegie approach works and it works very well.

Which is why I turned to it when students told me their number one priority was CONFIDENCE. I brainstormed. I wracked my brain. Then it hit me... the Dale Carnegie approach.

And so, just before being fired, I began to use it. I assigned one three-minute speech per week. I taught the Dale Carnegie "magic formula" for speaking (which is mostly a convenient system to bolster the beginners' ability). And I told my students I would focus on sincere praise of their strengths rather than nit-picking their weaknesses.

Unfortunately, I didnt get a chance to continue this experience. But due to my own experience with the approach (as a student), I have total confidence that it would kick ass (the only limitation being my growth as an instructor).

Which is why I recommend this approach for intermediate and above level students who need a boost in speaking confidence.

A wealth of research shows direct error-correction to be a waste of time. Worse, it undermines confidence and encourages hesitancy. The Dale Carnegie method is much more effective.... sincere praise beats error-correction.

Certainly this was the case last semester. Some of my experiments did well. Some bombed. Some were sporadically effective.

But building on strengths... and recognizing them loudly... always.. ALWAYS.. worked.

Its also a lot more fun.

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