I have gone through this course four times, so I know it is an excellent course. Though the course is excellent, very few people complete it. I believe it has a lot to do with the fact that people don’t realize how hard, time-consuming and frustrating it is to become a good speaker. It takes a long time before you see any improvement in your speaking skills. But I assure you, like anything, if you stick to it, you will see an improvement in how well you are engaging and connecting with people.
Seeing improvement in speaking is subtle since most of us speak at 80% effectiveness (perhaps even higher, but this is just my guess). If we didn’t, we could not have friends, talk to other people or even hold a job. But to improve past 80% is hard for us to see. Taking this course alone will not get you past 80%. You will have to become a student, teacher, and a coach and work both smart and hard. But if you make a commitment, you will slowly and incrementally see an improvement through results. You will be able to speak with confidence with anyone, anytime, anywhere. For some, it may take more than one iteration through this course. As I indicated, I have gone through this course four times. But only you will know where you stand with regards to your speaking skills and how good you want to become. The good news is that It is all up to you, and you can do it yourself using the Coursera's on-demand platform.
Unlike other courses you may have taken, this is not a one and done type of a course. You have to keep repeating it till you feel confident. I have taken this course four times, and I currently mentor the course. Also, I have been doing a lot of other things such as recording a lot of videos, mentoring students, writing a book on speaking, and hosting a Google+ Hangout show called "Speech Talk Live." I also plan to go through this course at least once a year to ensure I stay current with what is taught by Dr. McGarrity in this course.
- It is an excellent course developed by Dr. Matt McGarrity of the University of Washington using the Coursera On-Demand Platform.
- It is very comprehensive for an introductory course.
- It makes you record four speeches: introductory, impromptu, informative, persuasive and receive feedback from peers.
- It teaches you how to evaluate speeches and provide feedback.
- It is free, though it's true worth is incalculable.
Why do I like this course?
I have taken this course four times, and I think it has made me a better speaker. Public speaking is something we all want to become good at because we know that if you speak well, you get noticed and succeed in just about everything. We all want an edge in this hyper-competitive world we live in and as software continues to eat just about everything, the only key skill that will differentiate you from others is your ability to speak. Just look around, and you will see that those who are successful tend to speak better than those who are not.
Companies spend a lot of money to develop their employees' speaking skills. Many either offer it on site and others send their employees to a three-day classes. These classes charge $2500 per student. When you add up other costs such as travel and expense and missed work, you are easily looking at cost increasing over $5000 for a three-day class to make you a good speaker.
Though you will learn a lot and even see an improvement in short-term, the problem with these courses is that the improvement is short-lived. The only way to get good at speaking skill is that you have to make it part of who you are. You have to speak well every day not when you have to give a speech. You have to be disciplined to complete the course.
The course has ten-weeks of video lectures and quizzes, but the main part of learning this course comes down to recording four speeches: Introductory, Impromptu, Informative, and Persuasive. If you go through these speaking exercises diligently, you will be better than you were before you took this course. How much better is up to you in how much you are willing to spend time developing the speech and practice. You will feel good when you complete each of these speeches. And don’t forget to post it. I would even make them public on YouTube. Let others see it. I always kid people that I make all my speeches public since they are watched by just two chickens and a pig in Idaho.
I have all of the speeches I did for the course so I can go back and review them and make improvements. I urge you to do this if you want to improve. Below I have included some of the speeches I recorded for the course. Some of them are good, and some of them can be improved. By working on these speeches, I now know what I am doing well and what I need to work on to improve.
One other thing I have learned is how to learn through the course and other resources, how I can teach techniques to both myself and others and how to coach myself and others by both providing and receiving feedback. I have learned to become very good at self-evaluation.
Below are the speeches I recorded for the four times I took the course:
I spent a lot of time developing these speeches, especially the impromptu, informative and persuasive speeches. It took me few takes before I posted these speeches on the Coursera platform. I would say the minimum number of takes was three, and the maximum was five. I did not want it to exceed five since I am learning that it is better to finish and post something that is good enough speech than wait for a long time, if ever, to post a perfect speech. I suggest you should at least do two takes and record it on the third take. You will see a difference as you view each take. Again, don't be a perfectionist since your audience will not notice anything that you are seeing wrong with your speech. I know this based on some good reviews that I have seen. It was never about the things I thing I didn't do well.
How to gamify this course since it does not offer a certificate?
Here is what you can do to gamify the process of becoming an excellent speaker so you can speak with confidence with anyone, anytime, anywhere. I have taken this idea from the Korean Martial system called taekwondo and take the Coursera’s “Introduction to Speaking” course and create a speaking system called “talk-kwan-do.”
In taekwondo, you learn and advance in the ranking that is indicated by different belt colors till you obtain the black belt. Afterward, for those who want to continue learning, as they advance, they get stripes (called degrees) that indicate their advanced level of expertise. Becoming an expert in Taekwondo is a very long path. Typically, once a student gets three stripes, he becomes a teacher to continue learning, teaching and improving. If the student chooses to advance and passes a test, he can pursue more stripes with the ninth degree being the highest. At this level, the student is known as the grand master.
Now there is no formal system like this when it comes to speaking, so we have to be little creative. I have taken a similar path in this course. I have gone through four iterations of this course. I now mentor this course, record videos and host a YouTube show called Speech Talk Live. I continue to learn, teach and improve. I don’t need any belts. I can see how I am doing by how successful I am in having meaningful conversations, my ability to influence, persuade and lead. I can’t measure my success by any belts or number of stripes I have on it, nor any certificate I receive (which is not offered in this course), but how comfortable and confident I am when I am speaking to an individual, a small group or a large audience.
If you complete the course, it is a good accomplishment since less than 1% finish this course. But to keep learning and improving, you should take the course again and earn a virtual “stripe” after completing the course each time. After two to three stripes, you will become more confident speaker. I know because that’s how long it took me and I still plan to go through this course once a year to make sure I retain what I have learned and keep improving my speaking skills.
I hope you will take time and finish this course. And don’t give up since speaking well is a lifelong effort. Also, enjoy speaking since without joy you will quickly give up as you get frustrated. Lastly, don’t listen to critics unless they are interested in helping you improve and are going through the same struggle as you are. If they can’t point out how to improve by example, then politely ignore them. You have to think of speaking as risk taking, and when you take risks, people will criticize you. You have to expect it, but not to dwell on it otherwise it will paralyze you from improving and taking more risks.
One more thing. Let me repeat again. Don’t try to be perfect with your speeches. It is better to give a good enough speech than not to give a perfect speech. Got it. Now go kick ass.