Giving speeches is nothing new to Dr. Christiane Nill-Theobald. Quite the opposite: She heads up her own strategic communication consultancy, putting her heart and soul into consulting and coaching. Training and seminars are bread-and-butter business to her. As well as planning and customizing solutions for companies, she is a lecturer, sparring partner for HR development experts and managers, and an “analytical observer” – all in one! Yet she’s still been driven for years by a desire to step into the limelight, to motivate people, to inspire, to inject energy into events and add those important finishing touches. As a participant on the Steinbeis University Berlin certification course “Professional Speaking”, Dr. Nill-Theobald describes her experiences and impressions of life back in the (university) classroom.
The Professional Speaking course had hardly got out of the starting blocks when I heard rumors about the high ambitions of the German Speakers Association (GSA) – they were planning to make “speaking” a university subject. By collaborating with a university, “Public speakers” should become an official profession, based on vocational training, with a challenging final examination. Sounded good to me.
At the beginning I wasn’t totally sure what “speaker training” would entail. I’d been making speeches for years so the area wasn’t exactly new to me. But what I heard about the course won me over on two fronts. First, the high level of professionalism with which the course was pulled together. Second, the broad scope of the program: 26 modules, spanning eight weekends, each brimming with content, over a whole year. This was coupled with a not-insignificant price tag, an exam including a business plan for a public speaking business, and finally the task of writing and delivering a keynote speech.
An important key contact for me was Markus Hofmann, a leading memory coach, keynote speech presenter and the director of the Professional Speaking Steinbeis Transfer Institute. His advice said it all: “If you’ve already been toying with the idea of going into public speaking business for a long time, then do the training.” I can now say that this training was the best on the market. The fees and time investment were compensated for a long time ago. I haven’t regretted my decision for a second.
Coming back to my decision and how it went: I actually broke off a holiday to attend the first module. I wanted to be there from the beginning. It turned out to be a wise decision. There was an amazing sense of openness from the moment everyone got together. The moment we sat down, there was a kind of spirit. We immediately connected with each other. It was a feeling of “being a student again”, as a group; we all felt younger again. On top of that, it was amazing how we just took off. This was partly because of the lecturers. Sure, they were demanding. Sessions lasted from nine in the morning until late in the evening. We did body language, voice exercises, dealing with stress and stage fright, the art of improvisation, being authentic on the stage, and starting with the second block, marketing, sales, positioning and sales strategies. But all of the lecturers are masters of their trade; all are excellent in their own way and prepared to give everything it takes.
Apart from the lecturers, there are mentors who I find crucial and whose role is priceless: other people on the course. I’ve joined up with five of them to set up our Master Mind Group. We noticed early on in the process that in our own way we’re also experts within our respective areas. So why not benefit from this? We now meet regularly, once a month, to compare notes, practice our speeches for the final exam, and of course network.
I’m conscious of the fact that compared to other people in the training market, after my exam I’ll be a clear step ahead of the others and that’s tremendously motivating. Overall, I can only say that it has be one of the best decisions I’ve ever taken!