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Some of today's most popular corporate training seminars and workshops cover subjects taken right from speech communication textbooks: leadership, facilitation of small groups, team building, negotiation, communication skills, presentation skills, and persuasion, among others. Since such courses focus on training rather than education, the subject matter is handled differently than in academia. Structural and funding differences also exist between corporate training and university teaching. Resources are more abundant in the corporate world, but time is a luxury. The one-day training course is the norm. Even with these differences, however, there is much that training facilitators and university instructors can learn from each other.
Trainers, most of whom have at minimum an undergraduate degree, are able to use the ideas and experiences gained in college classrooms in the development of training programs. University instructors, however, do not have the reciprocal privilege since they have less access to corporate training programs. Knowledge of "what goes on" in business training should be useful information for instructors, particularly for those teaching performance-based courses or units such as public speaking. Both trainers and instructors share the common objective of improving the public speaking skills of participants/students.
With this in mind, I examined a presentation-skills workshop taught in a corporate setting to determine what aspects of that program might be transplanted to a traditional university public speaking course. Ideas gained from the workshop were applied to the public speaking classes I taught at a western university. This article is an examination and discussion of this process.
The corporate training program discussed in this paper is a week-long presentation-skills workshop presented to employees of a Fortune 500 manufacturing company. I chose this particular program because its length more closely approximated the typical university experience than did shorter presentation skills workshops. This particular workshop has been in existence since 1984 and is considered by management to be successful in improving employee public speaking skills. Participants also rate the workshop highly. I first observed and then participated in this workshop. During the two workshop weeks, I conversed freely with both facilitators and participants. Since the participants came from a variety of cities and often did not know each other, my presence in the workshop was not viewed as unusual. I subsequently talked to developers of this program and also viewed historic documents, including a file of past evaluations.
From the many ideas and techniques utilized in this workshop, the following three were chosen as most appropriate for inclusion here: (a) the creation of a supportive, risk-taking atmosphere, (b) the use of speaker goal setting, and (c) the utilization of a "self-and-other" model for performance evaluation. Workshop and classroom experiences related to each of these themes is discussed. In this article, the terms "speech" and "presentation" are used interchangeably.
The corporate presentation skills workshop met from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday and from 8:30 a.m. until approximately 2 p.m. on Friday, with a one-hour break for lunch each day and two breaks of 15-20 minutes throughout the day. Fifteen to eighteen participants were in each workshop.
Participants were given time during the workshop to work on speeches but were also expected to spend approximately one hour each night in preparing for the next day. In comparison to most organizational workshops, this one demanded greater daily effort from participants. Each person was also expected to develop an action plan for how he or she would use the workshop skills upon returning to the job. This action plan was to be shared with each person's supervisor.
There were two workshop facilitators throughout the week. One had the primary responsibility for the instruction, critiquing, and organization; the other ran the videotaping equipment and occasionally gave demonstrations of speeches. The primary workshop facilitator started off each workshop segment by giving a 10-20-minute presentation of information pertinent to the next speaking exercise. Then a demonstration of the exercise was given. Participants were given time to prepare for their presentations, which were all videotaped. Preparation time varied according to the length and/or difficulty of the speech. Each trainee gave a total of 15 presentations during the week.
The public speaking classes were the laboratory component of a required core communication class. Students met in a large lecture hall for one hour per week to hear a lecture on the application of communication theory to public speaking. All student speeches were given in laboratory classes. Laboratory class size varied between 16 and 20 students; lab groups met twice a week for a total of 2 hours 40 minutes per week. Each student was required to give seven speeches in a 10-week period. Speeches were videotaped. Students were expected to spend time outside of class viewing at least three of these videotaped speeches with an instructor.
Students were not usually given class time to work on speeches. There was one instructor; various students from the classes volunteered to run the video equipment. The lab instructor gave a brief lecture and/or facilitated class discussion before each new assignment. The majority of class time was spent in the giving and critiquing of speeches.
Schedule of Speeches
Tables 1-2 provide details on the workshop and classroom presentations.
SUPPORTIVE, RISK-TAKING ATMOSPHERE
Students coming into public speaking classes know that not only will they be giving speeches but these speeches will be, in most cases, orally critiqued. In view of this, it is both crucial and difficult to create a supportive, risk-taking climate. Dance and Zak-Dance (1986a) state, "The teacher, and the students, are responsible for constituting a benign audience." Some students are more apprehensive than others. Beatty, Balfantz, and Kuwabara (1989) describe students with communication apprehension (CA) …