Have you had the opportunity to take a presentation skills course or study with a speech coach and were excited to keep the learning alive but when you returned to work with limited practice opportunities you found the skills you developed faded?

One of the best and most inexpensive ways to practice your newly developing speaking skills is to form “Sounding Boards” at work.  A Sounding Board group consist of co-workers who also want to practice and who would agree to meet on a regular basis to give presentations and receive feedback from each other.  Here are some tips on how to form your own Sounding Board:

1)    Create a clear focus and meeting schedule – something like:  We meet twice a month from 11 – 12:30 during our lunch break – on the second and fourth Tuesday – to fine-tune our client presentations.

2)    Manage participation expectations – If you have 6 people and meet for 90  minutes, each person will have fifteen minutes to both present and receive feedback.

3)    Designate a time-keeper to keep team members disciplined about managing time – as an example – 5 minutes to present, 10 minutes for feedback.

4)    Set ground rules for feedback – Make sure everyone understand the format for giving feedback.  Keep it simple:  “Start with the positive – What did you like best?  What worked well?” And then move to “What would you suggest for improvement? “ Also give folks the opportunity to ask for what they need in advance:  Someone might share that they are looking for ways to improve their opening or closing.

5)    Review Best Practices:  After everyone has presented and if you have time left – Incorporate the opportunity to revisit tips and techniques learned during training or what team members have experienced worked well in recent presentations.

Good luck and remember that having a good Sounding Board will help you steadily improve your speaking!