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Your Own Personal Speaking Coach

I have an assignment for you.  You're going to be giving a presentation to a group.  Did your blood pressure just increase a bit?  Glossophobia is the fear of public speaking and over 2/3rds of people say they suffer from it.  Many years ago, I was able to witness it first hand as I taught public speaking to college students.  

Their apprehension was justified.  There was a lot for them to focus on, from organizing the content well to reading from note cards to delivering the speech with good verbal and non-verbal skills.  It was always rewarding to see the students grow in confidence and comfort throughout the semester as they learned a few tools and skills to become better speakers.

Now, about that assignment.  Unless you're giving a TED talk, there is a high likelihood that speaking to a group today is done remotely using tools like Microsoft Teams .  Many of the dynamics are different than speaking at a podium in front of a group in the same room.  Nonverbal delivery is severely limited.  We mostly show just our head and shoulders if our video is on at all.  If our attendees have their videos turned off, we can't react to their nonverbal signals.  

Perhaps the most important aspect of your assignment, if delivered remotely, is the quality of the content you present and how effective you are with your words and your voice.  One thing I always worked on with students was to be aware of their pacing, their language, and the use of vocalized pauses (like uh, um, you know, etc.). That's a hard one because they are so natural but they can be very distracting.  

Speaker Coach to the Rescue

I didn't realize how many of those I still used until I started using a feature that is currently in public preview (GA any day now) in Microsoft Teams called "Speaker coach."  Don't worry, a buzzer won't go off each time you say um, but you can learn a lot about your speaking habits.  Here's what I saw in a report generated after a meeting I participated in last week.

Speaker coach also provides live feedback during your meeting that is only visible to you. It's like having your own personal speech professor, though not as handsome as the kind you might have had in real life.  Plus, the feedback from this coach is private to only you, not the rest of the class.  

As you can see above, there are 6 categories that Teams will listen for and show you exactly where those were used on the timeline of your meeting.  That can be really handy if you recorded the session and can cross reference.  When we click on one of the categories, we can drill down into the details.

So, uhh... I need to, like, slow down, you know.  PowerPoint has had a similar capability for a while (formerly called Presenter Coach) but I'm excited this is now part of Microsoft Teams.  For one, I don't have to be presenting from PowerPoint to get the advantage.  I can also enable speaker coach to listen to me on every meeting, not just the ones where I present.  

Let me show you how to get started.

First of all, an admin must set the policy  to allow the feature and you may need targeted release turned on for you and be running the preview version of Teams until this goes GA. From what I've seen so far, speaker coach can only be enabled the first time from a scheduled non-channel meeting.  It wasn't showing up for me with Meet Now or a meeting scheduled in a channel.  Once you enable it the first time though, there is a toggle switch on the report allowing you to automatically start Speaker Coach in all meetings.  

You'll get a pop up to review your report when you leave each meeting.  You can also go back to the meeting's chat at a later point and find a Speaker Coach tab at the top.  Again, this is private, so all 20 participants in a meeting, for example, might see the tab if they have the feature enabled but each person would only see their own.

You can learn more here -

What's in it for me?

Why is this feature important?  From managing change, to delivering IT projects, to building community among co-workers and customers, our ability to communicate effectively is foundational.  A tool like Speaker Coach can help us to be more mindful of how we speak and ultimately convey information and meaning.  No grades attached, just good advice that I can use to achieve more!  Class dismissed.