Odd Jobs: Public speaking coach - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Jobs: Public speaking coach

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It can make your palms sweat, your heart race. As many as 75 percent of people are petrified of public speaking. The fear is real. It's called glossophobia.

Reporter Jennifer Costa: Why are so many people terrified of public speaking?

Leora Dowling: People are afraid of being judged.

Dowling helps students and clients conquer their fears. She's a public speaking coach. Dowling owns her own consulting firm, Lee.Speak, and teaches at the Community College of Vermont.

"There's no such thing as a perfect speech," Dowling said. "There's the speech you planned on giving, there's the speech you want to give and there's the speech you do give."

Jennifer Costa: Is there hope for everyone?

Leora Dowling: Yes. Oh, absolutely... Nobody was born a great orator. You have to get better at it, but there are plenty of ways to learn.

Dowling's quirky career started in college radio. She got a degree in English and started teaching. Then life threw her a curve ball and it changed her trajectory.

"I had breast cancer a few years ago and so I had to stop teaching English at CCV," Dowling said.

In recovery she found Toastmasters, an international nonprofit devoted to helping people become better public speakers and world leaders. Their membership is 313,000 strong. Dowling meets her local club every two weeks. Her first speech was about embracing change. In an ironic twist, cancer helped Dowling discover her true passion.

"I just figure if I can help a few people every single year I've done my part," she said.

She returned to the classroom, but now she teaches effective speaking and effective workplace communication-- both rooted in strong public speaking skills.

"You have to believe you can do it and then you have to have kind of a passion to share some information and you have to practice," Dowling said.

Dowling tells students to forget about themselves and their egos, and to instead think of the speech as a gift they're giving to the audience.

Jennifer Costa: So, it's not about imagining the audience in their underwear?

Leora Dowling: Oh, gosh no.

And the biggest mistake public speakers make: "Their posture does not convey confidence," Dowling said.

"I can't beat up a presentation," said Brock Newman, a CCV student. "I can't run away from it and if I do, that's going to make me more stressed out."

Dowling teaches her students to command the room, smile, relax and uses pauses judiciously. Dowling says if you've practiced and know your subject well, you'll exude all the confidence you need.

"And believe it or not, you can fake it until you make it," she said.

Still, if you have the jitters, she recommends taking a few deep breaths and know the audience wants you to succeed.

"Yeah, it's an odd job," Dowling said. "It's a wonderful job. It's a life-affirming job for me, which, hey, if I'm that happy doing what I do on a daily basis, I've done something right."

Dowling works with college students, private clients, nonprofits and corporations. She says public speaking coaches typically earn $40,000-$100,000. Click here for more about her services.

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