In today’s digitally-driven world, it is increasingly easy to spend an entire work day responding to emails, IMs and text messages without actually exchanging an audible word with another human being. Meanwhile, telecommuting is on the rise, and voicemail is on the way out. To some, it would seem that knowing how to speak in a business setting is less important than ever; to others, the exact opposite is true.
“It’s a lot easier to get business done through texts and emails… but a lot of things can get lost,” said Jane Hanson, co-founder of media-and-presentation training company The Media Masters. “If there’s anything more than basic information the interpretation gets lost. We lose: what did they mean? What was the tone of voice? If you want to tell your story effectively, you need to do it in person with your own voice, and own body.”
It is for this reason that Hanson, along with co-founder Amy Rosenblum, launched The Media Masters, a business dedicated to providing media and presentation training to people whose jobs require frequent public speaking and even television appearances. While The Media Masters officially launched last August, it is work that Hanson and Rosenblum have been doing for, essentially, their whole careers.
“We had been in the TV business for 30 years,” Rosenblum said, explaining that her history as a television producer — for CBS, The Maury Povich Show and even the Today show (where she worked with Jean) — and Hanson’s experience as an on-air anchor and news correspondent made them a uniquely-suited team to give people the public speaking tools they so desperately need.
“Because our strengths are so different, it’s working out,” she said. “One of our clients is now the spokesperson for new beauty magazine. And all [of our clients] have gotten on the Today show, Good Day New York, Steve Harvey.”
That’s just on the media training side, for clients who are interested in TV work. For clients who just want presentation training, the focus is on practical skills that can be used in a work setting.
“We talk about what great speakers get right and wrong,” Hanson said. “How to engage your audience. [Plus] how does one use a powerpoint effectively? How do you use props effectively? All that is part of the process.”
And what else is part of the process? To start, preparation.
“When someone says ‘I’m just going to give this presentation by the seat of my pants,’ I cringe,” Hanson said. “Let’s say you’re going to make a 20 minute presentation of speech with Power Point, plus 20 minutes for questions. I would recommend spending at least three times that preparing.”
Hanson also emphasized that it’s important to know the audience receiving the presentation. “Do as much homework ahead of time, because you always have to change up whatever you’re saying for whom you’re talking to. Even if it’s the same basic message — if you’re selling rugs, you’re selling rugs — the way you’re resonating with people will differ depending on who they are.”
And finally, Hanson offered this deceivingly simple tip: “Smile. Unless it’s the most incredibly somber subject, there’s no reason not to use your brilliant smile.”
The rates for Media Masters sessions depend on the length of the session — Rosenblum and Hanson offer everything from two-hour one-on-one sessions to a full day of coaching — but a full day of their bootcamp costs about $500.
Ultimately, Hanson says, the focus is on helping people learn an essential skill.
“To me, it’s all about helping people learn how to tell their stories better,” she said. “It’s training we all could use, and both Amy and I work on our training all the time!”