Can You Learn Presentation and Public Speaking Skills in an Online Course?

Clients often tell us about an online course they found, or their company has provided, on Public Speaking and Presentation Skills. Then, they ask us what we think of it.

There are two primary considerations:

1. Yes, you can learn some communication skills alone and online.

2. The skills you need must be compatible with online learning.

Number two explains the potential challenges with learning communication skills online. You can learn a process, plan, framework, or tips from an online course. You can learn the best practices for slide design.

But there are challenges with online learning platforms when your goal is to master executive-level presentation and public speaking skills. The challenges are:

  1. Often, the content template never changes; anyone can take the same course. On its face, this sounds great, but it means you may cover items you are already good at and get insufficient direction on your areas of weakness. Therefore, it won’t be perfectly matched to every person.
  2. Suppose you have no prior knowledge or training in preparing and executing presentations. In that case, you might only learn simple suggestions without considering where you are as of today. On the other hand, if you are an experienced speaker, you won’t receive the valuable 1×1 coaching you need.
  3. Therefore, you don’t have someone pushing you to your next level accordingly.
  4. It’s hard to stay accountable if you can complete the course within any length of time, and for most people, this means your progress will be slow.
  5. Like an athlete preparing for a big game, practice is essential. And you need to practice properly, in a way that reinforces the learning and strengthens your areas of weakness. This is best accomplished in person with a trusted speech coach. While online learning is possible in an intellectual sense, only an in-person coach can help replicate your presentation scenario and give customized, expert feedback.


A few sayings that summarize these challenges are:

A mule can swim seven different strokes, but the moment he sees the water, he forgets them all. – Armenian Proverb

Only in water can you learn to swim. – Czechoslovakian Proverb

You don’t learn to swim by reading the book. – Irish Proverb

The dog learns to swim when the water reaches his ears. – Russian Proverb

In summary, yes, you can learn a few tips and tools in an online learning course such as Udemy, Skillshare, or other online courses. The challenge is after you have learned a skill, you need the water to reach your ears. A great coach will create that for you and make sure you get to shore with authority, confidence, and ease.

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