Talk coach kills jitters

Updated: Jan 2, 2019

Business folk trust May to make them make sense

She's got more - a lot more - than just the gift of gab.

Barbara May, of Barbara May Productions of St. Albert, has developed a way of teaching even the shyest of speakers to talk in public with entertaining confidence and effortless style.

And she honed that skill while raising two young daughters on her own - Amanda, 8 and Deanna, 5 - and performing an amateur stand-up comedy routine Thursdays at Yuk Yuks.

"One of the main reasons I went into business for myself was to have time for my daughters," she said of her company that she has been slowly developing over the last 2 1/2 years. "I think that's why a lot of women are starting up their own businesses. I can design my schedule around my daughters."

May, 32, says she uses a combination of 15 years of gymnastics coaching experience, a natural ability to connect with people and an imaginary "Rolodex" of funny stories and jokes to mould business personnel, politicians, coaches and even teachers into stutterless speakers.

No nudes, please

And the lessons don't involve imaginary naked audiences, she joked. "Politicians have a problem. It's hard for them to let their true personalities come through when they're speaking," she said. "Except for (Premier Ralph Klein). He's all natural and some people won't like him for that, but most will," said May, who has not had the pleasure of coaching the premier.

"With business groups, quite often the issues are more complex and involved. I try to work with the meeting planners in those situations to customize my presentation to their needs."

Her clients include the Royal Bank, West Edmonton Business Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Edmonton Sun, to name a few. She has also coached a number of high-profile politicians but she wouldn't say who.

May can be hired by almost anyone or any company for motivational workshops, one-on-one training sessions and, her personal favorite, keynote speeches. She says she uses bold body language, creative theories and entertaining anecdotes to pass on the arts of communicating and problem solving.

Handshake tips handed out

May can even teach the secrets of a good handshake. But how the sessions and presentations are designed depends on how May feels her pupils learn best. For example, she says her coaching experience taught her how to distinguish between those who learn from sight, sound or touch.