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Competency Framework

What Do the Best Presenters and Public Speakers Do (That Makes Them Better Than the Rest)?

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We have used the last 18 months to build a competency framework and a presentation skills questionnaire that will help individuals, professionals, and organisations understand the current level of their presentation skills, and easily identify ways to build the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of the very best communicators. Why did we spend all that time and money to develop these things? We did it to help people develop into the kind of speaker they have always wanted to be.


It started with a kid that could talk

What do the very best presenters do that makes them so good? Why is one person brilliant at holding a crowd with only their words? Why do so many people suck at it? Why does one presentation go well and the next one not so well? How good am I? How can I improve my own presentation skills?

They are all simple questions, aren’t they? And they are questions that I’ve been asking myself since I was 13 years old.

I was just a teenager, on holiday, but I watched, fascinated, as a boy only a few years older than me, entertained a crowd of 100 people with a story as we waited for a bus to pick us up from our rain-soaked camping ground in Wales. I watched him tell his story, and I watched the crowd of people (ironically) transported to another place and time as they waited for their actual transport to arrive.

The kid held the audience of wet holidaymakers in the palm of his hand. They listened, they laughed when he wanted them to laugh and they ‘ooohed’ and ‘aahed in all the right places. The bus arrived, at last, but the crowd demanded that he finish the story before they got into it. He was connected to them and them to him, and at the end of the story, they clapped and smiled and laughed.

I was impressed and jealous. I was watching him as much as I was listening to his story. I can’t remember much of the story now, but I will remember Andy Kruchek and the effect he had on me forever.

Travelling home on that bus I asked myself how he could tell a story like that. I was desperate to know. Why? Because I wanted to be able to do it too. I thought that if I could break what he did down into bite-sized chunks, then I could learn those separate skills and be just as good as him. I was inspired.


It’s easy to build your skills if you know what you have to do

It’s a long time since I watched that kid create his magic out of thin air. Today I spend a lot of my time helping people of all types, all over the world, in their pursuit of the same magic. The years between then and now have been filled with my efforts to build my own skills as a speaker at school, university, and work. I’ve watched hundreds of teachers and professors, engineers, scientists, salespeople, and union leaders make speeches and presentations about hundreds of different subjects. Some were brilliant, most competent and a few so awful that I remember their pain to this day. But I learned something from every single occasion.

I’ve also created and given hundreds of speeches and presentations myself. I’ve had a few triumphs – though I got no medals; a few disasters – though nobody actually died; most of my talks were competent, and I learned something about myself and about the building blocks of greatness as a public speaker. But there was always that nagging question in my mind. Where was the list of specific knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits that defined what the great speakers actually do, that allows them to perform better than the average speaker?


We built our own competency framework because we couldn’t find one that worked

I searched for just such a list (psychologists call such a list, ‘a competency framework’) but I didn’t find one that chimed with my experience. There were lots of lists of skills and knowledge, but not one comprehensive enough to help me do what I wanted it to do. When you’re assessing speakers every day as part of your working life, you need to have a framework that you believe in if you’re going to use it to assess a person’s ability and to to help define ‘gaps’ that need filling, so we decided to create one of our own.


And we built a team to do it

I didn’t want to do it alone because I wanted the framework to be more than just one person’s opinion. I wanted it to be universal, useful for all kinds of speakers, in every culture, for every level of experience. With that in mind, we created a team of professionals to help.  I chose my trusted friend and colleague, John Zimmer, as my first draft pick, because JZ is a globally renowned speaker and presentation coach. Next, we chose a UK-based occupational psychologist, Jane Arthur-McGuire, who specialises in creating and validating psychometric tools and tests, to give us the technical expertise that would make our framework credible.

With the team in place, we set out to build a competency framework that would help individuals, professionals, and organisations to understand the current level of their presentation skills, and easily identify ways to build their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and habits of the very best public speakers. Once we had completed our draft version, Jane recommended that we then share the competency framework with a panel of global presentation experts for moderation and ‘polishing’, which we did.

Here’s the link to the competency framework.


Once it was finished we built the questionnaire

With the competency framework complete, we then went about designing the questionnaire. The questionnaire is a psychometric test – an assessment that is conducted in order to evaluate a person’s:

  • performance
  • skills
  • knowledge
  • abilities
  • personality traits
  • habits
  • and attitudes.

These ‘competencies’ should add up to a complete picture of ability at the highest level for whatever skill is being assessed. The Presentation Guru Presentation Skills Questionnaire assesses your ability against the whole competency framework and once you have completed the questionnaire you will receive:

  • A written report detailing your strengths, weaknesses and development needs as a public speaker
  • Your strengths, weaknesses and development needs will be linked to suggested activities, articles and further learning resources.

To complete the questionnaire and receive your personalised assessment of your presentation skills, with learning resources perfect for your future development absolutely FREE, click on the red button below. (Your data is governed and protected by our data protection policy.)


Start the Questionnaire Now




Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is a serial entrepreneur and the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps international and FTSE 100 companies sell themselves, and their products more effectively. Jim has many years of experience speechwriting, presentation coaching and motivational speaking, all over the world.
Jim Harvey
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