From an expert: What to expect from a communication coach

Nicole Lowenbraun

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Nicole Lowenbraun

How do the best athletes in the world reach gold medal status? They practice. They dedicate significant chunks of time to their craft, learning new skills, improving those skills, and pulling back on the skills that are no longer serving them. But they don’t do it alone.

On the journey from good to great, the smartest athletes work with coaches. Tom Brady had Bill Belichick. Derek Jeter had Joe Torre. Venus and Serena Williams had their childhood coach, Rick Macci. And just look where those coaches took them!

The lesson here is simple: coaches help you improve, sometimes dramatically so, and that’s not only true when it comes to athletics. Communication coaches, especially business communication coaches, can help you improve in many different facets. Communication coaching is not only about improving your public speaking skills. The best communication coaches can also help you improve the way you communicate with:

  • Your direct reports in 1:1 interactions
  • Your peers in brainstorms and small group settings
  • Your managers and senior leaders
  • External stakeholders like clients, customers, even the media and other high-stakes audiences


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But not all communication coaches are created equal. Finding the right communication coach for your role, skill level, and needs can be challenging, so let’s break it down.


What is a communication coach?

A communication coach helps people improve their communication in:

People generally use communication coaches when they want to feel more confident in particular workplace situations. So, a smart first step in finding a communication coach is to ask yourself what areas you think you need to improve your business communication.

  • Is it your speaking? If so, in what situations?
  • When you’re on a stage?
  • When you’re talking to customers?
  • When you’re in small group meetings?
  • Is it your writing? If so, in what situations?
  • Writing presentations?
  • Writing emails?
  • Writing technical reports?
  • Is it your listening? In what situations are you struggling? Listening to internal stakeholders? Or external?

Once you’ve narrowed down exactly what kind of communication coaching you need, it’s important to understand what you might expect from your engagements with a communication coach.

What is communication coaching?

One of the first questions new clients ask me as a communication coach is, “How does coaching work?” They’re curious about what to expect from their session with me, and they have a right to be! Effective, results-driven communication coaching doesn’t run cheap.

When I describe in detail what they expect from my planned and organized business coaching program, I can see the relief on their faces. They feel confident that their time and money are being placed into capable hands.

Make sure a prospective communication coach can articulately describe what their coaching philosophy and methodology are. They should be able to show and tell you what goals they’ll help you tackle, how, and why.

What is executive communication coaching?

Now, of course anyone can hire a communication coach to help them better communicate, but senior leaders might consider seeking a specific kind of coach: an executive communication coach. Executive communication coaching is specifically geared toward senior leaders. Because let’s face it, executives have frequent high-stakes communication interactions that look very different from the communication interactions of less senior roles.

If you’re an executive at or near the C-suite level, it would be smart for you to find a coach who specializes in working with clients on your level. What you say, how you say it, what you write, how you write it, and how you listen across a variety of situations is critical for your success and the success of your teams. Executive communication coaches understand the nuances of your everyday communication as well as your high stakes communication moments. And they’re skilled in leadership communication so you can shine as the smart and capable leader you are.

How do you know if you need a communication coach?

At this point you might be wondering, “But how do I know if I need a communication coach?” I might be a bit biased because I am a communication coach, but I truly believe that everyone can benefit from working on their business communication. Even the best communicators in the world didn’t get there by accident, and the smartest leaders and future leaders know there’s always room for improvement.

But if you’ve ever received constructive criticism or even harsh feedback from a manager, direct report, colleague or customer, it’s probably worth your time and money to hire a communication coach to help you improve.

And if you’re still on the fence, maybe a good place to start is with our Captivate™ workshop. While you won’t get 1:1 feedback and coaching, you can learn public speaking skills in an interactive group setting.


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What does communication coaching look like?

Once you’ve determined that you do in fact need a communication coach, you might wonder, “What does communications coaching look like?” Coaching plans and length of engagements vary. Sometimes I work with clients for the short term, focusing on one particular event or high-stakes communication moment. Other times I work with them more generally, focusing on their professional communication development. Those engagements are usually longer, typically lasting over several months. Communication coaching can look different not only across coaches, but across settings. Working with a coach in-person can be quite different from working with a coach online.

What’s it like to work with an in-person communication coach?

This communication coach is a big fan of virtual communication, but there are times when working with a communication coach in-person produces better results. If a client has a high-stakes moment to rehearse, like a vision keynote or a challenging customer-facing panel on stage, communication coaching in-person is the best way to improve. The best communication coaches can:

  • Help you create messages that resonate with your audience
  • Rehearse with you before the engagement, so you can get a handle of what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, and how you’re engaging with your audience
  • Rehearse with you on stage AT the chosen venue and coach you how to use your space, interact with the technology, and can even advise you on your wardrobe choices
  • Be your cheerleader on-site, in the greenroom and in the audience!

There’s tremendous value in working with an in-person communication coach, but there’s also a lot you can learn from working with a communication coach online.

What’s it like to work with a communication coach online?

Many people across industries and roles communicate virtually, even for high-stakes environments. If you know you need to work on your virtual communication skills, make sure you find a coach who knows how to advise you in the virtual setting. I was shocked at how many of my clients, who were exceptional communicators on stages, struggled during the pandemic when they had to communicate through technology. Communicating virtually is an entirely different skillset compared to in-person communication.

Working with a communication coach online is a great alternative to working with an in-person coach if you find a reputable communication coach who doesn’t live in the same location. Not to mention, it’s a lot less expensive. If budget and geography don’t allow you to work with a coach in-person, working with an online coach is better than working with no coach at all.


What qualities do the best communication coaches out there have?

There’s no definitive list of qualities I’d recommend you find in a communication coach. What’s most important is that you and your coach synch on philosophy, methodology, and personality. The best thing to do is think about what qualities you’d like in a coach. For example, I appreciate direct and brutally honest feedback from a coach. But not everyone is like that. Some prefer a softer, warmer approach when working with a communication coach, and that’s OK. Determine what will work for you and seek that out. Communicate clearly with any prospective coach and let them know exactly what you’re looking for.

What you work on and how should also be considered. Here are some questions I ask my clients to make sure I’m delivering what works for them:

  • How do you prefer to learn? Do you prefer to focus on one skill at a time, or several all at once?
  • Do you like homework? Would you prefer I give you tasks to work on in-between our sessions? Or are you a busy exec who doesn’t have time for that?
  • What do YOU want to work on? I could tell you all day long what I think you should work on, but clients tend to make more improvement when their goals are self-directed.

When evaluating whether a coach is right for you, approach it this way: determine how you like to work, how much time you’re willing to put into the engagement, and what you’d like to work on. Then find a coach to fit your goals.

Now that you have a handle on what a communication coach does and how they can help you, you might be wondering, “How can I hire a communication coach?”


The best way to hire a communication coach is with Duarte

Duarte has communication coaches, including executive communication coaches, that are ready to work with you virtually or in-person, for keynotes, conferences, and events. Or they can help with your everyday communication situations like 1:1 meetings, brainstorms, and small group engagements. Hire a Duarte executive communication coach through our agency services for those big moments, or hire a Duarte communication coach virtually through our Speaker Coaching offering.

We’re here for you no matter where you find yourself on your communication journey. Remember, regardless of your role, industry, or title, everyone can improve their communication. So, do what Tom, Derek, Serena, and Venus do … hire yourself a coach and get the best communication coaching you can find!


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