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Lois B. Feldman, Ph.D.

Speaking with Confidence, Listening with Connection
Speaking Circles® in New York City

Speaking with Confidence, Listening with Connection

Objectives and Benefits

Speaking Circles® were designed to cure public speaking anxiety. They do that and far more. They strengthen a whole range of communication skills. Most participants come away from the Speaking Circles with a greater sense of ease and confidence generally, with a stronger sense of their own voice and a deepened capacity to listen to others. Although the skills are learned in a small group, they are readily transferable to effective communication with individuals and large groups.

Help with Speaking Anxiety

Speaking Circles offer a unique opportunity for participants to overcome their fears of public speaking. By experiencing an environment that feels both safe and supportive, participants feel free to experiment with spontaneous and authentic expression. Participants move rapidly to a much greater sense of ease and connection. By not focusing on content, participants are able to move through their anxiety and bring their whole beings to the experience. At the same time, they establish a genuine rapport with their audience. Under such nurturing conditions, each person finds his or her own comfortable manner as a speaker. The content that is expressed becomes infused with meaning and energy. The audience feels engaged and enlivened by the speaker. Participants discover they can think on their feet and speak from a place that is both grounded and creative, wise and humorous.

Developing Good Listening

To listen with an open heart and mind is at the center of good listening. To do so is to invite the talent and wisdom of the speaker to emerge. Too often people don’t bring the best out of their colleagues because they listen with an evaluative, competitive perspective, one that doesn’t bring out the risk taking and creativity of others and keeps the office a lonely place. Brainstorming is often used to free people to be more creative. Speaking Circles encourage that creativity even more broadly as participants recognize the supportive power of listening with total engagement and an open mind.

Participants are helped to be open to the speaker, to provide a home in their eyes. They come to understand the interactive link between speaking and listening, how each enriches the other, creating a bond between the people.


Typically, Speaking Circles consist of groups of 4 to 10 people with one facilitator. Each person is given multiple brief turns in front of the group. No emphasis is placed on what a person says. The person is encouraged to remember to breathe and to look into the eyes of the audience one person at a time. The audience is taught to listen with warmth, open mindedness, and generosity of spirit. After each participant’s second round as speaker, the members of the audience offer brief, accurate, positive, non evaluative feedback, not on content, but on the essence of the person. The experiential aspect provides a laboratory that teaches participants effective elements of opening, organization, and style, and participants come to trust themselves and their audiences.

As part of every Speaking Circle, each participant receives a videotape of their experience to review privately at their leisure. The videotapes include all of the presentations made by that person during his or her turns plus the essence feedback from the audience. The tape offers people an opportunity to witness their own progress and to consolidate their gains.

Lasting Effects with Efficient Process

From the sheltered environment of the Speaking Circles, participants shed their anxiety and begin to cultivate an attitude of confidence, a willingness to take risks and an ease with any audience. The participant is able to bring these qualities with him into any situation where content is important. It is the relatedness and trust in one’s self and others that carries the content and gives vibrancy, significance, authenticity, and self-confidence to any presentation.

Participants learn how to listen for the essence of the person and their content without defensiveness or anxiety so that they dynamically understand that person and their message. Participants become able to create a listening field that enhances connection and mutual creativity and problem solving.

Not only does the Speaking Circle provide palpable results in public speaking efficiently, it also simultaneously enhances leadership, interpersonal collaborative skills, and a method of connecting between people useful in any organizational situation. Speaking Circles create a stable internal model for effective communication in any kind of conversation or presentation.

Program Format

A Speaking Circle format is tailored to the needs of any individual or any particular organization in consultation, with consideration given to time available for training and goals for participants. A single Speaking Circle can have an enormous impact. More often, several Speaking Circle workshops are required. As in any other kind of learning (like sports or learning a musical instrument), practice and repetition is what creates ease, excellence, and creativity. In addition to the experiential aspect of the Speaking Circle, didactics on communication, presentation, orientation and organization, and public speaking supplement learning with informational handouts and methods for practice. In addition to working in the format of the group, individual coaching sessions are possible and are very effective.

Facilitator Background

Photograph of Lois FeldmanLois Feldman, Ph.D., is a certified Speaking Circle facilitator trained by Doreen Hamilton and John Potts of Speaking Circles International together with Lee Glickstein, originator of Speaking Circles and author of Be Heard Now! Tap into Your Inner Speaker and Communicate with Ease. She is also a licensed clinical psychologist with a private practice in New York City for the last 23 years. Her clients include children, adolescents, and adults. She is a consultant to corporations on effective communication and presentation in small and large groups, maintaining balance and effectiveness under stress, work life balance, managing multiple roles, parenting and child development, and optimizing performance. With Fred Stern, Ph.D., she runs workshops for graduate students in the university on managing the graduate school process and writing the doctoral dissertation.

For More Information

Visit the Speaking Circles International website.