005: Scott Voss - On Empowering With Stories

Scott Voss - high school speech coach and teacher, reading specialist, comedian, writer, meaning-maker and generally awesome human. He was my speech coach way back in the day, and was formative in my approach as a coach, and my belief in myself as a speaker!

Scott - along with his fellow nationally-acclaimed coaches - has developed and taught hundreds (yes, hundreds) of national speech competitors. On the show today, Scott brings his telltale humor, storytelling and wisdom that I benefitted from as a high school student, and that I am so glad to be sharing with you today.


Scott as Coach:  Lots of philosophies on how to coach. There's mimicry on one end, and conceptual on the other end. Being a good coach is understanding what style fits with your student. But most importantly - especially with creative categories - it's about playing.

Speech vs. Theater - There's more crossover than it seems. The most accomplished performers utilize the crossover between the analytical speecher and the passionate/creative actor.

On Feedback - It's a huge part of coaching. How do I help this student? It's all about relationship. The stronger the relationship, the more straight I can be with them. And that comes with time. But there are always moments when we need to be careful. And as a coach we have to read that situation.

On the Art of the Moment - There is another factor - call it art, or charisma, or poise - you can't just technically walk through that speech.

"I can't accept too much credit for what these students do..."

Favorite Moment: A student who, after completely re-writing his speech, had become "outstanding."  He ended up breaking into the final round in nationals - from a pool of 2,000 students."The moment when they dropped the banner and his name was on it... you are just swept away. He had nothing a few weeks ago, and then realized, 'I can do this.'"...The lesson for him - If I keep my head down, and I work hard, and I set high expectations, and I keep my vanity and my pride in check... I can get better."  

Purpose: Scott is a Storyteller. And all the stories come back to this idea of empowerment... that we have within ourselves a powerful ability to change our lives, and the community around us.

"My purpose is to interrupt or disrupt. We tend to buy into a lot of master narratives that perpetuate and grow, and people stop questioning these narratives."



Scott's students, though they're in high school, some read at a 4th grade level. They feel disenfranchised in some way. "The biggest thing we have to fight against is that it's a permanent position and not one that can change."

Scott tells a lovely story about a quintessential teaching moment that he soaked in.

"They have not given up yet. They're still there. They are still willing to give me another chance, to give school another chance." 


Dan Pallotta's TED talk.  You can read more about my thoughts on Dan's talk here.  This talk - especially as I heard it on the TED Radio Hour - was so powerful.