Employers continue to demand employees and candidates with strong, lasting skills such as critical thinking, creativity, resilience, and communication and presentation skills. This demand has opened doors for schools, private companies and entrepreneurs to teach or improve these crucial skills.
The problem has long been that most educational activities associated with these key competences do not progress well. Trying to teach opportunity recognition or critical thinking in an online class of 200 high school students, for example, is not a recipe for success.
Nonetheless, Nwanacho Nwana believes she has found a way to develop at least one essential and lasting skill in the workplace: public speaking. After all, having a good idea or recognizing an opportunity is one thing. Being able to explain it to a team, answer questions about it, defend it, inspire others to take action – may in fact be more important.
Nwana is the former class president at MIT, holds a double degree in quantitative analysis in business and political science, and co-founder of Fund the Gap Alliance, an organization aimed at raising venture capital funds not only in African markets but to African founders and entrepreneurs.
Nwana is also the co-founder of education start-up Valfee – a wealth of valuable feedback. Valfee, says Nwana, is a new approach to involving learners in public communications, one that is both effective and scalable and, he believes, new.
“I believe everything at Valfee is unique and that’s what makes me so excited about this company,” said Nwana. “We truly believe that feedback-based learning is optimal for long-term growth and that the future of student learning is gamified. Giving students the opportunity to put any learning objective into practice with consistent feedback and mentoring allows them to build self-confidence and deepen their knowledge gradually. None of these comments will hold if the student is not engaged, ”he said.
Nwana became interested and invested in public speaking education when he received speech coaching for his opening speech at MIT.
“Getting professionally coached to speak has been one of the most unique educational experiences of my life. Being guided through the written content to understand the emotions of the speech, having the chance to practice and receive actionable feedback, and again trying to get more feedback and affirmations was an unprecedented experience, ”he said. -he declares.
And, like any ambitious entrepreneur, Nwana turned that experience into profit. “I then started my own small business mentoring a few professors at MIT, accompanying them to give speeches to Fortune 500 executives and government leaders. ”
This, in turn, led him to create Valfee, which he co-founded with successful education entrepreneur Gunjan Aggarwal.
“With Valfee,” said Aggarwal, “we hope to combine technology and the human factor to make speech learning effective for students.”
As fun as it may be, the learning engine behind Valfee is heavy tech. Under layers of mentoring and personal coaching, the company’s AI-based system uses a library of speaking prompts and analysis of speech patterns to generate feedback for learners. This is the key to scalability. “By using a combination of mentor learning and AI, we are truly approaching communication education in a unique way and empowering the next generation of leaders,” said Aggarwal.
Even though Valfee is new, they have existing partnerships with over 200 schools, many of which have requested communications programs. With this, and the keen interest of a growing pool of international students, business leaders say they expect revenue in the order of $ 7-10 million for the first year.
With the allure of schools and employers alike, it’s easy to see why a quality and scalable public speaking program would be successful. But, says Nwana, it’s more than that.
“It is apparently so obvious that communication is essential, but why is it not emphasized more in education? Nwana asked. “The main reason is that speaking is so fundamental to our existence, and so few people are good at it, that most people think you are either naturally gifted or naturally doomed. ”
The truth, says Nwana, is that speaking, like any skill, can be taught and learned. And the consequences are significant.
“Communication is an important indicator of success at the individual level,” Nwana said. “Communication is how we share ideas, present our knowledge, and advertise the value we can create. If you can’t make a presentation, you’ll rarely be able to get a well-paying managerial job, and if you can’t get an interview, you’ll have a hard time getting a job.
There is a rare consensus that more people should be better able to present their ideas. There is also general agreement that education providers should accept this assignment.
From what we are hearing from business and government leaders, there is still a long way to go to improve public communication skills in a serious and broad way, especially in places where educational opportunities may be. more limited in general. Within these gaps, there are profound opportunities for impact and profit.