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Presentation Time of Day: Pitfalls & How to Prevent the Bad (English Communication Skills)

Blog 182 for Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 – Title: Presentation Time of Day- Pitfalls and How to Prevent the Bad  (English Communication Skills)

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These are COVID-19 times for now and for a while to come.  Some say that this while to come will be lengthy in some sort.  Some say COVID-19 just speeded up what was along the way, anyway.  For example, using technology to do one-on-one or small group, or even large group meetings.

One thing stays constant or the same: human beings. Information gleaned about human beings in what we call the sciences of social psychology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, education, just to name a few, probably remain pretty much the same.

In that light, do the following. Yep—for face-to-face OR remote meetings OR remote teaching.

What time of day will you be speaking or doing a presentation or even teaching?  Will it make a difference? Absolutely.

Here are some pitfalls.   Know these, and you can prevent problems.  For today’s blog  we will discuss  pitfalls for morning presentations.

Breakfast/early morning

  • Listeners may be groggy. That means they are not alert.  Choose a stimulating issue which could be something that the people you are talking to do not agree on.  Or choose an anecdote to open with.   That little story could be about you (that’s actually great!) or about someone else.  Get audience involvement by having them raise their hand in agreement or disagreement.   I think even Zoom  or groups on Skype or Microsoft Teams Meeting allows for seeing  people’s faces.   The audience could raise one hand for No, or disagreement and two hands for yes, or agreement.
  •       EVEN better—is to ask your question in this manner- “Raise your hand if you or someone you know has this issue or problem.   Yay—no embarressent
  • People may be in a rush.  So this is not the time for leisurely humor or drawn-out details.  At breakfast or breakfast time, or early morning, more than any other time of day, it’s wise to heed the great US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s advice: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”  He said that 80 years ago. Still true, you think?
  • Listeners may be preoccupied with work tasks of the day.  This, of course, will affect their receptivity or their willingness to listen to your point of view.  Draw them into the topic with quick anecdotes  or very little stories or thought provoking quotations.
  • People attending your presentation whether in-person or virtual may be irritable. Why? Maybe because they had to change their morning commute to attend the meeting.  Maybe because they sure are tired of “safer at home,” or social distancing, or wearing face-masks or sure do yearn and desire for the freedom of pre COVID-19.    Lawdy… these days we ALL have lots of reasons to be irritable or grouchy or antagonistic.  And honestly, some people have more reasons than other people.

Mid-morning

  • Listeners may need a coffee break.  If at all possible, provide coffee and tea.  If you are remote, you can’t provide caffeine liquids.  But you could announce at the beginning for everyone who can to get their cup of coffee or black or green tea or caffeine enhanced soda.  Otherwise listeners may head to the nearest cafeteria if you are in-person, or head to the kitchen area if you are remote and miss a chunk of your presentation.  That’s true for teaching too.
  • Attendees may need to use the restrooms.  A good rule of thumb, a good quick tip: If your listeners have been sitting for more than an hour – for whatever reason– give them a quick three-minute break before you talk.    Otherwise, they’ll just leave in the middle anyway.  That means if this is an in-person presentation, they will nterrupt other people  in the audience and distract you.  If this is a remote presentation, people leaving to use the restrooms have just deprived you of valuable time to impart or give your information.
  • People may need to check in to their office for messages.  These days, it is the mobile phone—for all sorts of messages.  Again, a three minute break is a good remedy—it gives them a chance to make a quick  check to their smart phone or  even to text a message or make a call without bothering the whole room, if you are in person.  Same thing is true for any remote or virtual meetings.  But don’t give them too long, or they may get bogged down with expanded work or personal life details

Immediately before lunch

  • Listeners are hungry and probably can’t concentrate well.  Don’t be surprised if no one asks any questions before lunch.  It doesn’t mean they are bored.  It only means they’d rather go eat.  Thus it is for in-person and remote or virtual meetings.  Here’s a good alternative: Invite people to ask questions throughout your presentation.  Be sure to keep questions and answers in check so you don’t run overtime.  Audiences are very forgiving – except making them late for lunch.
  • Listeners may well have been sitting all morning and may need to stretch.  What’s an easy solution? Invite them to stand up and take a thirty-second “stretch break” right at their seats.
  • Listeners may get “information overload.”  Supplement  or expand out your speaking with handouts  for gatherings in-person so people can review material later. For virtual or remote communication—have a link ready to release at the end of the presentation which has information.  For gosh sake, most experts and seasoned or experienced presenters know to never  give out the supplemental information or study guide or summary information at the beginning of the presentation.  People, including me, cannot resist the temptation to be reading that while you are talking.

Coming in a future blog will be “What about lunch presentations.?”

Copyright 2020 Clear Talk Mastery, Inc.

Actionable Information- 70% Slow American English Sounds

Actionable information : 70% of American English sounds have lengthened duration; the others are quick. In contrast, many languages including Indian English produce predominantly quick speech sounds.  Information alert:  Spanish and Japanese are reported to be the most quickly spoken languages in the world because all their consonants and vowels are quick.  For clear understandable American English speech sounds, the slow consonant sounds are as much as double slow compared to the quick consonants, i.e., slow v, f, th, s, z, L, r, w  etc. compared to quick p, b, t, d,  k, g, ch, j. PS Positioning of articulators– including especially tongue, and lips, teeth, jaw, is critical and can be different for accurate English speech sounds.

Does Exercise Strengthen Speech Muscles?

You already know that specific exercise will strengthen your skeletal muscles—for example leg muscles for running, football—both soccer and American football– and  arm muscles and upper body exercise for many sports, including tennis.

  What about muscles for human speaking?  Skeletal muscle is found throughout the body, attached to bones via tendons. It is also present in tongue, lips, cheeks, attached to the jaw,  the cricothyroid muscle attached to the vocal folds for voicing, the esophagus, and the diaphragm.

 “The Human Tongue Slows Down to Speak: Muscle Fibers of the Human Tongue” by Sanders et al 2013 found that the average percentage of slow Muscle Fibers (MF) in adult and 2-year-old muscle specimens were 54% compared to  newborn human which was 32%.  In contrast, tongue muscles of the rat and cat have no slow MFs and macaque monkey  28% slow MFs; the MFs of rat and cat tongue are exclusively fast MFs.  Distribution in humans of slow MFs in tongue was found medially and posterially.  Special to adult human tongues  were MF-type grouping, large amounts of loose connective  tissue and short MF branching.   Relatedly by way of explanation for the similarity between  percentage  of  slow MF  for two-year-olds and adults,  by two years of age, human toddlers have been vocalizing (crying) since birth, babbling often since 6 months of age and speaking words for up to a year—largely through employing the same muscle structures they used for feeding.  But the movements and stiffness or tenseness of  these muscles, the tongue and lip muscles, for example, are different  for speech compared to the suckling from birth. 

An old adage: if you want to strengthen the muscles for an activity, say bicycling, swimming, or “whatever,”  then do that activity.  Such is the same for human speaking and muscle fibers in the tongue, especially. 

The importance of slow MF tongue muscles for North American English speech is that of the 25 consonants,  17 have a lengthened duration (slow consonants), and out of 14 vowel sounds,  10 vowel sounds have a lengthened duration — so it stands to reason that production of these 24 English speech sounds are associated with  using slow MFs (also called slow twitch muscles).   The lengthening or longer duration of specific English consonants and vowels can be measured via acoustic analysis (Johnson, 2000), and the need for 2nd formant change for “long vowel” production is likewise well documented.   By way of contrast,  consonant and vowel sounds for many other languages have significantly shorter durations compared to North American English speech.  (Spanish and Japanese have been described as the fastest spoken languages in the world with all or virtually all consonants and vowels spoken quickly.)

Positioning or placement of the tongue and tongue shape, are critical for accuracy of speech sounds recognition by listeners.   For example, the Spanish and other spoken languages such as Mandarin  produce “f” and “v” sounds with a short duration via the action of pushing air through partially open lips.  For North American English, the “f” and “v” sounds are prolonged—thus likely physiologically using slow MFs for the jaw  which holds steady the position of the lips with the position of upper teeth resting on lower lip)  to allow a more prolonged push of air and air friction through the lips, and prolonged voicing for the “v” sound via action at the vocal folds via the cricothyroid muscle.

Two forms of muscle movement (loading the muscles) have been identified to “grow” slow MFs and fast MFs (aka slow twitch muscles and fast twitch muscles, respectively).    One is lengthening the muscles and the other is isometric action (stiffening or tensing the muscles).

Lengthening movement forward of the human tongue is used for specific English consonants and vowels.  For example, for accurate articulation for the North American “L” consonant sound, pushing the tongue forward to touch the lower lip and holding it there makes for the producing a “L” consonant sound which is consistently recognized by human listeners as the “L” English sound.  For accurate recognition of  the “L” consonant sound, it must have a lengthened duration.  Based on our assessments, other positions of the tongue are less consistently recognized as an “L” speech sound, probably due to coarticulation effects from preceding and following speech sounds in a word with the “L” consonant sound.

To jump forward to answering the question first posed for acquisition of clear North American English,  muscle strengthening of the skeletal muscles of especially  the tongue, lips, jaw, and the cricothyroid muscle attached to the vocal folds  can be accomplished through two means–  accurate pronunciation of  English speech sounds in words and, as we now understand,  via muscle exercises specific to slow MFs  and fast MFs.

In the last year, our coached instruction for acquiring clear North American English speech for nonnative-born speakers of English has included vocal exercise aimed at strengthening slow MFs (slow twitch muscles) and fast MFs (fast twitch muscles)  for selected consonants and  vowels.   Those exercises have enhanced speech intelligibility outcomes, that is, measured word and speech sound intelligibility have increased substantially for those doing our coached courses.

Next time—description of specific exercises and speaking tactics during  home practice (also called, aka, direct practice) for words and sentences to grow slow MFs and fast MFs (slow twitch muscles and fast twitch muscles respectively).

Just so you know,  we have identified 14 dimensions for successful acquisition of clear North American English speech by nonnative-born speakers of North American English — from over 20 years of instruction and scientific assessment.  Success is defined as optimally efficient learning which is long lasting.  The Clear Talk Mastery method of instruction and learning is both an art and a science— the art is in getting to all 14 dimensions.  In this article, we are describing one dimension.

Be sure to check out our coached instruction- go to www.ClearTalkMastery.com and click on “Services. And be sure to check out the weekly self learning program, our proven subscription called ClearTalk Weekly—video and audio tutoring– you access 24/7 www.subscription.cleartalkmastery.com It works for people new to the admirable goal of making their English speech better for career and for life. It works for people who have done a coached course but was to rev up their accuracy.

©Clear Talk Mastery, Inc. 2023

How to Offer Information Without Causing Anger and to Make a Hearty Stew

How to Offer Information Without Causing Anger and to Make a Hearty Stew

People sometimes hesitate to offer information or ideas to others.   They may think, “It is not my business” or “They didn’t ask, so maybe I shouldn’t offer information.” Or fear of the demon “Anger.” Have you noticed some people have heightened awareness of negative body language? With those people (who could be you or someone you know), the demon “Anger” or “Perturbed” or even milder emotion becomes a stop sign with oh so many people.

However, if you offer information with no expectations of reciprocation, you likely find most people receptive and appreciative.

Or you could open with “Do you feel like hearing what I have to say about that?”

And you could add the coda to your statement, “But what do I know about that…” Or the preface, “I’m probably wrong, but ….”

If nothing else, you have now made the communication a dialogue and interesting like a hearty winter stew rather than chicken broth.

Speech Tutorial for f, v- The better way to learn