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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.

5 Things to Say When Reaching Out to a Friend Right Now

BLOG #194 FOR FRI. FEB 26, 2021    

 — 5 Things to Say When Reaching Out to A Friend Right Now

  1. Start simple with a note with invitation to chat:
    •  “Haven’t talked in a while. Do you have a few minutes for a phone call?”
    • “A month has gone by.  Too long.  Do you have a few minutes for a phone call?”
    • “Thinking about you a lot.  Do you have a few minutes when you might be available?”
    • “We haven’t spoken for awhile.  Do you have time for a phone call in the next few days?”                     
  2. Nice reaching-out is to make sure there’s enough time for both of you to share the good and bad.
    • You can ask, “Is this still a good time to talk?”  The person might tell you about how much time they have to talk, for example, by saying, “I’ve got another appointment in 20 minutes.”
    • When you are close to the time you must leave the phone call, you could say:  “I’m so sorry, I’ve got another appointment in five minutes.”    That allows the situation for a change of topic or prompts the other to ask how things are going for you.
    • Satisfying communication for both people often happens when both people communicate meaningfully.  Sharing about what you have been working on lately,  family, or hobby build connectedness and rapport.
  3. Consider the greeting “How’s it going?”
    • This question focuses on circumstances.  The question “How are you” in the North American culture is most often answered as if it were a greeting and most often answered with “Fine”.  In contrast, “how’s it going” allows the other person to share event details, both bad and good.
    • When a person, perhaps you, has ongoing difficulties, “I’m hanging in there” is a brief colloquial or casual talk response.
  4. Mirror their emotions.  Ask questions.
    • Mirroring is the behavior of one person unconsciously imitating the gesture, manner of speech or attitude of another.  It seems to establish a sense of empathy.
    •   Use what the other person is saying as the natural guide in giving ideas and cues about what you might say or ask.
  5. Allow yourself to be accessible, to reveal some things about yourself, including the not-so-good.

 Copyright 2021 Clear Talk Mastery, Inc.

Impress Your Friends and Colleagues and the Best Reason to Master the “N”

Date: Feb. 4, 2021 Title: Impress Your Friends and Colleagues and the Best Reason to Master the “N”

In the preceding blog in Dec. 2020, you learned “How to impress your friends and the best reason to master the “Th”.

Now get this “Impress your friends and colleagues and the best reason to master the “N”.

Why master the “N”?   “N” is the most used consonant in English.   In OEC, the Oxford English Corpus’s list of the 100 most frequently written English words, N occurs in twenty (20) words, or one-fifth.  Here are those 20 words:

 #5 and

 #7 in

 # 13 not

 #14 on

 #32 an

 # 51 when

 #53 can

 #56 no

 #59 know

 #62 into

 #71 than

 #72 then

 #73 now

 #75 only

 #79 think

 #91 even

 #92 new

 #93 want

 #95 any

     Notice that  eight (8), almost half of these 20 words, end with the consonant N  —   in, on, an, when. can, than, then, even.  N at the ends of words and syllables are more difficult to pronounce than at the beginning of words or syllables.

      Notably N is also the most frequently spoken English consonant because of  prefixes and suffixes:

     Prefixes include ano-, ana-, in-, en-, on-, -non-, -mon-, non-, anti-, down-, hind-, mini-, under-, anglo-, ante-, con-, contro-, counter-, Franco-, Indo-, infra-, inter-, intra-,  neo-, non-, omni-, pan-, syn, trans-, uni-

     Suffixes include -en, -in, -on, -tion,  -tian, -cion, -ment, -mint, -mont, -mount, -ain ain, -ation, -ana, -nic, -nik, -onym, -senior, -junior, -yllion.

   Also, Wikipedia lists 66 Latin stems in English which begin with the letter n.

    Importantly, high pronunciation error is n, especially for “N” at the ends of words.

    Top error for pronunciation of “N” is  making it loud enough, again, especially at the ends of words.  The physiological reason for this error is that the mouth is closed for this sound and air is directed through the nose; such a small area muffles the sound.

      The second reason for error for English “N” is positioning of the tongue is different for other languages.

Below is a brief description of pronouncing “N” in American English:

Positioning of the tongue is the critical and super important feature: Push the tip of your tongue up to the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth.

 Minimum duration of  “N” is to hold the tip of your tongue again the roof of your mouth long enough to force the air through your nose and long enough and loud enough to hear a clear “N” sound.

Maximum—there is no maximum duration of the “N” pronunciation  for work-out practice.  Do work-out practice for home practice.  Push the tip of the tongue hard and stiff to the roof of the mouth, right behind the front teeth, and hold.  This work-out practice will make the muscles strong that push the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth. These are slow- twitch muscles.

This technique gets a loud enough “N” every time– go up in pitch on the speech sound, like singing.

Why does this technique work? Closing the mouth and the flow of air through the nose changes the air pressure above and below the vocal folds which stops the vocal fold vibration.  By going up in pitch, the speaker is stretching or lengthening the vocal folds which automatically pushes them together and voicing can occur more easily for a greater duration.

Seeing pronunciation of “N” is often better than written words. YouTube.com/ClearTalkMastery –  Accent Reduction Tips #23  “N” for “environmental”.

Copyright 2021 Clear Talk Mastery, Inc

Impress Your Friends and The Best Reason to Master a Perfect “Th”

Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2020

This is Blog #192: Impress Your Friends and The Best Reason To Master a Perfect “Th”

In the preceding Blog #191 on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 I listed the 100 most frequently written words in English from the Oxford English Corpus (OEC)  from 2013 from counting from 2 billion words from texts and similar to the Brown Corpus 1967.

So what does a list like that tell you?  For one, it answers the question– How important is it to pronunce the “th” accurately?

Get this—the most frequently written word and Number 1 in 2 billion words in English texts is  “the”.

Here  are the nine (9)  words with “th” in the top 100 words in English with the numbered rank:

1. the

8.  that

15. with  (American English, “th” has no voice)

21. this

26. they

38. there

39. their

79. think

96. these

Count them – nine (9) or about one tenth of  the 100 most frequently written words in English have a “th”.   Seven (7) of  those nine (9) have a “th” with a voice.

Not only that,  seven (7) of the nine words with a “th” are ranked for children’s reading books as pre-primer, primer and grade 2.    So, when children  in North America and Great Britain are learning to read, they are reading these words frequently.  Just so you know, children learning to read are speaking the words aloud.

Also, a super frequently asked question from people who are speaking English as a second or other language (ESL /ESOL) is this:
How do you know whether the “th” has a voice or no voice?

A BIG part of the answer is this: the little words with “th” and which you see frequently are mostly “th” with a voice: the,  that, this, they, there, their, and these.

There is more.  When children are learning to read English in school, their teachers use the strategy of boot-strapping.  An example of a teacher using boot-strapping is this:  The teacher says to the student:  “You already recognize “the”  and can say that word accurately. Every time you see  these next “th” words which begin with “th”,  do or pronounce the same sound.  So, do the same “th” pronunciation as you do for “th”  for  these words:  “that”, “this”, “they”,“there”, “their”, “these”.

Also, teachers tell children, “You know  the word “with”.  This “th” is pronounced only with air and has no voice.  So you pronounce the same “th” sound you use for “with” for  “think”. And “thank”.  And “through” and “throw.”

The take home message for this blog is this:   If you wonder whether it is worth the effort and work to fully master the “th” sound with a voice and with no voice– do it.  The number of times you will speak words with the English “th” is downright huge.

Below is a brief description of pronouncing “th”:

Positioning of the tongue is the critical and super important feature of “th”.  Push your tongue forward. Minimum  is to push your tongue forward so that it rests between your top front teeth and your bottom front teeth.

Maximum—there is no maximum for work-out practice.  Do work-out practice for home practice.  Push the tongue  out over your lower lip and make the tip of your tongue go down and not up.  This will make the muscles strong that push the tongue forward and down and are slow-twitch muscles.

Make the “th” sound slowly and loudly.   When the “th” has a voice, make the sound from your throat loudly and it is like a hum.   When the “th” has no voice, be especially  sure to use a lot of energy to push a lot of air quickly out of your mouth.

Seeing pronunciation of “th” is often more helpful than reading a written description.   In YouTube.com/ClearTalkMastery  has  several Accent Reduction Tips for “th”:

These are ClearTalkMastery Accent Reduction Tip #63, #46, and # 9 .  All of these Accent Reduction Tips are for “th”, both with no voice and with a voice.

#63 is no voice “th”, “authentic”

#46 voiced “th”  “that”

#9 no voice th “through”, “throw” and voiced “th” though

Do you want a quick, easy way to get lots of practice of the “th”—- say those 9 words 3 to 10 times each day for 21 days. Perfectly. Work-out practice to make your tongue muscles strong. The muscles that push the tongue forward and the tip down. Slow twitch muscles.

Remember, it is not practice makes perfect, but perfect practice makes perfect.

Happy practicing perfect!

100 Most Common English Words – And What To Do With Them -Yay!

BLOG #191   Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 100 Most Common English Words– And What to Do With Them- Yay

    In this blog you will find a list of the 100 Most Common English words.  Studies that estimate and rank these look at written texts. This list comes from the Oxford English Corpus (OEC) from 2 billion words ranging from literary works, novels, academic journals, newspapers, journals, blogs, chat logs, emails and even Hansard’s Parliamentary Debates 2013.  Another corpus which found similar results is from 1967 and is called the Brown Corpus, from Brown University, USA. Their findings were similar.

    Yay for 100 most frequently written English words.  But there’s more reason for you to read through these words both silently and aloud. (More  later about the tip to read this list aloud. And HOW to do that for best short term and long term pronunciation learning results.)  According to the Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists, the first 25 words in the OEC account for about one-third of all printed material in English. AND according to a study cited by Robert McCrum in The Story of English,  all of these hundred words are of Anglo-Saxon origin, except for “people”, which ultimately came from the Latin “populus” and “because” which developed from Latin “causa.”

  1. the
  2. be (all forms, is, was)
  3. to
  4. of
  5. and
  6. a
  7. in
  8. that
  9. have
  10. I
  11. it
  12. for
  13. not
  14. on
  15. with
  16. he
  17. as
  18. you
  19. do
  20. at
  21. this
  22. but
  23. his
  24. by
  25. from
  26. they
  27. we
  28. say
  29. her
  30. she
  31. or
  32. an
  33. will
  34. my
  35. one
  36. all
  37. would
  38. there
  39. their
  40. what
  41. so
  42. up
  43. out
  44. if
  45. about
  46. who
  47. get
  48. which
  49. go
  50. me
  51. when
  52. make
  53. can
  54. like
  55. time
  56. no
  57. just
  58. him
  59. know
  60. take
  61. people
  62. into
  63. year
  64. your
  65. good
  66. some
  67. could
  68. them
  69. see
  70. other
  71. than
  72. then
  73.  now
  74. look
  75. only
  76. come
  77. its
  78. over
  79. think
  80. also
  81. back
  82. after
  83. use
  84. two
  85. how
  86. our
  87. work
  88. first
  89. well
  90. way
  91. even
  92. new
  93. want
  94. because
  95. any
  96. these
  97. give
  98. day
  99. most 100. us

Congratulations, you got all the way to the bottom of this list of the 100 most frequently written words, Now—do consider reading this list of words aloud for practice in making your English speech more understandable to everybody and , if you want it– sound more like native-born North Americans.

Here’s an important hint. Based on our –Clear Talk Mastery’s– experience with one-on-one coaching of student-learners who are taking the format Gold, Gold Plus or Platinum,  the student-learners who used work-out mode practice for their homework/ direct practice did the best.  Hands down. 

Here’s a quck description of work-out mode practice—For fastest and long lasting results, including growing speech muscles,  when you practice some or all of these words do this:

  1. Pronounce each sound carefully and accurately
  2. Consciously make your speech muscles stiff and hard. Lips, tongue, even jaw muscles.
  3.  Consciously exaggerate the movement of your muscles—make slow muscles go at least double slow and fast muscles at least double fast.  Thus slow sounds like “th” make these very very slow.  And exaggerate the accuracy or placement of muscles. For example, for the “th” sound, push your tongue outside of your mouth and make the tip of your tongue go down toward your chin.   That will make that muscle grow in strength because you have loaded it.
  4. Importantly, make the muscles attached to the vocal folds stiffer and harder than you typically do.  You will know you have succeeded because the speech sound is louder. -30-

Nine Non-obvious ways to have deeper conversations – Not the David Brooks NY tips

Nine Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations for Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020 Blog#190

This is NOT  the David Brooks op-ed NY Times Tips.

I admire the writings of David Brooks—both his style and his content.  But since I am not subscribing to the NY Times, I can’t read what he says.

BUT I think the title and content is great.  So here is my version—

NINE Nonobvious Ways to Have Deeper Conversations

  1. In pandemic times especially, you’ve got to be prepared with direct and to the point ideas or opinions.   Everyone knows to limit 1) spread of respiratory droplets from mouth talking. 2) Even on Zoom, Skype, Telephone, Teams, Facetime— no one has time.
  2. So do this –Do the 3 P’s—Preparation, Preparation, Preparation
  3. Preparation- Figure out what topics are most important to you.  Here’s one idea.  People working in hospices have given out this advice of what to say when your death is imminent: “I’m  going to miss you.”  “I’m sorry.” “I forgive you.” “I love you.”   Whew those are certainly super deep.  Here are similar— “I have missed you.”  “I felt bad about…”   “I felt bad about  xxx  but I understand. “  “I like you.” “I enjoy you.”
  4. I would add to those four hospice statements, this one–—“Take care of yourself.”  Relatedly, in a daily life conversation, you could say:  “What happened last week or what did you do last week that was good, or happy….  For example, what was happy or good even really little—like you had a cup of coffee in the morning.”
  5. Consider opening  a conversation with: “How did the last week go for you?”  and if you want to follow-up “Do you feel like telling me more?”  If you get the body language or words that the other person does not want to say, just flow into changing the subject.
  6. Open conversations with an observation and not a question.  Observation just means a statement.  You could make it something you both have in common. The weather works. The place, season, how you know the hostess/host. Or comment on something  worn at that time by the other person.  Ideally the “observation” should be 60 seconds and no more than 2 or 3 minutes, maximum.
  7. Then if the other person does not respond with talking, then ask a question.   You already know this— some people do not volunteer information.  But if you ask them a question, they feel good about answering.
  8. One of my all- time favorite questions which works every time is “What do you think of that?”
  9. Use the other person’s response to extend out the conversation or perhaps take the conversation a bit deeper.   Easy is to stick to open ended questions which cannot be answered with “yes” or “no” word. Who, what, when, where, why, how.

Copyright 2020 Clear Talk Mastery, Inc.