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Public Speaking: How to Train Yourself to Stay

Public Speaking: How to Train Yourself to Stay

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Staying focused when you are responding to complex questions is difficult for all people. Maybe the question comes in a meeting. Maybe during a presentation. It is even more difficult if you are a non-native born speaker of English or you have English as a native language and speak an accented English (Irish English, India English, Australian English). In you have English as a second language or moderately to highly accented English, you may be working very hard to make your English clear to understand or intelligible to your listeners.

What you need is to be focused. In sports they often call it “the zone.” It involves focusing your energy and thoughts and screening out all distractions. Whether in a group, classroom, or meeting room—the locations are endless – but all are filled with distractions.

To improve your ability to stay focused, pick a busy place like a shopping mall or the lobby of a busy theater or school. Lock your focus on one thing, such as a picture or plant and see if you can stay totally focused on that object. You need to erase all distractions from your mind. If your mind drifts, keep bringing your focus back to your object. This practice will help you stay focused in situations where you are asked to respond in a group and on a complex topic. Actors and athletes often use this technique backstage or prior to a game to get the focus they need to succeed.

Next time we’ll talk about how to deliberately practice being direct and to the point in your spoken English communication.

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

Rerun from Dec 4, 2013 and Jan 9, 2017

Choppy Speech and the Breathing Solution

Choppy Speech and the Breathing Solution

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Here is a problem that can happen with poor breathing during presentation speaking:

  • Poor breathing may result in choppy disjointed speech that can happen when you take a breath pause at the wrong time.
  • The solution: do greater inhalations using the diaphragm and abdominal muscles.
  • Mark your script with pauses, one slash line for a pause with a  little catch breath,  two slash lines for a pause with a full breath inhalation.

Rerun from 11/08/2013 and 02/13/2017

Public Speaking: How to Be Your Own Voice or Communication Coach

Public Speaking:  How to Be Your Own Voice or Communication Coach

How to improve your own presentation style.  You CAN learn from others.   Use video media (television, movies, YouTube presenters, website videos) to do your own communication analysis.  Choose samples of people you think do very well.  Learn from the experts.

It is fun!

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When you study these video recordings do this.  Watch first with sound and video.  Then look away from the screen and just listen.  Finally, turn the sound down and just watch.

Without the video, you will be able to study the delivery by voice.  Listen to the level of vocal energy.  Listen to the resonance of the voice, the richness, and fullness of the sound.  Listen to the volume.  Is the pronunciation clear?  Is the verbal message direct and to the point?  Are there too many verbal fillers?

When you are watching without the sound, watch for gestures.  Look for tension in the body.  Notice how focused the person is.  Watch how the person is breathing.  Look for connection with the audience. Watch the eyes and facial expression for that.

Take notes on what works well and what you see that you would change.

Nowadays, many people can video record themselves on their smart phone or IPad or similar devices.  Apply the procedure described above.  Be your own voice and communication coach!

Next time will be to learn how to screen out all distractions during a presentation.

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

Rerun from 11/27/2013 and 01/04/2017

The Importance of Good Breathing

The Importance of Good Breathing

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Did you know that when we speak, we use a different breathing pattern than when we are at rest?

• Our ratio of inhalation to exhalation at rest is close to 1:1

• For speech, that ratio must change to 1:5 or even 1:10

• You can control the air as it is exhaled if you let the diaphragm and abdominal muscles do the

work

Rerun from Nov 11, 2013 and Feb 6, 2017

The Top 10 Public Speaking Tips from Broadcasters

The Top 10 Public Speaking Tips from Broadcasters

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Everyone is asked to answer questions about work or academic topics or issues.  It could be in a meeting, when you are asked to describe your project.  It could be in a class, when you are asked to describe your experience with a topic or analyze an issue.  It could be during the question/answer portion of a presentation, homily, delivering a report.

In the American culture, the favorite is for responses to be direct and to the point.

The task for you is similar to broadcasters who are doing live reporting.  About six months before he passed, my dear husband found this book for me.  He found tips in it he thought would be useful to me… and you.  So here are some tips for extemporaneous or impromptu presentations … or simply answering complex questions.. from the broadcasting industry from Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D., Broadcast Voice Handbook, How to Polish Your On-Air Delivery.

Your goal is to be clear and helpful.  Economy is the goal. Keep the response short, precise.  Less said well is better than more said rambling.

Some specific tips for preparing and for delivery:

  1. Take the time to develop a simple sentence in your mind that will summarize your answer.   Your summary sentence is what you have decided is the key point you want to make.
  2.   You are also deciding on why you are saying what you want to say.  Knowing the “why” helps you to know the “what” and the “how” to say it.
  3. Once you have developed this summary sentence, it is easy to construct two or three main points that relate to this sentence.
  4. Economy and clarity of information can be improved by focusing on two or three main points.
  5. Limit each sentence to one idea.  (Hey, simple, right?  Cleverly simple!)
  6. Use short sentences.
  7. Avoid fillers, which might be verbal fillers such as “uh,” “okay,” or “um,” or they could be sentences you include just to fill up time or perhaps to give you time to think.   You might also be using verbal fillers to begin sentences like “Now….” Or “As you can see…”  You might be using verbal fillers to help you by giving you time to think, but they distract the listeners.  Instead, just pause and give yourself a moment to think of the next thing.  The best native-born speakers do this.  You do it, too!
  8. If you are fortunate enough to have forewarning that you are going to be asked to respond to a question, or you have foresight about what is likely to happen, then prepare the summary sentence and talking points beforehand.  (For a presentation, think, think, think… of what the probable questions are going to be.  Or test the presentation on a listener and see what questions they have.)
  9. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a written summary, you want to be able to speak in an extemporaneous speaking style, which means thinking up words that you want to say as you say them.  You will have a map to follow with your talking points, but basically you will be just talking.  In order to do this well, you must have good focus.  Focus means to put everything else out of your head … your next meal, your aching back, anticipation of a great party….
  10. It is a good idea to memorize your exit line.  (First you have to think of an exit line.)   Having a memorized exit line means that if you are suddenly stopped or you miscalculate the length of the presentation or response and have to stop suddenly, you can do so with some grace… your exit line.  You can do better than.  “That’s all…”   But it could be as simple as:  “Now I have given you the information as I know it.  The solutions are complex and will take patience.  In the words of one of my favorite truisms, this one by St. Jerome who said, “Be patient with everyone, AND especially yourself.”

P.S. Some people like to memorize their opening line so they feel secure at the beginning of their talk.

Next time will be how to learn from the experts in your spare time!

Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercise.

Rerun from Nov 20, 2013 and Dec 28, 2016