Thursday, August 18, 2011

Handy Hints when Speaking in Public
Thinking on your feet
This is an acquired skill.  Like so many skills it involves technique and practice.  A useful technique is to practise the “Elevator Speech”.  This is where you imagine that a very “influential” person has walked into the elevator and says to you.  “Hello” and what do you do?
(I would answer) “Hi, my name is Sofia and I’m a speaking coach.  I help speakers become better speakers.  And, I help my clients to think on their feet, choose the right words and speak with confidence.  I specialise in coaching executives in all their speaking roles.
This is just three dot points to memorise – but it’s three dot points that can be developed further – even into a full length speech, on another occasion than in the elevator, of course).
There are several techniques for answering impromptu questions.  For example, you can use “Past/Present/Future   or Options – 1, 2, or 3.  Or, global/national/local.
Another technique is to rephrase the question to make sure it’s understood.  Or, to say “Let’s think about this a little more”.  These are techniques to buy a bit of time in which to think of the appropriate response.
Dealing with a slip of the tongue, while speaking
OK – you’ve made a small error – you’ve said “transsexual” when you meant to say “transsectoral”.  It’s just an error.  Don’t try to speak while everyone is rolling on the floor laughing  and you are cringing with embarrassment – just wait until it’s quiet again – and simply say, something like, “all things are possible I suppose, but I meant to say “transsectoral”.
Or, “that’s a whole new slant, but what I meant was “transsectoral”.
Um, Ahs, and all other varieties of distractions
A very important technique here is to SLOW down your speaking pace.
And to have rehearsed out loud many times to become familiar with your content.
When you feel an Um coming on, simply PAUSE instead.  And, because long and deep breathing is import, take a relaxing deep breath with your pause.
(Sometimes speakers are not even aware of the number of Ums and Ahs they use –so in my session I use video and speakers can see for themselves any distracting habits they have).
Emphasise key words in your speech
Rehearse out loud.  Vary your pace, pitch and projection.
(If it’s a speech that you are going to read.  Rehearse it, of course.  But in this case you can “mark it up”.  16 pt font, double spaced, mark the phrases, highlight or bold for emphasis, etc.)
It’s really important in a speech that is being read, is to rehearse it such that you can still maintain eye contact with your audience.
Slow down at important phrases.  Go faster when reciting routine information.
It is essential to keep to time always.  If your audience knows that you have a 20 minutes slot and you are still speaking after 20 minutes, unless you are someone like Anthony Robbins, they’ll probably be looking at their watches.  The person speaking after you will probably be getting anxious too.  It’s professional and courteous to keep to time.
The best way to keep to time is to rehearse your speech out loud and time it.  (It’s a good idea to use the microwave timer).  Allowing a half minute or minute within the timeframe is also a good idea. 

Confidence starts with being familiar with your content.  It rests with your “self talk” too.  Many athletes, for example, have a ritual around how they prepare for performance. 
Take the time to rehearse out loud.  Rehearse into a corner of a room at home.  It will act as a microphone and you will become familiar with the sound of your own voice.
This comes in handy when you begin your talk or presentation – you won’t get nervous when you start to speak and realise that you’re the only one speaking.  And, you’re the star of your show.
Practise diaphragm breathing.  Deep, long, slow breathing from the core of your body.  Not from the upper chest which gets tight when you take your breath.  Think of your voice as an instrument. 
Practise vocal exercises to develop and maintain your voice.
Technique and practice is the 90% - the perspiration!
The 10% is where you take control of the speaking space, hold your heart and your professional speaking voice in that most powerful of all platforms  – the space between you and your audience!
Go Low, Slow and Smile!  Then flick that switch to Vaudeville!

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