About 2300 years ago, Aristotle wrote down the secrets to being a powerful speaker. These same secrets have formed the basis for nearly every public speaking book or training program written since then.
Aristotle identified the three keys as ethos, pathos, and logos. We know these now as ‘the rhetorical triangle’ or the ‘three pillars’ of public speaking.
• Ethos is the credibility (or character) of the speaker. You are plausible because of who you are, your position, background, or what you know.
• Pathos is the emotional connection to the audience. With their emotions engaged people are motivated to follow or agree with you.
• Logos is the logical argument – or content. This is where reason, facts, examples and evidence play their part in supporting what you have to say.
Together, they are the three essential qualities that will make your speech or presentation appeal to your audience and accept your message.
Three basic types
Public speaking is always to inform, persuade, or entertain. Usually it’s a combination of all three, and it’s the blend between these different approaches that you get to play with and use creatively. Different types of speeches have different types of content, but you will find that you need to have all three types mixed in there somewhere, if you are going to do well.
One thing you should decide early on, is which of the Aristotle’s three elements will dominate. If for example, you are an expert on something, when you speak on that subject you are basing your presentation on ethos. (note however that the presentation itself may be laden with logos – facts and information logically presented). Perhaps you belong to a certain group and by speaking in public you help raise money for this group. That’s ethos. When you tell your kids “Because I say so!” that’s ethos.
Motivational speakers, politicians and sales people depend heavily on pathos. When you leave a presentation feeling inspired, galvanised, changed, ready to act or to buy something, your emotions have been engaged. It’s the key to all successful ‘sales’, whether you’re selling an idea, a product , a policy or yourself.
Logos is going to dominate when the primary aim is to transfer information. Professional and business settings, teaching, lectures , conference papers and certain professional interchanges (pilot to cabin crew, surgeon to theatre nurse, client to broker, client to lawyer), require you to convey clear, well structured, logical information without much else.
Looked at a different way, you need to consider whether you want your speech to be primarily informative, persuasive or entertaining. The ‘ingredients’ in the ‘recipe’ will change accordingly.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Look after your voice
A few simple steps which are good for your general health are also good for your voice. The voice is easily affected by fatigue and tension and other health issues, so if something in your life is stressing you your voice may show the effect.
Here are some simple dos and don’ts.
• Drink plenty of water. Hydration is invaluable for your voice
• Don’t smoke
• Get enough rest
• Keep tension to a minimum (learn relaxation, take up yoga, find ways to release your accumulated tension)
• Avoid shouting and yelling or straining your voice.
• Do a daily voice work out to warm it up and place it well
A daily vocal warm up improves the quality of the sounds you make and helps prevent vocal injury. It’s exactly the same principle as at the gym or playing sport. A daily voice work out will help your stay in good vocal condition. It’s essential before activities like public speaking, classroom teaching, or making sure you can be heard over the background noise at a party.
The exercises below come from The American Academy of Otolaryngoogy
Warm Up #1
Breath Relaxation: Releases tension often associated in the breathing mechanism that can interfere with effective voice production. Ordinarily, if there is tension when breathing, that tension radiates to the voice box muscles. Take a normal breath and then exhale. Make sure your shoulders and chest are low and relaxed. Repeat many times making sure that your breaths are focused low in the abdomen and that there is not associated chest, neck, or shoulder tension while breathing. You can place one hand on your abdomen to remind you to keep the focus low and away from the chest and shoulders. Hold an “s” sound like in hiss when you exhale.
Warm Up #2
Jaw Release: Reduces tension in the mouth and jaw area during speaking and singing. Place the heels of each hand directly below the cheek bone. Pushing in and down from the cheeks to the jaw, massage the facial muscles. Allow your jaw to passively open as you move the hands down the face. Repeat several times.
Warm Up #3
Lip Trills: Release lip tension and connects breathing and speaking. Releases tension in the vocal folds. Place your lips loosely together release the air in a steady stream to create a trill or raspberry sound. First try it on an “h” sounds. Then repeat on a “b” sound. Hold the sound steady and keep the air moving past the lips. Next try to repeat the b-trill gliding gently up and down the scales. Don’t push beyond what it comfortable at the top or bottom of the scale.
Warm Up #4
Tongue Trill: Relaxes the tongue and engages breathing and voice. Place your tongue behind your upper teeth. Exhale and trill your tongue with a “r” sound. Hold the sound steady and keep the breath connected. Now try to vary the pitch up and down the scale while trilling. Again, don’t push beyond what is comfortable at the top or bottom of your scale.
Warm Up #5
Two Octave Scales: Provides maximum stretch on the vocal folds. Start in a low pitch and gently glide up the scale on a “me” sound. Don’t push the top or bottom of your range but do try to increase the range gently each time you do the scales. Now reverse and glide down the scale from the top to the bottom on an “e” sound. You can try this on the “oo” sound also.
Warm Up #6
Sirens/Kazoo Buzz: Improves the resonant focus of the sound and continues work with maximal stretch on the vocal folds. The mouth postures are easily made by pretending you are sucking in spaghetti with an inhalation. On exhalation make the “woo” sound. It will be a buzz like sound. Hold the sound steady for 2-3 attempts. Now use the woo sound to go up and down the scales.
Warm Up #7
Humming: Highlights anterior frontal vibrations in your lips, teeth and facial bones. Begin with lips gently closed with jaw released. Take an easy breath in and exhale while saying “hum”. Begin with the nasal sound /m/ and gently glide from a high to a low pitch as if you were sighing. Don’t forget your vocal cool down after extensive vocal use. Gently humming feeling the focus of the sound on the lips is an excellent way to cool down the voice. You should hum gentle glides on the sound “m” feeling a tickling vibration in the lip/nose are.
Warm Up #8
Cool Down: Don’t forget your vocal cool down after extensive vocal use. Gently humming feeling the focus of the sound on the lips is an excellent way to cool down the voice. You should hum gentle glides on the sound “m” feeling a tickling vibration in the lip/nose are. Click here for an example of a cool-down.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Some years ago a friend asked why I was having singing lessons. I stared in disbelief at this normally intelligent person, who tried to explain the question. “Don’t you just open your mouth and out it comes?” I gaped. “Your singing voice is just there like your speaking voice right?” I replied that this was a bit like asking Roger Federer why he had a tennis coach. My point was sound, but comparing myself to the tennis legend was not, and it was me who wound up looking an idiot.
My friend’s ignorance is not so unusual. For those of us who are ‘voice aware’, the way people sound it is a matter of interest and importance. We understand that your voice exerts a huge influence on the impression you create, and on your ability to communicate. Voice is every bit as important as looks and dress sense, charm and intelligence. In fact it’s vital for certain professions. Those who succeed in sales, teaching, politics, religion, the defence forces, management and the law nearly always use their voices well. It’s one of the qualities that enables them to command attention. Voice a vital leadership tool.
Who do you like to listen to? I bet they are easy to understand. I bet their voice is melodious, resonant, pleasing to the ear. They have clear diction, their voice carries. They speak at a pace which is easy to follow, and if they speak at length, they do so with enough variety to be interesting.
The opposite is also true. Who do you dislike listening to? Do they mumble, or have a squeaky, strained voice or a light one that doesn’t cut through? Are they missing the instinct to raise their voices in a large space? Do they speak too softly to be heard? These poor people are literally wasting their breath. Whatever it is they want to communicate remains unknown to their listeners.
As my friend revealed, many people are not ‘voice aware’. My friend wasn’t trying to insult me, it was just something she’d never thought about. To speak well you need to make the most of your voice, and to make the most of your voice you need to know a bit about how it works.
In some ways my friend was correct. You are born with your voice. It’s part of your anatomy, and each voice is distinctive – like your body. Your voice has its own individual timbre (that’s colour and texture). If you happen to sound like Marilyn Monroe, or you can round up a paddock of cattle with a single shout, you have an advantage. Most of us have the vocal equivalent of the family sedan. A voice that’s not too remarkable, but can do the job.
You can’t grow a new voice or change it completely. But the way you sound depends on a range of things, some of which are within your control. The reason you recognize your mother on the phone, or your best friend calling you from behind, is that everyone develops a unique blend of timbre, tone, pitch, pronunciation, accent, and inflection which make us sound like us. This blend is partly a result of our physical vocal characteristics, and also of our personality and life experience – but it’s ours to develop and play with.
I often read things that say a good voice is deep voice. Tosh. It would be a grave mistake to think that because you speak somewhere north of basso profundo you are disadvantaged. I meet plenty of people with low voices who aren’t worth listening to.
It’s true that certain timbres are more penetrating, or sound better in a microphone. It’s also true that your voice can probably become sound more like one of those. A good voice is just one which, whatever its natural size and timbre, is produced well. And that’s where my singing lessons come in. We understand that daily exercise keeps your body looking good and moving well. Learning how to produce your voice properly will keep it sounding good and working well.
Watch for more posts on this subject...
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Stand in a relaxed position, without swaying (this is a common nervous habit) or hanging on to the lectern. Plant your feet, as if your legs were trees. You may want to put your body in an imaginary corset if you are the type whose nerves make you want to twist and bend and wriggle about. You might be a ‘Happy wanderer’ who keeps the legs in motion all the time. Draw an imaginary ‘circle of death’ on the floor, and stay inside it. You will look mire professional that way. A solid position conveys authority, and you will feel better and stronger and more in control.
An open stance is best. Arms loosely by sides, feet hip width apart. Drop your shoulders and stick your chest out. You may feel like folding your arms, lowering your head, or putting your hands in your pockets. Don’t. You may feel better but you’ll look much worse.
Don’t clench anything visible – teeth, shoulders, fists. You can screw your toes up inside your shoes if it helps.
Turn squarely to face a person and look them in the eye when you shake their hand or answer a question.
Smile. Smiling helps in two ways, relaxing your mind and your body.
Eye contact with the audience is essential whether you're in a small meeting or addressing a crowd of 1,000.
In the speaker-audience relationship, you are the leader. Ensure your eyes are travelling right through the audience and you are looking directly at different people while you speak.
When you are practising your speech, ask your audience members to raise their hand when you’ve made eye contact with them. You’ll soon see how well you do this.
Whatever your voice tone and your natural way of speaking, you have a great tool at your disposal. Your voice is like a paintbrush for words. You can use it to underline and emphasise, to show light and shade. You can vary the type of language you use, the pitch, volume, pace, and tone of your voice to engage your audience and get your message through better.
Is your voice light? Soft? Strong? Breathy? Clear? Do you speak fluently, or stop and start a lot? Do you mumble or mesh your words together? Or do you enunciate clearly? Are you a quick talker or a slow and deliberate one?
In the first few seconds you are speaking, any listener will unconsciously make a judgement about you based partly on the way you sound.
Language and tone must fit the occasion and should be adjusted according to the audience. Generally, in public speaking you need to be clear and direct, and a bit more ‘proper’ than in casual conversation. One trick is to imagine you are talking to an older person – someone you respect. That will put you in the right language mode. Slang and jargon are not a good idea. Swearing is right out.
Volume and pace. A speaker must be able to be heard to be understood. Your voice is your power. Use it. In a big space you’ll need a microphone, or to PROJECT. A voice bounces around and echoes in a big space like a hall, so speak s-l-o-w-l-y, or it will turn to mash because of the reverb. Pace involves the speed of the message. Experts say that 120 to 150 words a minute is an excellent pace – about the pace of reading out loud.
Practice filling a large space without shouting. Get a friend to stand outside the room and talk to him or her. See how much more distinctly and slowly you have to speak? You need to work your lips, teeth and tongue quite a bit harder than normally. For public speaking you will almost certainly need to speak slower than you do in private. It feels weird but sounds fine.
Pitch. If your voice is high, or soft, or hard to understand for some other reason (for example, braces can disturb your articulation, you may have an accent if English is not your first language) you need to know this. Generally, a natural strong, medium paced, medium to low pitched voice is what a listener likes to hear.
Inflection is the way the pitch of your voice rises and falls. It’s the best tool for engendering interest, Monotonous speech has little inflection – it’s flat. Listeners will tune out. Animated speech usually is more interesting to listen to as it has variation in the pitch. Young Australian women should be especially careful of the HRT or High Rise Terminus –a habit where every sentence ends with an upswing in pitch.
In a leadership role you might want to consider that deep voices usually have authority. High voices can sound silly, or anxious or hysterical. Rightly or wrongly we take a high voice less seriously than a low one. However the real key is that it’s YOUR voice. Just be yourself, confidently.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
To make teleconference meetings run as effectively as possible, here are a few tips to ensure that you are heard, and that you can hear.
Ensure that you are in a quiet room. If you are in a busy area, close your door or find a quiet area where you can access a landline
• Turn your mobile phone off or silent mode. Vibrate mode can be distracting
• Announce your name every time before you speak so that everyone knows who is contributing
• Put your phone on “mute” when not speaking or during a presentation
Background Sound and noise
Be aware of how others will be hearing you and that all sounds are easily picked up by telephone microphones, especially using hands-free for mobile and speakerphones.
For people at the other end these noises have the potential to impinge greatly on meeting discussions - whole sentences can be missed depending on the noise levels in the room. Examples impacting call clarity are:
• Whispering in the background and side conversations at remote sites -these seem to spring up more readily than they would if everyone were in the same actual room
• Rustling papers or sweet wrappers near the microphone
• Persistent coughing
• Water pouring from a jug
On many phones you can use 'mute, which helps reduce noise on your end whilst a presentation is in progress.
Pick up and use the telephone hand-set where possible, it's preferable to the hands-free option. When hands-free is used, the line is often very hard to hear and / or cuts out frequently.
Use a landline in preference to a mobile phone where possible. Connection quality is unreliable.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Your wardrobe and Appearance
Your appearance has a great impact on the audience and on your effectiveness as a communicator. Dressing well for the occasion is part of the performance.
Choosing your wardrobe means taking account of three things. One is that you need to feel comfortable, the second is your appearance should enhance your presentation. The third is you must look right for the event.
Naturally you have to combine all three into the one outfit.
Some simple rules will guide you.
Your clothing is a major rapport builder. Your clothing expresses your authority and your credibility. What is appropriate for the occasion and the audience? What time of day is it? Where is being held? What role do you occupy in relation to your audience? Who is watching you and how will they be dressed?
In general, being just a bit better dressed than the audience works well. If they are ‘smart casual’ you’ll be OK in a suit. If they are in jeans and T shirts, you can wear ‘smart casual’. The exception of course is if you decide that dressing exactly like your audience is the way to build rapport. But always make sure you feel comfortable.
Wear something that will feel professional. Even if it’s a social occasion you have a role as a speaker and you have to dress the part.
Think ‘neat’. Ensure your clothing and hair are clean and tidy. DON’T fiddle with it while you are speaking. You don’t want to be distracted by ties undone and shirts untucked, or having to wipe your hair out of your eyes.
Remember if you’re on stage your audience is often below you. They are quite likely to have your shoes, ankles, and knees at eye level . Make sure they’re impeccable. No runs in your hose, and polish your shoes!
Show your personality and dress fashionably and with flair by all means, but consider how you look from a distance. The bigger the space, the simpler and stronger your silhouette should be. Choose colours that read well from a distance. Patterns usually don’t, so be careful with florals, spots, stripes or tartans. In general, in a big space people look better in clean lines and good tailoring. Women should avoid soft fabrics, frills and flounces, and loose cut styles. Men - make sure your suit fits your frame and is not too big in the shoulders or long in the arms.
Too much flesh is a definite no no. Skirts should hit at the knee or lower. Even in formal attire at a special occasion like a wedding where you may be in an evening gown or cocktail wear, women should be cautious with a low-cut neckline or a strapless top. Ask yourself if it’s right for this occasion. Ask yourself whether you are going to be able to leave it unattended while the eyes of a crowd are upon you. You need to be sure your appearance does not distract you – or them, from your words.
High heels look smart but if they’re too high it’s hard to take you seriously. Wear what suits your outfit, so long as you can walk up to the microphone with comfort and confidence.
If you have a hairstyle that can be tied back, that’s a good choice. Show your face and you will look much better on stage. A downward light on a fringe or glasses can cast a shadow on your face – so keep ‘facewear’ to a minimum. Dangly earrings and beads are only for the tall. Bracelets and sparkles create clutter. Keep it simple.
If you need reading glasses for your notes you should decide whether they are on or off for the whole speech – best not to move them about too much while your speech s in progress.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
An introduction serves two purposes:
1. It acts as a bridge, a transition from one part of a meeting/assembly/function to another. It gives the audience time to make a mental and emotional shift.
2. It prepares people for the speaker, heightening their sense of openness and anticipation.
Your task is to introduce the speaker, not to take centre stage. The spotlight is on you only for a moment so that you can shine it where it belongs: on the speaker.
Keep it brief. For informal gatherings 30 seconds is plenty. For larger events, aim for no longer than a minute. Under certain conditions — a very formal event with a very important speaker — you may need to speak for up to two minutes.
• Take the time to prepare well before you speak. Don't put it together at the last minute.
• Ask the speaker for input. Make a short call in advance to ask what s/he'd like to emphasize, what's especially interesting, or other details you can use to make the intro meatier. Find out whatever helps establish the speaker's credibility on the topic he or she is addressing. Learn as much as you can about their experience, education, life, interests, and accomplishments. Many speakers will send you a resume or their own written introduction. Use it to help you prepare your remarks, but do not use it verbatim.
• Ask how to pronounce his/her name.
• Don't read - it’s is no better than reading a speech, and shows you didn’t prepare.
• Audience interest is highest at the start of any talk, and you are the start of this one. So reward your audience by looking at them and by delivering an engaging, lively introduction that packs a punch.
• Add some perspective of your own: You're building a chance to connect the audience with the speaker. So put yourself in that equation. What would make YOU interested in this person?
• Don't skimp. Even the most familiar speaker deserves some words to warm the audience to the task at hand....and if you skimp on an introduction, you're just missing your own opportunity to show your speaking skills.
• Always be grateful that the speaker is there. Chances are they are just as nervous as you, and some warm words ‘we’re very privileged’ to welcome them will make things easier.
• Conclude with the speaker's name, which is her or his cue to come forward. Wait at the podium until the speaker arrives. Shake his or her hand and step back from the podium, handing it over symbolically to the speaker. Lead the applause.
Thanking a speaker
To thank a speaker is a lot easier because you have heard the speech or presentation. All you then have to do is comment on something mentioned to show that it was really worthwhile listening to. Compliment the speech and never challenge the content. Lead a second round of applause.
Monday, February 28, 2011
We're all Oscar'd out by now, and in the leadup and the aftermath there have been plenty of tips on how to make an acceptance speech great. As usual, The Eloquent Woman has wonderful advice. My all time favourite however, is still Meryl Streep.
Monday, February 14, 2011
As well as scooping the awards and giving Australian audiences a shot of national pride, 'The King's Speech' will, I hope, be an inspiration for people who suffer from stammering.
I'm not a speech pathologist but I've coached clients with speech disfluencies. They range from a strong lisp, to stammering - but only in public, to habitually transposing sounds (replacing 'd' with 'v' or 'th' for example).
Some of these people have bravely confronted their difficulty, and some were aware of their problem, but didn't care. They did not want to change anything.
My job is to bring clarity to their communication. If a person wants to develop their professional presence, how can they can do that if they stammer, lisp, or mix up their consonants? In our culture, a a public stammer can be agony for speaker and listener alike - as Colin Firth's George VI so powerfully demonstrates (you can listen to the real Bertie here). And lisps, or an inability to say 'th' sound to us like 'baby talk'.
To be serious about sounding professional, mature, intelligent, capable, I believe these disfluencies need to be reduced or overcome. I refer people to a speech pathologist if they agree to it. I hope that Geoffrey Rush's Lionel Logue will mean more people feel comfortable getting the help they need.
What do you think?
Monday, January 31, 2011
I know someone who is waiting to hear if she’s landed the job-of-a-lifetime. She’s been interviewed, and thinks it didn’t go so well. She’s telling herself she messed up because she didn’t prepare properly. She’s a highly competent woman – internationally renowned, so expert she’s even addressed the United Nations. So why does a job interview cast her adrift in a sea of self-doubt?
For most of us an interview feels a bit like doing an exam. We’re being judged. Are we worthy? Our inner 8 year old is crying ‘pick me, pick me-e-e’. The fear of rejection can be profound. And no wonder. A lot hangs on the outcome - the stakes are really high.
Like any speaking situation the key to success is preparation. Answering questions is always easier when you have foreseen them and know what you want to convey. Work out your key messages for the interview and incorporate them into your answers.
Start with the audience. Do everything you can to find out about their priorities, concerns, interests etc. What is driving their decision? Where are they up to in their selection process?
When you make a major purchase like a house or a car, or new IT, you consider alternatives, choose one, get a good deal - and finally, you settle the loose ends like after sales service and spare parts. Your prospective employer is going through the same process. Are they considering options? Narrowing the possibilities down? Finalising a ‘deal’? With this understanding you’ll be able to prepare an approach that fits. Your aim is to talk to them about their needs and how you can meet them.
You should utilise the ‘three Cs’: Credibility, Connection, and Content. Long ago Aristotle picked 'ethos, pathos and logos' as the pillars of public speaking, and they remain robust and reliable two thousand years later.
Credibility is your professional status. Devise a succinct way of explaining your experience, skills and qualifications. Ensure you have examples of what you’ve done, as these make your case compelling. You may describe the approach you’ll take to the new role.
Connection is the rapport that’s essential to strong communication. Use your personal qualities - warmth, good humour, personal presence, clear voice and good eye contact. Also demonstrate your knowledge and appreciation of them, what they do, what they value, what they want. Be sincere and enthusiastic about this opportunity. There’s no limit to how much praise a person can take.
Content is the informative bit, the facts and the logic of what you say. It relates closely to credibility. Professional communication needs you to make sound points, explain them and support them with evidence and examples that prove the point. If you like acronyms, try PRE: Point, Reason, Example, to give your answers a structure.
You may use a ‘leave behind’ such as a portfolio of work to add more substance to your interview.
When you answer questions, don't feel like it's the third degree. There's often no 'right' answer. It’s alright to take a minute to prepare mentally. A well structured response can begin with a reflection eg ‘So we’re talking about….’ Or ‘yes that’s a major issue, I understand your interest in it….’ It gives you a minute to think about your PRE response.
A job interview is a pitch. It must be persuasive and therefore it needs an underlying argument. Don’t make the mistake of telling them everything there is to tell. You need a story, so cherry-pick. Serve up what’s relevant and meaningful and tasty for them.
A classic structure for persuasive speaking is Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. You can easily adapt its five steps to suit a job interview. Here’s the outline.
1. Attention getter: You need to hook them in. Impress them and establish rapport – you can do whatever is socially appropriate eg a warm greeting, saying something profound or insightful, or expressing your enthusiasm or pleasure and being called to this meeting.
2. Explain the need: Show your knowledge and understanding of their situation. Politely emphasise the harm that’s being done and the fact that it won’t get better without (your) intervention. ‘I understand you have a problem/need help. Here’s how I see it. It’s pretty significant and there’s damage/harm being done unless you fix it’.
3. Satisfy the need/solve the problem: ‘I have a solution (eg employ me, give me the scholarship etc). My solution is better than anyone else’s because I alone offer ….can do…...have experience of …..’
4. Visualise the change: Paint a picture of the new order…‘With me in the role, this is what will happen…. Or, if we don't implement my solution, this is what will happen’.
5. Action: State the next steps for them to take and what you’ll be able to do immediately in response. ‘If you decide to engage me in the next week, by May we can be…..’.
Incorporating all these elements in your interview makes it powerful, especially if you can do it in the sequence just outlined.
Finally, give them the chance to air their concerns. It's a disarming move but can be decisive. It shows you understand their process, and gives them an opening to raise things they may have been reticent about. Better to have everything on the table than lying hidden and unaddressed. Ask 'What's on your mind, what concerns do you have, now that we've spoken about these issues?' If you've planned ahead you'll be expecting the sorts of things that come up, and it gives you a chance to allay any fears and reassure them.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Today we saw two very different leaders - one local one world. Each is dealing with shocking and distressing events. Each does it brilliantly. Obama is working from a beautiful, statesmanlike script. The grief and the loss of those in Arizona are woven into stories of those who died (which give comfort)and the meaning of these killings for America (which provokes thought). His delivery is melodious, compelling. His demeanor is serious, sincere.
Anna Bligh is exhausted after days of disaster. Her announcements are factual, but her emotions are on view. Her delivery is natural. She's a real woman - she could be your Mum or the School Principal. She too is distressed, but she's the person in charge and she does what she encourages others to do - keep on going. 'This weather may break our hearts but it will not break our will...we can pull through this'. And somehow, you believe her.