Speaking Coaches: worth their weight in gold!

 

“I really enjoyed the sessions and took a lot from them. Apparently I did a great job at the conference … Thank you so much!”  AC, Music Industry Exec

“It was such a great experience and my presentation went really well. It was a huge conference … All of your training and support stood me in good stead, and I adjusted my sessions to fit my audience… I followed all your recommendations to prepare myself for the presentation – and then thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Thank you for your steady guidance in the lead up. I couldn’t have done it without you.”  ST, Educator

“I’m so relieved it (the presentation) is over but it went well! I’ve had heaps of compliments …. Thank you so much.”  NE, HR professional

 

WOW – Let the comments speak for themselves!

Just because most of us are able to open our mouths and say something, doesn’t mean that what we are saying and how we are saying it, is effectively communicating with whomever our audience happens to be.

As with everything in life that we want to do well at, practise and skill are necessary. Being a great speaker, whether in a small group setting, a large audience or on media takes time and effort.

A talk begins as a little seed that has to be nurtured, thoughtfully developed and worked on if we are going to hit the mark with our listeners. We so want to be able to microwave everything and produce it in 2 secs flat! Very few people are really able to brilliantly speak spontaneously, and the few that can have had years of practise and experience, although they may not tell you that!

When I hear, occasionally, people say that any sort of public speaking courses, presentation skills training or vocal coaching is unnecessary, I just smile; remember and celebrate the many individuals that I have had the privilege of working with, in so many different professions and walks of life, who have successfully achieved and enjoyed the fruit of having grown in their communication skills.

Overcoming the fear of public speaking

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“Hi Sarah, just wanted to let you know that my presentation went really well. I didn’t get that anxious feeling, which was great!”  NH, Sydney

 I love receiving feedback from my clients and hearing how well they have done, and are doing, in achieving their personal communication goals. One of these goals can be about actually beginning to enjoy standing up and sharing our thoughts, knowledge and ideas with others.

What is it about speaking publicly that can make even the most robust of us tremble at the knees, and to be cited as one of the greatest fears for people, second only to the fear of death?

Is it the knowledge of all eyes being just on us? Is it the acute awareness of the responsibility to ‘deliver’? Is it a mistrust in ourselves not to do something that would make us look foolish?

There are certainly proven strategies and techniques for handling nerves that do not include drinking lots of alcohol prior to speaking, or taking beta blockers!

Using your voice

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As we consider the miraculous gift that being able to speak is, we realise that, as with any other gifting, we can ignore it; take it for granted or abuse it.

Most of us probably fall into the second category with regards to using our voices until such time as we strain them through misuse and unwittingly find ourselves in the third category.  However, what about those of us who ignore the gift, and maybe due to negative experiences or self-inflicted limitations, find ourselves for the most part Silent.

Our mental health is improved as we yield to the deeply human need to speak and to be listened to. Remember Wilson, the volleyball that Tom Hanks’ character Chuck, dressed up in the film “Cast Away”. Wilson proved critical to Chuck’s mental health as his deep need to speak to someone – or anything(!) was evidenced.  Some people speak to their dog or cat or plants in the event of having no-one else to speak to.

For those of us who have become “silent”,  it is time to pick up the talking spoon again and start connecting with others verbally.

The Gift of Speech

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There are a number of differences that characterise human beings from the rest of the animal kingdom… one of those differences is our ability to speak – to articulate ideas, thoughts and feelings through the medium of words.  Our ability to vocalise and speak words is nothing short of miraculous when we consider all that is involved – the process of speech production is a highly precise and practised motor skill.

To simplify the whole process, in an everyday conversation, we firstly have to hear clearly; then we process what we have heard; we then consider our response and vocalise it. Mental processing of information is a science all of its own.

Being able to speak is something that most of us absolutely take for granted until we are faced with the onslaught of a stroke, motor neurone disease or an accident that takes away, even in part, our ability to exercise what is a vitally important function in life.

Give thanks everyday for your ability to open your mouth and speak – and work to make it the best possible experience for everyone listening!

 

 

Accent Softening – Clarity brings Confidence

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I love the English language! However, as a native English speaker I have the utmost respect for those endeavouring to get to grips with the language’s abundance of inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies. There is a wonderful, if rather long, poem called “The Chaos” (Anon) which charts the majority of the rebellious sounds and would challenge the most confident of English speakers!

My wonderful father-in-law spoke nine languages fluently but I couldn’t begin to get my mouth around the unfamiliar guttural sounds, diphthongs and triphthongs that he rattled off effortlessly in Dutch, Indonesian, French, Japanese, Norwegian, Italian, Spanish and German.

It is only with a great deal of practice and focus that ESL students can master the unfamiliar sounds that are ‘th’, ‘v’, ‘s’, ‘sh’, ‘ch’ etc. However, there is no doubt that the investment of time, money and focus does reap great rewards as “Clarity undoubtedly leads to increased Confidence”. It makes the world of difference to my students to know that they can easily be understood and that there is no lid to their potential for promotion, job satisfaction and social interaction.

In extreme situations, our ability to be understood could be a matter of life and death; in more common situations it can save awkwardness, misunderstandings and even the loss of a job. As English continues to be one of the most widely spoken languages and the official language of the majority of nations we need to persevere with ‘The Chaos’ – Get rid of the lid!

Finding Your Voice

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The phrase ‘Finding your voice’ resonates with so many of us because it is about freedom of expression to be all that we have been created to be. From the moment a new little person is born into the world we listen for the first sign of life – a cry. The newborn baby comes out of the safety of his/her mother’s womb, takes in air, opens the mouth and emits a sound that lets us know that they have arrived safely in this world.   The child continue to express themselves through crying and noises until learning to form sounds and words and sentences, so developing the ability to express themselves in a more mature and effective way.

I remember, as a child, wanting, no, needing to release my voice with full force and vigour as I had done as a baby with no restraints of what was polite or socially acceptable so … would stand under the railway bridge close to our home, and, as the train went over, would let out a long, well-supported (by then I knew how to effectively use my voice) shooooooooout! This vocal release eased tension, frustration and somehow helped me again to connect with my innermost being. Singing can be a wonderfully health promoting pastime also.

Dr Peter Calafiura, an American psychiatrist, agrees that yelling can have a positive mental influence. “[Yelling] might trigger some endorphins, a natural high,” he says. “They might feel calm and it might even be a little addictive. It’s really similar to a runner’s high. They’re getting the same effect in a different way.”

Sometimes, we need to shout, shout and let it all out …! My only word of advice would be to do it somewhere where you are not going to distress or alarm someone else and I am certainly not advocating giving way to venting and yelling at another human being! There is plenty of evidence that yelling in anger is seriously detrimental to one’s health.

Voice Is Influence

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The Voice!  We hear a lot about Voice these days particularly with regards to the singing voice.  We love to see the buttons pressed, the chairs swing round and the thrilled look on a contestant’s face as they are recognised as potentially having a voice with star quality.

However, Voice is a lot more than just sounding melodious or hitting high notes – as admirable and as practised as all that is.  Voice is about influence, it is also about passion.  Certainly, in some contexts, we can affect and influence others by our actions alone but, nine times out of ten, it is our words  and how we use them – persuasively, kindly, analytically, reasonably, encouragingly or harshly … that brings influence to bear.  We think of the evocative speeches of Martin Luther King Jnr, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Emmeline Pankhurst, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Hitler, Lenin, the list goes on … men and women with a Voice and the ability to influence others, some for much good and some for great evil.

We live in a world where it is important to consider how we are using our voices to bring a positive influence in our worlds of families, friends, and colleagues.