Imagine a typical scenario, if it is not yet typical for you it certainly will be one day! ,… “So-and-so is sick today and so you will have to go and speak to our clients and fill them in on where we are up to with the project!”

Unless you have had some practise at Impromptu speaking then the majority of people’s reponses to that instruction is not one of delight … our body begins to respond to the request and we may manifest a number of physical manifestations such as sweaty palms, heart seemingly beating out of our chest, or brain freeze.

Now, there are a number of well-proven techniques that can help us very practically to handle the above, or similar, situations effectively. However, once we have quickly thought about what we want to say and jotted down some barely legible notes on our phone or bit of paper, we then actually have to vocalise those thoughts and ideas. It is at this point that we have to consider three key things …

Clarity … will people be able to clearly hear and understand what I am saying ?

Fluency … can I fluently and articulately express what I want to say?

Variety … can I speak in a manner that is not going to send my audience to sleep in a matter of a few moments ?

 

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!

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!

 

 

As we find ourselves well into another new year, it is a great time to consider “what am I finding difficult in the world of personal communication?”

Perhaps you are needing …

  • to develop skills to prepare and deliver an outstanding speech or presentation;
  • to work on projecting confidence and assertiveness in work meetings and different work-related situations;
  • help with your staff who are struggling to present themselves well;
  • to prepare for important interviews that will open new doors for you;
  • to work on your voice – sounding more engaging, warm and interesting ;
  • to become more confident that your voice can be heard and understood, that you are getting your message across …

the list goes on of scenarios where clients have overcome fear and limitations and found greater freedom in their communication abilities.

What a privilege it is to help people to achieve their goals and more fully enjoy life!

Take one, not very tall, man; some lights; a huge platform and 20,000 people… all laughing for one and a half hours!

It really is an experience to be in an arena of so many people all laughing together. Laughter is infectious and so good for us – it certainly does good like a medicine.

Such was our very enjoyable evening a few nights ago at the Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney where the hilarious Michael McIntyre was entertaining an enormous crowd with no props, no special effects and no visual aids at all.

It was a great feat of memorisation, engagement with the audience and energy to entertain so many with simply a voice and a body! Michael McIntyre’s ability to make the mundane and familiar so amusing; to laugh at culture and language and be so observant of the people to whose towns and cities he visits, is a gift.  He is a very humorous and skillful communicator.

Some key skills that he exhibited were having great energy and enthusiasm, content that connected with his audience and clearly hours and hours of practise. He was totally professional and flexible when a couple of ladies interrupted one of his stories, and handled the situation with grace and absolutely no sign of panic!!

A few keys for all us public speakers there!

 

“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.

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 her mother’s womb, takes in air, opens her mouth and emits a sound that lets us know that she has arrived safely in this world.   The child continues to express herself through crying and noises until learning to form sounds and words and sentences, so developing the ability to express herself 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 diaphragm) 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.

 

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!

I believe that, as individuals, we all want to be considered “a confident person”. We recognise the benefit of coming across to others as being fearless and self-assured. It is always interesting to clarify the exact meaning of words that we use so regularly …

‘confident’ –marked by assurance, as of success

having strong belief or full assurance

very bold

trust or faith in a person or thing

the state or quality of being certain.

Trust, assurance, aplomb, self–confidence … these nouns all denote a feeling of emotional security resulting from faith in one’s ability to achieve a certain goal.

So if we desire to be confident in the area of verbal communication we remember that a ‘communicator’ is someone who is skilled at conveying information or ideas to others. ‘Communication’ is the art and technique of using words effectively to exchange thoughts and to express oneself in such a way as to be readily and clearly understood.

Let’s put time, focus and intentionality behind achieving the above and we will be able to confidently say “I am a Confident Communicator!”

I heard shrieks and shouts coming from our sitting room very early the other morning, my husband was freely utilising his vocal cords!  My son poked his head out of his bedroom and asked if everything was alright … I ventured into the afore-mentioned room to find my darling shouting at the TV as England equalised against Italy – very serious stuff!

It has also been an interesting week for Phil Neville, the former Manchester United and Everton player, who has been maligned in the press for his less than auspicious first effort at commentating.  His co-commentary of the England vs Italy match was met with 445 complaints to the BBC due to his monotone delivery and lack of emotion.  Jokes were made that England’s physio, Gary Lewin, had injured his ankle “falling into a coma” brought on by the monotony of listening to Mr Neville.  Phil responded in a good natured way by saying that he was glad he could help the nation to fall asleep: We may have young children who we would like to be lulled to sleep at bedtime, but not passionate adults wanting to be inspired whilst watching their beloved footie!

It is a problem that, in many walks of life, we can be excellent at our chosen careers but have had no training to enable us to successfully commentate, speak publicly and effectively communicate information or our thoughts and ideas.  I am sure that Phil will now be quick to employ the services of someone who can help him to improve the modulation and energy behind his speaking ….

… Is that my phone ringing now?!