Friday, 30 August 2013

Using the lectern and cue cards

Hi all,
Now that you know about what to do with your body, your voice and your words, it's time to look at what to do with those notes. You will have practised 13 times as if (you are there, at the venue) by the time you get up to speak. So, now let's focus on what to do with those notes or cue cards.

The most important tip I can share with you is: Ready. Aim. Fire. This means whenever you need your notes, you look at them in silence. That's READY. Next, you look at the audience in silence. That's AIM. Then you start to speak. That's FIRE.

This technique will help you connect with your audience, because every time you speak, you will be looking at them. If you have a lectern in front of you, it will hide most of your body, which is a pity. So, if you can, move to the side of it and only look at the notes when you need them by glancing across. If you have a mike, use the ones that allow you to move around and that way you can move right away from the lectern and only return when you want to have a quick glance at the notes. Never stand up with sheets of paper. If you are shaking, they will shake. If you hold them in two hands, they will create a barrier between you and the audience.

If you decide to use cue cards, they should be small, hole punched, tied together and only held IN ONE HAND. Why? So you can make natural gestures and the cards do not form a barrier between you and the audience. If you tie them together, they will always be in the right order and you won't lose one.

About dot points verses written out in full, I have no personal preference. If you have practised enough, dot points should be sufficient to trigger the next point. If you do have them in full, use large font and and highlight points you want to stress. Also, start a new line every time you want to pause.

Finally, here is a tip if you are in a venue where there is no lectern and cue cards have not been chosen. Pop the sheets onto a clip board. The clip board should be held in one hand and and you can still make gestures with the other hand. This is good for weddings outdoors or funerals at a cemetery.

So, keep practising ,as if, only speak when you are looking at the audience and make those notes or cue cards enhance your speech, not detract. One final word about learning speeches off by heart. For those who can focus and nothing puts them off, it might work. For the rest of us, I feel it is a recipe for disaster. If you do forget, you have nothing to fall back on. You will look up to recall and lose contact with the audience. And, if you cannot remember, you will  look foolish and possibly fulfil all your fears about speaking. Maybe develop a fear you did not have.

Let me finish with a story my dad told me about the time he used no notes. He was in a public speaking competition. He "pinned" his five points onto the five people in the front row. When the speaker before him finished, they all got up and left because they had come to support him. So, when dad got up to speak all the points had no anchor. He did not win that competition. But he passed on a love of public speaking, that has stuck!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Words Words Words. Say what you mean

Hi All,
Although the words by themselves do not carry more than 10% of your message, they are very important. That's because the way you say them and what you do with your body make up 100% of your speech.

Today I am going to share some great tips about what words to use for any speech.

The main thing is to keep those words short, sharp and simple. The easier they are to pronounce, the easier it is for you to say and the easier it is for your audience to understand. When you try to impress them with big words, some of the audience will chase those words and are likely to miss what you say next. Others in the audience will start to turn off and assume the speech is not for them. So, keep them simple. Let me give you an example. The word "demise" is a very good word. It means the death of or the downfall of.It is not as well known as the simpler words. A young boy in Grade 5 used it. He knew what it meant, but the class did not. The point was lost and the class did not get his meaning.

You need to use some logical words and some emotional words. When you use words like," It follows." Or words like, "This is just common sense," that is being logical. When you say ,"It make me sad." Or "I am delighted about," the audience will feel that emotion (Only if your voice and body shows the emotion too).

One of the best things to do when speaking is to create images in your audience's heads. This is achieved by using adjectives, describing words or images. When you tell a story, you need to make it come alive. Don;t just say, "The man fell over." instead say, The old man staggered down the street, grabbed hold of the rail and crashed to the floor." Can you see how much more detailed and descriptive that is? Likewise, using both sound and sight adds to the picture as does sound effects.

This brings me to poetic techniques. By this I mean that at times, rhyme, rhythm, metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, repetition and alliteration all help your audience to feel and see what you are saying. A rhyme, especially at the end will make the speech memorable. It can be a quote and even from someone else's words, but ending with a rhyme is a great idea. The rhythm of the words can be achieved when you know the emphasis of certain words and is enjoyable for the brain.
Metaphors are especially great. Like adjectives, they create pictures in the minds of the listeners.Try not to use clich├ęs as these are not creative. You can use nouns as metaphors and also verbs. An example would be "Let's zoom through these ideas." Similes are not as powerful as metaphors because the word just resembles the compared word. However, they can also create those important pictures that connect you and the audience. The next one is just fun. Another word for onomatopoeia  is sound effects. These can be animal sounds, words for wind and movement and even snapping your fingers and stamping. Used in the right place at the right time these sounds can create an amazing effect on the audience.
In writing repetition can be boring and melo-dramatic. In speaking repetition can be very powerful. You need to choose which words you want to repeat and what emphasis you wish to place on them. It can be very powerful, very powerful! Another form of repetition is reversal as in the famous JFK sppech:"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Alliteration or the repetition of the same letter(s) at the beginning of the words or in the middle or even at the end, makes a speech zing! The "boys bring bases home" is as interesting as "Nation, creation, station". The repetition of vowels (known as assonance) is just as effective. My favourite example of alliteration, metaphor and short, sharp words is the famous speech by Churchill: "I have nothing to offer you but my blood, toil, tears and sweat.  

Finally, get rid of all fillers. These include: "Um", "err', "basically", "sort of", "actually", "you know", "like", "anyway", "like I said before", "okay" "yeah" and "and so on". They are all a waste of breath and time and jsu fill the speech with noise. Take a breath and enjoy the silence. The audience will too.

Next time you speak, keep it simple and say what you mean.


Sunday, 4 August 2013

Voice Variety, it's more important than you think

Hi All,
Last post I focused on body language, the most important part of speaking. Today, I want to look at the second most important aspect of speaking: voice variety.

According to NLP research this carries between 20% and 38% of your message, which is a huge amount.
Just as there are several aspects to body language, there are about seven different things to vary in yout voice.

The most telling aspect of voice is tone. This shows the emotion in the voice and should match waht you are saying. (As should your facial expressions.)

The pace should be about 120 words per minute, which is about two words per second. However, you should speed it up if you are telling a story and slow it down for emphasis.

Next, are pauses. They are very powerful and should be used often, to stress points, after each section, to allow deep breathing and after a question. Pauses are often underestimated by inexperienced or nervous speakers.

The volume needs to change too. Although you need to be heard, you do not want to be too loud for too long. A quiet voice can be powerful if used deliberately and to contrast with the louder voice.

The pitch is best low than high, because a low voice carries more authority. However, if yu are excited, the pitch can rise.

Emphasis is important on the words you want to stress. There can be lots of different words you can stress and each change will alter the meaning.  Try saying even one word like "YES" lots of different ways.

Last, but not least, is diction. You need to say each word clearly and not slur it or mumble. The way to improve your diction is to practise alliteration (repetition of similar sounds).

There are otehr things, like timbre (the quality of your voice) and flow. You do not want to have an upward inflection at the end of a statement or it will sound like a question.

Overall, the more you vary your voice, the better it will be, providing you speak with conviction and sincerity.


Judith Field