Speak Naturally & Outshine the Overscripted

Speak Naturally & Outshine the Overscripted

Speak Naturally & Outshine the Overscripted

“Reciting lines is hard; making stuff up is much, much easier.” – Zach Galifianakis

I’m not sure about the context that Zach Galifianakis said this in but let me be clear, when I chose this quote I wasn’t thinking that you should literally make stuff up. However, I am a big fan of not necessarily knowing exactly what words are going to come out when you get up to speak.

Speaking is not acting. If you are going to script everything in order to get on stage or in front of a camera, you also need to learn to emote while recalling and reciting lines, and do it in a way that is believable i.e. acting. Personally, I am no Leo DiCaprio so trying to do that is fraught with danger – likewise for the 99.9% of people who aren’t skilled actors.

Reading is not speaking. When you read from a teleprompter app on your device it comes across exactly like you are reading from a teleprompter app on your device. Likewise, when you read from notes in front of an in-person audience, it may get you through the experience without messing anything up, but it is a huge barrier to connecting with those people.

What to do instead

For a start, if you’re not speaking from a position of knowledge you shouldn’t be there. If you’re not speaking on a topic you care about, you shouldn’t be there. Speak from the heart and speak from knowledge (or skill or experience or all of the above).

Know what you want to talk about but don’t get hung up on the exact words.

For a pre-prepared presentation, preparation should include organising your points and info so they flow. It should not include writing it out word-for-word.

For truly impromptu situations, have a system for organising your points in your mind.

Having said all that…

Come to think of it, I don’t agree with Zach Galifianakis. Speaking without reciting lines or reading is not easy at all. If it was, everyone would be able to stand up, or go in front of a camera, and speak naturally and confidently.

But not many people can because it’s hard, and it’s uncomfortable.

That’s exactly why if you can learn to do it and get comfortable, you will stand out – because you will exude genuine authenticity, trustworthiness and authority.

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

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Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask

Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask

Communicating Effectively While Wearing a Mask

The two great challenges of verbal communication in the COVID era are speaking on camera and speaking while wearing a mask.

I recently had a customer service interaction where I almost took something the wrong way because I couldn’t see that the message was being delivered with a smile! What’s more, I am sure I am not the first person that has happened to.

So with that in mind, I’d like to offer a few tips to help ensure your verbal communication is understood as intended when hampered by wearing a face mask.

When it’s critical, learn from surgeons

Think of a surgeon in an operating theatre where everyone is wearing masks and clear, timely communication is paramount. When you need to be understood the first time, use unambiguous language.

When emotions are involved, you can be more descriptive though

Imagine someone wearing a mask and consider the difference between how the following statements might come across.

“That’s a nice dress.”
“Oh wow! I really love your dress.”

Use what you have to maximum effect

To convey emotions consider slightly exaggerating your vocal variety, hand gestures/body language, and facial expression through your eyes and forehead. To be understood, we may need to enunciate more and speak a little more slowly.

Finally, simply be aware of the limitations

Sometimes it’s really a matter of being aware that our wry smile or our cheeky grin are not visible. As much as we might intend to be light-hearted, we might just have to accept that we need to choose our words more carefully so people don’t take them the wrong way.

 

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3 Ways Improving Your Speaking Skills is Like Making a Cake

3 Ways Improving Your Speaking Skills is Like Making a Cake

3 Ways Improving Your Speaking Skills is Like Making a Cake

1. It can get messy…and that’s ok

Everyone knows that when you make a cake you’re supposed to end up with a messy kitchen, otherwise you’re not having fun in the process right?

When you first start making an effort to improve your speaking skills it will often involve discomfort as you try to adopt a new mindset, learn to organise your content, and use your vocal variety and movements in ways that might seem strange at first.

Like anything, it will take time and practise and there will still be times when it won’t go smoothly. That’s okay.

One of the main purposes of doing a workshop or course, or having a coach, is to have the opportunity to try new things and mess up in a safe space where nobody is going to judge you.

2. There are some must-have ingredients

When you make a cake you need to add certain things like eggs to bind the other ingredients, milk to add moisture, and baking soda to make it rise. When you eat the cake, you can’t see these individual ingredients but you know they are there.

Likewise, effective speaking involves a combination of things that you might not be able to isolate individually but they need to be there.

For me, those ingredients are mindset, content, delivery and audience analysis.

If you don’t address your mindset, you can end up being overwhelmed by your nerves. What if you don’t make sure make sure the content is right? Or your delivery is underwhelming and you don’t take time to understand exactly what your audience needs? These are all things that can bring down the final product.

3. There needs to be a method to it all

When you make a cake not only do you need the essential ingredients, you also need to follow a process, aka a recipe, to get the desired result.

When improving your speaking skills, a good strategy will bring together all the essential ingredients to produce the desired outcome.

For me, that outcome is speaking with confidence and clarity, and connecting with your audience.

 

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How To Avoid Crashing & Burning When Using Humour

How To Avoid Crashing & Burning When Using Humour

How To Avoid Crashing & Burning When Using Humour

So three public speakers walk into a bar right…

In my opinion the bravest speakers of all are stand-up comedians. They go out on stage usually armed with nothing but a microphone and their wit. No music. No props. No second chances. They are expected to be funny and if they aren’t, the audience is quick to let them know.

For the rest of us, while some humour can help make our speeches and presentations more entertaining and engaging, it’s not expected.

Hang on a minute! But we’ve all heard that humour is the best way to win over an audience, right?

A few months ago I was at a conference and the organisers had flown one of the speakers in from Canada for the occasion. During the first part of his presentation he made a joke about jet lag and coffee which under most circumstances would be a throw away line that would elicit a smile and a nod from most people.

However he made two mistakes with it.

Firstly he built the joke up to be a lot funnier than it actually was. Secondly, he broadcast his punchline as a bullet point on a PowerPoint slide for about five minutes before he actually delivered it (HINT: the unexpected element is kind of important when it comes to humour).

When he finally got to the punchline, it was clear from his own actions that he was expecting a significant reaction from the audience. What he got was silence and it was obvious for the next ten minutes or so that he was completely rattled and you could feel the audience was uncomfortable as a result of watching him climb from the wreckage.

Yes, humour can help, but there’s always the risk that your audience won’t appreciate the joke. If you are already nervous, that’s not exactly going to make things easier.

Play To Your Strengths Rather Than Trying Too Hard

We all have certain strengths and weaknesses when it comes to humour. The first step is knowing what they are rather than trying too hard to be funny.

For example, I rarely ever tell pre-prepared jokes because I’m simply not a joke teller – I’ve figured that out the hard way having crashed and burned a couple of times myself. On the other hand I am fortunate that I can often see a situation and make a wry observation, deliver a mildly amusing one-liner, or recount a short anecdote that I’m reminded of.

So rather than try to stage something, I stay alert and look for those opportunities to do something ‘off-the-cuff’ because that suits my style.

What if I can’t do ‘off-the-cuff’ humour? Shouldn’t I still have some jokes up my sleeve?

I’m sure at some point most of us would have been to a wedding where ‘Uncle Bob’ has been appointed as MC and he has taken the opportunity to unleash his full repertoire of tired mother-in-law jokes that have left guests squirming in their seats.

In reality, simply being positive and enthusiastic is often all you need to do. A good mood is infectious and will soon spread throughout the room.

Apart from that, you can always tell an interesting story or express something heartfelt. These things are appreciated by people just as much as humour and are usually far less risky.

If doing a business presentation, making sure your content is actually interesting and relevant should be your first concern before you even start thinking about what jokes you’ll use.

The best advice I can offer is to know yourself and know your audience. If anything you are thinking of doing feels like it might be uncomfortable for either, leave it out.      

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