Transform Your Talk: Ten Tips

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When working with clients preparing to give a presentation, we rehearse and break down the speech in detail. We also get into how best to prepare prior to the talk, how to manage unexpected things that might occur during the talk, and how to decompress afterward. Here are some general considerations to get you started:

1. Drink Water

It is important to hydrate your voice well before your talk, even more so if you are in a dry environment or tend to get a dry mouth when speaking. If you are using a microphone, it will amplify those qualities in your voice even further. A warm-up that incorporates your articulators will help to prevent tongue suction and popping. If possible, have water with you when speaking. Don't be afraid to pause at an opportune point in your presentation in order to take a drink if you need it.

2. Get Excited, Not Anxious. 

When we drive a car, we don't stare at the barriers. Instead, we look where we want to go. Prior to a competition, athletes will go through every aspect of the game or course, imagining everything detail. As Vanessa Van Edwards says, "Anxiety and excitement are similar emotions the only difference is mindset." Focus on where you want to go, on how exciting this opportunity is. Instead of thinking, "I have to do this" change your mindset into "I get to do this!"

 

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3. Channel Your Nerves

While waiting, move your body. Walk, shake out your hands, contract and release your muscles without movement at the joints, push against a wall. Listen to a song that gets you dancing. Use power poses

4. Breathe

Bring your awareness to your breathing and consciously drop it down into your diaphragm. If you feel adrenaline course through your body or anxiety rachet up, simply inhale for a slow count of four, exhale for a slow count of four. Inhale for a slow count of five, exhale for a slow count of five. Inhale for a slow count of six, exhale for a slow count of six. Inhale for a slow count of seven, exhale for a slow count of seven.   

5. Move with Purpose

When speaking, nervous speakers will often sway or pace or gesticulate in ways that are distracting. It's a good idea to video yourself in order to notice your "tells." A good strategy is the "rule of three" sometimes used in theatre.If you notice that you are repeating a gesture more than three times, you are not supporting your words. Instead, walk a "map" of your ideas. When making a new point, walk to a new spot. If getting personal or driving a point home, walk toward the audience. If the room needs to breathe, or you are speaking more universally, put greater space between yourself and the audience. 

Source: http://voice-international.com/

Source: http://voice-international.com/

6. Your greatest Asset is Your Voice

The quality of your voice can support the content of your talk or detract from it. Developing a voice that is expressive, powerful, and authentic is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself. This includes the musicality of your voice, the pace with which you speak, how and where you pause, the words you emphasize, and more. The more skilled and intentional you are with your voice, the better you can craft your talk, and the more influential you are.

7. Allow People to Adjust to Your Delivery

Open your talk with a well-rehearsed opening and speak at a slightly slower pace with attention to emphasis and inflection. This will give the audience time to "tune their ear" to the sound of your voice and any accent differences between you.

Pictured: Artiz Aduriz

Pictured: Artiz Aduriz

8. The Audience Wants You to Succeed

Remember that each person in the audience took the time to show up to see your talk. They want you to do well. Few speakers are their best if they perceive the audience as antagonists. Come in with an energy of welcome, high regard, and excitement. Put your focus on them instead of your nervousness and you will transform as a speaker.  

9. Allow For the Unexpected

No matter how much you rehearse, allow there to be room for something to happen. Technical glitches, or tripping over your own feet doesn't have to be embarrassing or a "loss of face," it can be an opportunity. Have a joke ready or be prepared to ad lib. The audience might take it as an opportunity to relax. 

10. Be Prepared To Be Done.

It is a skillful speaker who has a decompression strategy in place. A presentation will take a lot of energy and may stir up anxiety - which will lead to a crash. You may also experience a lot of emotions stirred up inside you. Have something set up beforehand such as a debrief with a trusted friend, sit down and write a reflection, go for a walk, or sit in a hot tub or bath. Take some deep breaths, shake out your hands.

Sources And Further Reading:

A TED speaker coach shares 11 tips for right before you go on stage

Does body language help a TED Talk go viral? 5 nonverbal patterns from blockbuster talks

You Are Contagious - Vanessa Van Edwards

Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are - Amy Cuddy

Is Your Voice Ruining Your Life? - Roger Love

 

Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


Success Is...

With the beginning of a new year, it is common to take stock and set goals for the months ahead. An important aspect of this process is to understand the elements of what ensures success. There are six skills that successful people excel at and you can develop to ensure your success. This framework shapes the Vibrance philosophy and influences how we teach our clients.

 

1. Grit

Grit is a marathon, not a sprint
— Angela Lee Duckworth
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The foundation for success is grit. Grit means having the motivation to work toward your goals, the perseverance to keep going when things get difficult, and the passion to keep your heart and soul in the work. As Duckworth argues, Grit is key to success.

Impress this on your mind: grit is not based on talent or intelligence. In fact, those with talent may become complacent, preferring to coast along thinking they can fool everyone. Despite being intelligent, individuals may be ill-equipped with problem-solving skills to meet challenges and setbacks. Grit will get you where you are determined to go, and the skills you acquire along the way will make you more successful at success.

 Part of grit is developing a growth mindset. This contrasts with a fixed mindset, the belief that failure must be avoided at all costs because it reflects a failure of the individual's intelligence or character. A growth mindset acknowledges that the human mind is plastic. It adapts and changes all the time. This means that we always have the ability to learn if we put in the effort and grow our passion for learning. Think of what you would teach a child, that they are not a failure, but rather their plan was not adequate to meet the demands of the situation or that they have not yet acquired all the skills they need to meet the challenge. Failure is never permanent if you cultivate a growth mindset. 

My husband has an incredible a growth mindset and I learn much from his example. He was raised with the ADB philosophy, Always Do Your Best. The outcome was less important than process as long as he was doing his best. If he knew that he was and learning along the way he was realizing his potential. My husband has taught me that there is always a solution, one simply needs to find it.

 

2. Discipline

Discipline builds on your gritty foundation. To succeed at anything you must put in the time. More than that, it must be quality, focused time. You cannot phone it in. You must be fully present and bring your complete concentration to the activity.

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For some endeavors, this takes the form of practice. Remember Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours of diligent practice? This is certainly part of the puzzle in situations with stable structures and unchanging rules. Individuals must also be good at practicing and know how they best learn. This means constantly building skills and aptitude, raising the bar constantly so that there is failure at times, and having a feedback loop in order to perceive areas for improvement and to take appropriate action (think of dancers practicing with a mirror or artists attending a weekly class).

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I like to use sports analogies because people understand that athletics entail effort, challenge, focus, hours, practice, and difficulty - elements that some are less willing to apply to other areas of their lives. A person gets stronger quickly at the gym by lifting heavy weights until failure (8-12 reps) meaning their muscles simply cannot complete the exercise with full range and structural integrity. They will use the mirror, peer feedback, and video recordings to improve their form. They will follow a regime that challenges them mentally and physically while ensuring adequate recovery and nutrition to maintain progress. Lastly, they will incorporate enough diversity that they stay passionate and prevent injury, tedium, and burnout. 

For other contexts where there are no set rules or constantly changing frameworks, as is often the case with creative and entrepreneurial endeavours, practice, however diligent is not the X factor, Instead, discipline may take on another form. A choreographer will get into the studio space 4-5 days a week, an artist will paint for a set number of hours a day, a writer will commit to writing a certain number of words before bed. A stockbroker building a client base may determine a quota of cold calls for the afternoon, a medical specialist may read a specific number of articles a week, an entrepreneur building a business will decide upon a minimum number of meetings a fortnight. 

Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most consistent and successful comedians in the industry. On Lifehacker, Brad Isaac relays a story regarding receiving advice from Seinfeld about becoming successful. Seinfeld has since claimed that this advice was never his to give, but the  "Seinfeld Method" remains the stuff of legend. Isaac claimed,

"[Seinfeld] said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.

'After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.' ”

3. Interpersonal Skills

Interpersonal skills are often described as "soft skills" (to contrast with the "hard skills" of STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and are becoming recognized as more important than ever.

These include:

  • communication skills (verbal, non-verbal communication, listening skills)
  • emotional intelligence
  • team-working
  • negotiation, persuasion and influencing skills
  • conflict resolution
  • problem-solving and decision-making

As Cathy N. Davidson describes, 

"among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas [....]

[Google] enlarged its previous hiring practices to include humanities majors, artists, and even the MBAs [....]

Project Aristotle shows that the best teams at Google exhibit a range of soft skills: equality, generosity, curiosity toward the ideas of your teammates, empathy, and emotional intelligence. And topping the list: emotional safety.  "

    Source: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

    Source: http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2011/05/facial-expressions.aspx

    One of the simplest ways you can develop your interpersonal skills is to slow down, listen, and observe without immediately thinking of what you want to say or of the next place to which you must run off. Try it with your friends and romantic partners, listen to them without trying to solve problems or to judge. Try it with your coworkers and notice what changes.

    Another important skill to develop is to understand facial expressions. This will allow individuals to better develop connection, rapport, and trust, in an individual's professional and personal life. Facial expressions have been found to be universal across cultures, both in interpretation and production. There are seven basic emotions, anger, contempt, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise. This field has been widely developed by Dr. Paul Eckman. We now understand the concept of micro-expressions, involuntary responses that can be as brief as 1/30 of a second, and therefore can be a very honest portrayal of emotion. 

    Vibrance offers programs to build interpersonal skills in young people and adults.

    4. Failure (is Success)

    You will become clever through your mistakes.
    — German proverb

    Ooooof, this one is very difficult for me!

    Set time at the start of the week and month to set new goals and reassess old ones. Starting now, your aim is to fail at 20-50% of the goals you set yourself while aiming to attain 100% of them.

    This indicates that you are setting goals that are just the right challenge, with the stakes being high enough that  you must exert yourself. If failure is possible, you will work harder - within reason.

    With my school-aged students, I will often pick up a pencil, do a bicep curl, and ask "will this make me stronger quickly?"

    "No," they will say.

    "If I used a much heavier weight instead, will this make me stronger?"

    "Yes!" they exclaim.

    "If I try to pick up a truck, will I get stronger?"

    Mixed answers.

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    "No, I won't because a truck is too heavy for my muscles to engage at all" (at least at this stage). If the bar is set too high, it can be demoralizing, failure seems certain. Here is where my husband offers another bit of wisdom, how do you eat an elephant? The answer?One bite at a time. Break larger tasks into manageable pieces. Maybe I cannot lift an entire truck, but I could work on flipping one of its tires, once, then twice, then ten times and more.

    That being said, ensure that you don't become attached to output or outcome. Some days may not appear productive. You may be gathering inspiration, learning a new skill,  or finding yourself going down some dead-ends before finding the right path.

    Source: http://www.escapeseriestri.com/philadelphia-escape

    Source: http://www.escapeseriestri.com/philadelphia-escape

    Another sports analogy: I attended a triathlon workshop that focused on transitions. Being new to this sport, I had not realized how much strategy and practice is involved in ensuring smooth transitions that will support your overall performance at a triathlon event! The coach reminded us to keep moving forward and to find economy in movement. When switching from the swimming to the cycling, have your equipment arranged so that you can bend down once instead of multiple times. Then move forward as you finish buckling your helmet and arranging your number. If you practice enough, you can even keep your cycling shoes clicked into your pedals and learn to fasten your shoes as you get onto the bike! Find ways to introduce economy of effort into your day and know that forward momentum (whether a slow plod or a lightning-fast sprint) is progress. Sometimes, just showing up and putting in a diligent effort is forward momentum.

    Failure is how one learns. Whenever I am embarking on a creative endeavour, it feels as if I have to fail a few times in order to figure out how I need to do it. Bring curiosity to your risks and focus on mastery instead of success. We see this in children. A toddler learning to roll over or to walk will try and fail - until they succeed. As we get older, failure is associated with shame and fear of looking incompetent to others. As adults, we must ensure that we support failure in others and facilitate reflection and learning. Perform post-mortems of your own failures without ego or shame, commit to remediating any areas in which you need to improve, and your progress will be exponential.  This is growth mindset in action.

    Embracing failure will also reduce suffering. Think of the opportunities you have missed due to fear of failure, the agony you experienced when venturing into unchartered territory resulted in a mess instead of success. How might you have changed your experience by looking for the learning opportunities in every "failure?"

     

    5. Mentorship

    In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.
    — Phil Collins
    Source: http://zelig880.com/the-power-of-mentoring

    Source: http://zelig880.com/the-power-of-mentoring

    Better yet, conduct post-mortems with a mentor. Find someone you respect, who shares some of our values, and is willing to give you their time. Ideally, this would be on a monthly basis. In health occupations, this is a common aspect of professional development. A mentor can offer you perspective, inspiration, and accountability. Be prepared to be vulnerable and transparent. Picking the right mentor is vital. They must be able to balance empathy with neutrality. Ensure that they do not shut you down or frustrate your vision, but that they still challenge you and hold you to account.

    In the future as you progress, consider mentoring others. Again, ensure this is free from your ego. We often learn best by teaching others and it supports perspective-taking. Don't become attached to your mentee's progress. In my dramaturgy course, I remember my close friend talking about the choreographer she was working with. My friend personally didn't find the performance that they were working on personally engaging however, she realized that it didn't matter. The performance wasn't her "baby." Her role was to support this choreographer in bringing forth her baby.

     

    6. Voice and Body

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    Often, my clients come to me hating the sound of their voices. Therefore, when they speak to others, it is under duress and tension. They will even say their own name apologetically or with contempt, revoking the power of their existence. Listen to your voicemail message and hear how you say your name.

    Voice teacher Roger Love rightly us to percieve our voices exist as a gift for others. If we want to speak to our selves, we can simply speak in our minds. In order to reach others, we much open our mouths.    By thinking of our voices as a gift, this moves our attention away from our selves, our nerves, our inner-talk so we can focus on reaching the other person and reading their responses.

    People may not remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. The way that you speak informs your listeners as to whether they consider you a knowledgeable and trustworthy person. For example, if I end every statement as if I am asking a question, I am unlikely to convince a client that I know what I am doing or have anything useful to teach them. If I use a monotone speaking voice, I am unlikely to maintain a client's attention long enough for them to retain any information I am trying to share.

    The body, breath, and voice are inexorably linked. Amy Cuddy's research focusses on the way that body language impacts our body chemistry, the way we see ourselves, and the way we are seen. In training the body and voice we can transform our lives. 

    Peter Strick's research uncovered evidence indicating that our stress responses are tied to the primary sensory and motor cortices through complex networks:

    "The motor areas in the brain connect to the adrenal glands. In the primary motor cortex of the brain, there’s a map of the human body—areas that correspond to the face, arm, and leg area, as well as a region that controls the axial body muscles (known to many people now as 'the core').

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    The Pitt team didn't think the primary motor cortex would control the adrenal medulla at all. But there are a whole lot of neurons there that do. And when you look at where those neurons are located, most are in the axial muscle part of that cortex.

    'Something about axial control has an impact on stress responses,' Strick reasons. 'There’s all this evidence that core strengthening has an impact on stress. And when you see somebody that's depressed or stressed out, you notice changes in their posture. When you stand up straight, it has an effect on how you project yourself and how you feel.  Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress. And I suspect that if you activate core muscles inappropriately with poor posture, that’s going to have an impact on stress.' "

    The body is how we encounter and filter the world. This, in response, shapes our inner world which, in turn, influences how we re-encounter and interpret our surroundings in a constant loop.

    Vibrance specialises in training the body and voice to be free of unnecessary tension, to be dynamic, supple, and supportive of our presence in the world.

     

    Other Reading:

    Six elements of success adapted from Science of People

     

    Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us:


    When Did You Lose Your Voice?

    Becoming an excellent public speaker will help you in every part of your career. But there is an even more important reason to learn to speak well to an audience. Psychologists tell us that your level of self-esteem, or ‘how much you like yourself,’ largely determines the quality of your inner and outer life. The better and more persuasively you speak, the more you like yourself. The more you like yourself, the more optimistic and confident you are. The more you like yourself, the most positive and personable you are in your relationships with others. The more you like yourself, the healthier, happier, and more positive you become in everything you do.
    — Brian Tracy

    When I work with adult clients, I often hear something along the lines of, "I hate the sound of my voice."

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    Instead of thinking of your voice as something to be beaten, cajoled, or "fixed" I want you to think of when you decided your voice betrayed you. Were you called on to read aloud in class and found your voice let you down? Were you asked to report to a Manager and found your tongue had become heavy and dull, stopping the words in your brain from forming in your mouth? Was there a time when you felt consumed by great emotion, but when you opened your mouth you didn't recognize the voice that emerged?

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    In actuality, it is not the voice that is the problem. Rather than fixate on the voice, start with the breath and the body. In times of stress or pressure, we respond with flight/fight/freeze. Our breathing changes, our body gets tense. We constrict. And a constricted self does not support the voice.

    Somewhere along the way, you have taught yourself coping mechanisms - useful for survival, but not for much else. I work with clients to set down new neurological patterns, habits that enable them to be relaxed and connected so that they can speak without strain, without feeling as if their brains have shut down.

    A constricted self does not support the voice.

    When I start working with my clients, we look at what is happening in the body and voice, what unique patterns have formed. In order to build vocal skills, we often start with the breath and the body. However, this is not yoga or relaxation class. Our focus is always on the voice, creating a strong instrument that is supported, expressive, and clear.  Once the breath is located in and supported by the body, we learn to use the voice as an expressive instrument. I often talk about "painting with the voice" as there are so many rich ways to illustrate the content of your speech with the quality of your voice. When your voice confidently supports your message, listeners find you more trustworthy, can follow your train of thought, and will better retain what you tell them.

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    I have worked with teachers whose voices were squeaky and breathy. I have worked with managers whose bodies revealed nervous energy, undercutting their authority. I have worked with heads of Police and Fire departments whose rigid bodies resulted in flat voices. I have worked with entrepreneurs who had trouble communicating their stream of ideas effectively to possible investors. I have worked with individuals who dream of becoming influencers and coaches in their field of expertise, yet who found being seen and heard exhausting and uncomfortable.

    you have the choice to give up or grow.

    Each client learned about their own foibles and each client saw shifts as we set down new neurological pathways for their voice and body, resulting in growing confidence in their voice. My favourite moments are those "wow!" experiences when clients surprise themselves with an unexpected breakthrough that they previously imagined impossible.

    If you find you have a burning desire to communicate yet are experiencing trouble in finding your true voice, you have the choice to give up or grow. I offer practical techniques, a rich range of experiences, an unwavering base of support, and a great deal of enthusiasm for your progress.

    Whatever your aims, we can aid you in achieving your goals with our individualised approach and flexible sessions. Contact us: