How to Develop Vocal Strength

Proper Breathing is the Foundation of a Healthy Voice

Cork2In speaking, breath control is of supreme importance. Therefore, all speakers should give some time and thought to the development of their natural speaking voice. In order to find your natural voice, you will first have to correct your breathing. To secure control of your breath, the following physical conditions must be maintained.

  1. Correct Posture
  2. Free (loose) neck, throat and shoulder muscles
  3. Correct inhalation of breath
  4. Controlled emission of breath

Begin by taking deep breaths – In through the nostrils, out through the mouth. Proper breathing is the foundation for a healthy voice and control over nervous energy that can make your voice quiver.

One of the best exercises to strengthen your voice is the cork exercise. All you need is the cork from a bottle of wine. Start by placing the cork lengthways in your mouth. Read a passage from a book. Read a  poem or try speaking with the cork in your mouth. The idea is to get the speaker to begin strengthening the muscles we all use daily when speaking. Breathe naturally as you speak. 

To take this exercise to the next level, cut a groove into the side of the cork as shown above. Bite into the cork, to let the groove fit into your upper front teeth. Repeat the same readings you did earlier, however, this time you are opening up even more. The objective is to achieve as much clarity as possible as you speak with the cork lodged in your teeth. I would highly recommend you do these exercises in private.

Do these exercises for two to three minutes per day. After a month for sure you are going to see a marked improvement in your diction, enunciation, and resonance. Your voice is your instrument.  To keep it turned, every now and again, put a cork in it.

Breaking the Ice

Icebreakers are not one and done

IMG_1980 (1)The first speech a new member of Toastmasters or any organization delivers is called the Ice Breaker. Ice Breakers give speakers the opportunity to begin speaking with confidence on familiar topics. It also provides them the chance to start developing their model for the preparation and delivery of future speeches.

Icebreakers provide a variety of choices. You may introduce yourself to your fellow club members. You may wish to speak about what brought you to the realization that you needed to improve your public speaking skills. You may choose a topic or cause you are passionate about.  However, the allotted time for an icebreaker is four to six minutes. A time limit that should be respected.

That set time limit has a specific purpose. It is designed to condition speakers to focus on a structure, economy of words as well as getting a feel for working with timers without having to concentrate on their devices. With time, you will begin to feel your green, yellow and red lights when you are on the platform. Therefore, discovering your speaking rate is very important. Calculate the number of words you speak by merely reading a passage is one standard method. For more information on that subject go to the resources page of  http://www.davidbrookstexas.com

For my icebreaker word count, I use the following manner:  (4 to 6 -1 =5)  5 times my wpm (words per minute) giving time for pauses and laughter.  My word count should be between 600 and 650 words. For speeches that are 5 – 7 minutes I use. (5 to 7 -1=6) 6 times my wpm which gives me a word count of about 750 to 780 words.

While there is no single recipe or formula for preparing a great speech, there are a few fundamental ingredients that can make your presentation memorable. Focus on your format. As you continue to become more comfortable with your structure for icebreakers, in particular, you will notice a natural tendency to approach your future speeches in the same manner as you do icebreakers. Icebreakers are not a one and done.  In time, they will be your default model for preparation and delivery of your speeches. The more you practice them, the better you will become as a speaker.

The following are a few additional tips for preparing icebreakers.

Where I was, where I am and where I’m going is one of those “hip pocket” icebreakers you can give at any time with very little preparation. If your scheduled speaker is absent, take the opportunity to practice. Keep an Icebreaker evaluation form handy at all times.

Make your opening remark a Foundational Statement. It is the foundation on which you will build the rest of your presentation.

Your greeting to the audience should follow the make a point, tell a story or tell a story to make a point format. For your Vignettes V1, V2, and V3. Remember, less is more. Use no more than three Vignettes. V1 -Transition -> V2 -> V3 -Time permitting.

Establish a phrase in V2 that will be the memorable phrase or statement of your speech. That statement is called your Magic Moment. Every speech must have one.

Signal to your audience you are closing on your V2 if you have only two Vignettes, If you have a V3 do it on the V3 – i.e., My Fellow Toastmasters.

Restate your foundational statement at the beginning of your closing and summarize your main point as you proceed with a call to action if appropriate.  Don’t thank your audience, your audience thank you for your presentation. Mr. or Madam TM is fine.

Stand and deliver is an excellent delivery approach for beginners. Move the material you prepared from your head to your heart and the hearts of your audience. Let your words dictate your body language. Build on the speaking skills you already have to establish your formula or receipt that you will use as you prepare and deliver your future speeches.

How do you Listen

Listen to Understand and Speak Effectively

Shh!! SilenceHow we listen, is an essential skill all speakers must develop, however, it is a skill that can be developed with practice. At almost every Toastmasters meeting, members and guests get the opportunity to answer questions. Even when some guests decide to take a pass on the Table Topics questions, we usually get visitors at the end of the meeting to at least comment on what they heard, saw and felt at the meeting. Yes, we make sure that no one shall escape speaking at a Toastmasters meeting. We listen to understand and speak effectively,

While most members and guests tend to focus on answering the questions, I have found that if you use the Table Topics segment to practice and develop your listening skills, even when you are not the one called upon to answer any of the questions, you may find this portion of the meeting, extremely beneficial to your development as a listener and speaker.

As a first step, we should try to analyze what we do subconsciously when someone else is speaking. Many of us begin preparing our answer, just waiting to begin speaking. The experts claim that most likely we learned this behavior as children and perfect it as adults. When this approach is used, the result is all forms of miscommunication, misrepresentation, and misinterpretation in our responses. Yes, all the misses. Relationships are also affected by this approach when communicating in business and social circles.

An excellent approach I found to correct this method of listening is to try to understand the meaning behind the question. Paying attention to body language used by the speaker will often help clarify the meaning. I am sure you have heard it said many times, actions speak louder than words. Shut down the internal noises in your head so the incoming messages from the speaker can be received clearly. Focus on the body language used by the speaker. Again, the experts claim the spoken word accounts for only seven percent of our communication.So happy I am not an expert.

It is quite natural to have some anxiety when faced with questions. Using your standard mechanisms to control nervous impulses is a good starting point. Breathe! Where there is breath, there is life. Stabilize your heart rate. Experts believe that deep breathing is the right approach to move the noise from your head to your chest. Give it a try. It should not hurt if your focus is breathing and listening. You should feel calm.

Begin your response by using what I call a silent icebreaker. Set the mood by using your body language to express how you were affected by the question. Use facial expressions silently, as you playback what you believe the speaker meant when he said what was said. You have the six emotions to play with here. Happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust.

Once the speaker has stopped speaking, it is now your turn to speak. Paraphrasing, what you heard is a good place to start. If there is agreement about the understanding of the question, you should be off to a good start. By that time, you should be at ease to address what you saw and felt. Now that is exactly why it is so important to work on your listening skills. It sets the stage for a good answer. What you saw and felt along with your words and body language, should satisfy any Table Topics Master at your club meetings or at those testy Table Topics sessions at home.

The Entertaining Speaker

Your Isims & Schisms

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Keep Your Humor Handy

Are you an entertaining speaker? We all love to be entertained. We seek out entertaining books, movies, music as well as all kinds of different ways to satisfy our natural urge for entertainment.  Keynote speakers who are both informative and entertaining are in high demand. They are often called to speak at weddings, conventions and social events. This is why it is important as a speaker to be entertaining.

Entertaining speakers offer diversions from the stresses of everyday life. Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters famously said: “We learn best in moments of enjoyment”. When we laugh, cry or engage in whatever happens to be our chosen form of enjoyment, we are entertained, however, there is this misconception by many speakers that you have to be funny to be entertaining.

Speakers all know, it ain’t necessarily so. Sure, some entertaining speakers rely heavily on being funny. Conversely, some speakers rely more on life experiences. They keep notes about stories and events from their life and the lives of others.   The good entertaining speaker doesn’t rely on telling jokes, they add humor to their speeches. They are the first to advise that you leave the joke telling to the comedians until you decide to become one.

It is for this reason, I always recommend keeping a story-file or log of interesting stories that cross our path daily. They may be your personal stories or stories that touched you in some manner. You will find that your best humor is those “off the cuff” remarks you say or hear daily. Write them down.  Try them out every opportunity you get. Make them your “isims”, My friends call mine “Henry-isims”. Over time, you will find that some will work better than others. I call those that fall flat, your “schisms”, however, as you begin to score more “isims” than schisms, you will realize that you are well on the way to becoming an entertaining speaker.

Twenty – Ten & One Belly Roll

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Writing humor is no joking matter.  One of the most difficult things to do is to try to analyze humor, to determine why it will make an audience laugh.  Laughter itself is an emotion.  It is an emotion built up to a certain pitch, then released suddenly to create a surprise.  While there are some subjects that lend themselves easily to humor, a combination of acting funny and good humor will often earn you a nod of approval from your audience and judges.

A good barometer to keep you on track is your laugh count. Whenever  I am  asked what is my formula for preparing a successful  five to seven humorous speech, my answer is  always the same  – 20-10-1 – In a five to seven minute try to fit at least twenty laughs, ten chuckles and at least on belly roll into your content.  Laughter should also begin from the first minute of your presentation.

I arrived at this 20-10-1 formula, after a World Champions of public speaking asked me to keep count of the number of laughs he received as he delivered a keynote address. I was so fascinated by the experience, I then did the math and, arrived at an average laugh count of at least twenty laughs, ten chuckles and one belly roll. After testing my theory and found that although more is better at least a -20-10 -1- laugh count works just fine.

There are three techniques which will help you increase your laugh count.  The first is tagging.  Tagging prolongs the laughter by just adding a word or two to provide additional information to a previously delivered humorous line. Your tag may have no real connection to the main humorous bit. It might just simply be a funny addition which makes the laughter continue.

The second is “speech brighteners”. Speech brighteners can generate a “quick laugh”. “Speech brightener” requires no setup and does not interrupt the flow of your speech. It merely emphasis a point or provides a change of pace. The whole idea behind a speech brightener is to catch you audience off guard and to achieve one of the most important elements of humor, surprise. For example: “Believers, love your enemy. It will drive them crazy!”

The third is wit; the ability to make clever off the cuff remarks. No one can predict what or when humor will generate laughter, however an unexpected chuckle from your audience can be an opportunity to get witty.  A witty saying may produce very little but they all add to your laugh count. I offer you my 20-10-1 formula, however, keep in mind all audiences differ, their reactions are not always the same and it is your tags, brighteners and wit that count.

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Stand and Deliver – Move with a Purpose

Movement keeps your audience engaged.

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If as much as 60 percent of our communication is nonverbal, and our entire body communicates more to our audience than the spoken word, it is important that we include in our preparation how we stand and how we move when we are on stage or the platform.

Movement attracts and keeps your audience engaged. Your entire body communicates its own visual message to your audience. Your posture and how you move or even sit, communicate to your audience whether you are confident, alert or if you are in command of the platform. Sitting and speaking will be addressed in another article. This article is about how to stand and deliver and moving with or for a purpose.

Some speakers prefer to stand and deliver while others may choose to use the stage for different purposes. When asked the question, which one works better, my answer is always the same. It depends on the type of speech you are delivering.  When you are standing behind a lectern or podium, obviously stand and deliver would be ab better choice, however when you are on the platform or stage, a combination of both, stand and deliver and moving with a purpose – for a purpose produces better results.

Before you begin your presentation, it is important to decide how you are going to use the speaking area. Becoming familiar with your speaking area to decide how it can be used to your advantage is very important. Your movement should always be in sync with the content of your speech. Some speakers even position parts of their speech at different locations on stage.  At times they would stand and deliver. Move to take their audience to a different time and place. Move to make a connection with the audience as they make a point, or demonstrate a particular action or activity in their speech.

How ever you plan to move on stage takes practice and preparation.  Whether you choose to stand and deliver or move with a purpose or for a purpose, remember why you are on the platform. You are there to connect with your audience. You are there to deliver a message. You are there as the messenger. The stage is yours for a few minutes. You can own it, you can work it or you can use it to your advantage. Whatever you do, never forget to make your movement part of your preparation. If you do, your audience will surely remember what you and your body said, long after you have finished delivering your story or message.

 

Your Unnecessary Words

pexels-photo-890550.jpegOne of the best ways to find your – (SOs, THATs, BUTs..etc )  all those unnecessary words you add to your speeches, is to convert your written copy – your copy for the eye, to a copy for the ear. When you write your speech for the ear, those unnecessary words seem to jump out at you. You may also notice they are used more frequently at the beginning, or at the end of your sentences.

Converting your speech from – written for the eye, to a copy for the ear is simple. If you are using Microsoft Word, cut and paste your speech as written, to create a second copy. Add lines to that second copy – (Go to Page Layout – add lines continuous) Next, edit each sentence as the line will be delivered.   Add markers,,,, for pauses and look for opportunities to re-edit the speech for a more natural delivery.

Here is an example from one of my speeches entitled – Lost.

LOST

Ever lost your keys or your wallet, and as if that was not bad enough, you lost your mind and naively asked your kid, the smart one with all the answers “did you see my wallet” only to get that dreaded response-that would make any saint a sinner.  “Where was the last place you left it, daddy”. ……

Edited  For the Ear

1. Ever lost your keys,,,,, your wallet … And

2. as if that wasn’t bad enough,,,,

3. You lost your mind,,,

4. naively asking your kid,  the smart one with all the answers,,,,

5. “did you see my wallet”

6. only to hear that dreaded response

7. that would make any saint a sinner,,,,,,

8. “Where was the last place you left it, daddy”……..

Review both copies, the copy for the eyes and for the ears.   Strike out all your unnecessary words also replace your UM’s and AH’s with a breath. Make them silent UM’s and Silent AH’s.  After you have done this exercises a few times, you will notice a big change in your delivery. You will also begin to realize, unnecessary words only add time and very little value to the delivery and quality of your speeches.

Your Communication Style

Communication Styles are Often Situational.

IMG_2915Communication is a two-way process for reaching mutual understanding through verbal, non-verbal, and written messages.   Determining your own communication style can help you improve how you share information with others.  Learning how to communicate effectively with styles that are different from your own, will enable you to establish effective relationships and create better understanding. 

Some communications styles are Sociable – Decisive – Cautious – Patient. When Collaborating with other we may be Cooperative, Spontaneous, Competitive or Precise. When sharing feelings with others we are sometimes Reserved, Private, Sympathetic, or Self-assured.  How others perceive us is also important.  Some may perceive you to be Gentle – Result-oriented – Fun-Loving or Disciplined.  The goal of understanding your communication style preferences is to communicate with others in a way that is comfortable and effective when we find ourselves in different settings.

It is important to recognize how effective communication can affect your interactions with others. It can lead to higher efficiency and good moral in the workplace, increased innovation and creative potential in groups, and satisfactory personal and familial relationships. Communication styles are often situational. Be sure to monitor your application of communication styles.

Decide if your current style is effective based on feedback and outcomes. If necessary, adjust your behavior and adopt new styles to fit a situation, team, or person. Recognize and adjust your style of communication to reach a mutual understanding.

Direct: This style is decisive, competitive, independent, and confident.  Direct communicators prefer you to get to the point quickly and in a succinct manner.

Initiating: This style is sociable, enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous, and fun-loving. Initiating communicators value interacting with others and sharing stories.

Supportive: This style is calm, steady, approachable, sincere, and gentle. Supportive communicators appreciate a calm, steady approach.

Analytical: This style is precise, exact, analytical, and logical. Analytical communicators like facts, data, and figures.

It is my hope that you can now better understand your communication style.

Speechwriting Secrets

Borrow From the Pros

IMG_3137 (1)To quote Dr.  Ralph C Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, “Speech is much more than merely standing before an audience and saying something”, however, when you get an opportunity to say something to an audience, you want to make sure that opportunity is not wasted.  So what do you do when you don’t have an army of speechwriters like presidents, politicians, and CEOs – You borrow from the pros.

There are many examples of great speeches written and delivered by professionals that can be used as excellent examples of good speechwriting. What is most important to look for in those examples is their structure. In order to better understand what structure is all about, you have to write out your speech.  Many good coaches can look at your structure to conclude if your speech is good or bad.

David Brooks, a speechwriter, and coach I admire often says in his coaching sessions, “great speeches are not written they are rewritten”. After getting down the basics; a strong beginning, an informative middle, and a memorable ending, that is when the rewriting begins. Have a well-defined structure that both you and your audience can follow.  Don’t wait until you face your audience to start your rewriting on stage,  don’t try to wing it, that’s when most speakers get into trouble.

While it is great to have a well-rehearsed strong opening, being in the moment also makes for a good opening. Tagging a line from the previous speaker to maintain the power already created in the room works well for most audiences, however, you should choose that tagline carefully. From there go back to your script. If you can deliver eighty percent of what you have written, you should be in good shape. The other twenty percent should be those spontaneous opportunities you observe to connect with your audience.

The personal stories you tell can leave a lasting impression on your audience, therefore they should be delivered from the heart and not read.  All of my mentors strongly emphasizes that “good speeches are delivered not read”. Even if the personal stories included in your speech are written in some format, switch the eighty-twenty rule for that part of your speech. Eight percent Off-Script and if you must, twenty percent scripted. Your stories will be much more believable and better received.

Create your own power or catchphrases to make your message resonate with your audience. Those phrases will resonate with both you and your audiences even long have you have given that speech. As you continue the process of rewriting, you will begin to see more and more opportunities to add humor and phrases that will personalize your speeches. Power statements and catchphrases add life to your speeches. They should roll off your tongue as if you are releasing a small part of you.

I always recommend that you “Open to Close”.  Go back to the opening to recall the statements that laid the foundation for your speech. The statements you stated as the reason for you facing that particular audience. Your closing is your opportunity to drive home your message. It is your opportunity to close the deal. And if after all is said and done, your audience is just all revved up and ready to take some actions all because of your message, you would have done much more than merely stand before an audience to say something. You are now well on the road to presenting as a pro.

 

 

 

10 Tips to Control Nervousness

A Prepared Speaker Should Never be Nervous:-Dr. R. Smedley

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Feeling some nervousness before speaking to any audience is natural and even healthy if you can channel that nervousness.  Some nervous energy can show that you are passionate and care about what you are presenting to your audience. Too much nervousness will detract from your performance.  Your physical preparation is a very important part of your Preparation and Practice.

10 Tips you can use to control your nervousness.

  1. Know The Room: Become familiar with the speaking are before you are called to speak. The view from the speaking are is quite different from the audience view or the view from the back of the room.
  2. Know You Audience: Meet and if possible greet some of your audience as they arrive. This can help you connect with them as you look out into the audience.
  3. Know Your Material: In the words of Dr. Ralph C Smedley “ A prepared speaker should not be nervous”. Nervousness will increase if you don’t know your material.
  4. Relax: Get on your feet, stretch a bit before taking to the stage.
  5. Visualize yourself giving your speech: Harbor positive thoughts. Visualize yourself being successful and you will be successful.
  6. Think Positive: Audiences don’t want you to fail. Smile and they will smile back at you.
  7. Don’t apologize: Don’t call attention to any of your slipups. Those slipups may very well have gone unnoticed.
  8. Focus on the message: When you focus on the message, your attention moves from your anxieties outwardly towards your message and your audience.
  9. Turn nervousness into positive energy: Add vitality and enthusiasm to harness your nervous energy.
  10. Gain Experience. Experience Builds confidence: Grasp every opportunity you get to SPEAK. Grasp every opportunity you get to EVALUATE. That is the key to becoming a better speaker.