We all have those words we struggle to pronounce correctly (for me it is the words conscious and conscience). Many of us have just learned to avoid the words that give us trouble. But for some speakers, there may be several trouble words because of a speech disorder.
Guest blogger Ben Allen gives several great suggestions about how to be a confident speaker with a speech disorder at the Six Minutes blog. Because he shares from personal experience, this would be a great article to share with students who are concerned that their manner of speaking may interfere with their message.
And I always share the advice from Randy Fujishin: Audiences will forgive many mistakes when they sense a genuine desire to communicate with them — and you can do that.
If you want to bring in some historical speeches to show to students, Winston Churchill would be an excellent choice…inspiring, powerfully worded, and often witty, Churchill’s speeches stand up to the test of time.
The web site The Art of Manliness has provided an eight-part analysis of what made Churchill’s speeches so compelling.
This could be developed into an activity by showing clips of some speeches (the article lists several specific speeches) and then asking students what makes them work. Any part of the article’s list that did not come in during the discussion could then be brought in as a wrap-up.
(I would note, though, that writing out a speech is important when you’re a leader whose speech will be reported and re-read through history and exact wording is important, but writing a speech out is not recommended for more casual settings, especially as most of us lack the acting talent to make it look natural in front of a small audience. It is unlikely his brilliant double glasses trick would work with 15 people in a modern training seminar, for example.)
The blog at Ethos3 gives five tips for a more authentic delivery. These are the types of tips that I encouraged for students because they are perfect for the classroom setting, and are becoming more acceptable in other settings as well.
The article also links to a CBS Moneywatch article on the same topic with additional tips. Neither article is very in-depth on the topic, but they provide a nice list of suggestions and the rationale for why they work.
I like to have as much literature to back me up as possible when I tell students “Don’t memorize,” “Tell stories” and “Respond to the audience while you speak.” These articles back that up.
The CBS article also contains a list of references to Harvard Business Review. Unfortunately, the links are broken but it may be possible to find the articles (which will likely require a subscription or have a charge) and the book through another means by using the reference information.
This example appears in several places online and has several available graphics. It is attributed to Gary Provost from his book 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing.
It is a great example for speech students because while the rhythm of words is important in writing, we could argue that it is vital in speech. The variety of sentence length keeps the speech interesting and the audience tuned in — too many short sentences and the speech can feel rushed and unprepared, too many long sentences and the speech can feel written or memorized and out-of-sync with the audience.
This example could be used as a visual aid in class or developed into a demonstration by having students read the various portions of it and comparing their reactions as audience members to hearing the speech in various ways. For a longer activity, wait to show this example and instead have various groups of students write similar examples to compare and then follow up with this example in the debriefing.
The blog at Prezi.com took advice about how to deal with delivery problems from Terry Gault of The Henderson Group and created this memorable visual aid.
Using the anagram ABSORB, it gives simple and easy to remember advice for what to do if the worst happens during a presentation.
The visual would be a good addition to class, along with a discussion allowing the students to share additional advice or stories of what they have seen done well or badly.
The Prezi blog features a guest presentation from James White of Media First called “How to Rock a Presentation When you Can’t See Your Audience.”
The article features five tips specifically for recorded or online presentations. In addition to written advice, there is a short Prezi slideshow with videos and graphics that would make a great visual aid to use in class.
This would be a great addition to an online class that might require such presentations as part of class or for a business communication class where students would surely be required to do them in the future.
The Fast Company web site offers “4 Common Vocal Mistakes Leaders Make.” This interview with Vocal Impact Productions founder Laura Sicola describes four mistakes that speakers can make with their voice that can undermine their credibility and make their carefully prepared message harder to follow.
The mistakes — like sounding uninterested in their own message — are all things students are at risk of doing during speeches.
The article would be great supplemental reading, especially for a business communication class, about why students should be working to break these bad habits early. The article’s final suggestion — practice the tone you want to have and record it to see how you are doing — can be great advice for students planning careers with a lot of speaking responsibilities.
Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes offers some great advice about timing a presentation.
Students and new presenters often struggle with getting the timing right and make the mistake of trying to rush to work in all of their material. It is a better strategy to learn how to make adjustments to the speech while you have the audience’s full attention. This article suggests five ways to do that.
This would be good as supplemental reading for students or to create an in-class activity asking students for suggestions about what a speaker should do to get their timing right and then follow up with suggestions like these.
The blog at Prezi recently featured “The Ultimate Presentation Preparation Checklist.” The list does not focus on writing the speech itself, but on the context of the speech, particularly audience adaptation and delivery.
The list has 18 questions that the presenter must ask when preparing for the speech, which are sorted into five categories, and then suggestions for using that information. The questions cover issues about the setting — will there be a podium — and about the audience — are they going to be a captive audience?
The list could be turned into a homework assignment, to have students assess the class as an audience before one of their own speeches. It could also be offered as reading material to students.
Sims Wyeth at Inc. online offers “The Most Powerful Ways to Start a Presentation.”
This brief article begins by discussing research about the power of first impressions and then discusses specifics about what a speaker should do to start strong, including several examples.
The article would be great to use as lecture examples in class or to offer as reading material to students. His opening technique, “Walk to the front of the room with purpose, arrange your materials with silent grace…” etc. would be good to demonstrate for students as well.