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Speak Up!
How to get what you want

A true story
I was leading a workshop for a company in California and the topic of presentation skills came up. Participants wanted better meetings, more funding, and to be more convincing. Then a very shy woman said, “I’m tired of training my next boss. I want to get promoted.” The whole class cheered in support.  Speaking skills will help you to get more than just a paycheck. Talking is easy but speaking takes special knowledge and skill. Motivation and desire will fuel improvement.  Many well-meaning instructors have led students in the wrong direction. Their tips usually include: speak slowly, use gestures, don’t use gestures, look at everyone, smile, don’t get nervous, and make believe they are sitting there in their underwear. These tips may have some value but we need to take a new look.  Here are some ideas to help with your development as an effective speaker.

Talk Faster – Our brain moves many times faster than our mouth. Learn to speak faster and your listeners will actually hear more of what you say. This may not seem natural at first but with practice you will progress. Here’s a drill – I have my students repeat after me  – “Film at 6 and 10, WLS in Chicago” I continually say if faster and they become more comfortable with the higher speed.

Talk Clearer – This is a tough one. It takes practice to say words clearly and with a punch. Here’s a drill – Put a wooden pencil in your mouth and say this rime  - “Mary had a little lamb it’s fleece what white as snow. Everywhere that Mary went the lamb was sure to go.” This exercise will strengthen your tongue and lips.

Talk Stronger - I put a lot of work into this one. I found I could get through the morning okay but my voice was flat in the afternoon. The drill: sing, sing, and sing. I do most of in the car and it works. The voice is just like any other muscle; it will respond to exercise.

Talk Lower – A lower voice gives confidence to the listener. The drill: say this phrase and lower your voice with each segment, “Like the ripples – from two stones – dropped in a pond.”

Be a Storyteller – Telling stories is not being a storyteller. Storytelling takes great skill and practice. The key elements are: make a point, take the listener on an emotional rollercoaster, use body language consistent with your words and end on a high note.

Change the Pace – This technique adds drama. When you are giving facts and information use your faster pace. Slow down when you get to you key point. Your listener will automatically give added weight because of the change of pace.

A True Ending
I saw the student two months later in the cafeteria. She came up to me with a smiling face and said, “I got promoted.”


 Copyright © 2007, Bill Kuehn

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