During last weekend's March for Our Lives, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Samantha Fuentes, a wounded survivor of the shooting tragedy, got on stage to give an impassioned speech to thousands of protesters. Halfway through her address, she ducked down behind the podium and vomited.
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Public speaking is rough. Even people who give public presentations all the time can still get struck with a bit a stage fright. While the age-old tip of picturing everyone in the room can certainly help (or hurt depending on who you are), Fast Company has another idea for combating a difficult public speaking event: incorporate a story.
Uptalk used to seem like a bad thing. The "Valley girl" speech pattern, wherein a speaker's statements end with an upward inflection that makes them sound like questions, was first recognised by linguists in the 1970s and was long mocked as a sign of unseriousness. In 1993, New York Times writer James Gorman admitted there might be some uses, but he feared its use by authority figures like aeroplane pilots.
Web Worker Daily lets a chief web builder at HP.com tell a rare story—one of senior management leaving a meeting with his workers still respecting his answers and the consideration he gave them. His secret, strange as it might seem, was to keep his lunch sandwich nearby to immediately bite into upon being asked a question, along with a soda for quicker but still-important questions. This wouldn't work if you're the type to talk with your mouth full, of course, but substitute an acceptable-most-anywhere coffee or water and you've got a way to create needed pauses in conversation without, as the post puts it, "remaining silent for 15 seconds while staring at the ceiling." Might be worth trying at your next performance review or uber-frustrating meeting, rather than spilling forth with under-cooked ideas. Sandwich Pause Trick When Talking to Real People
If you've ever interviewed someone on camera, in a podcast, or in-person for an article or project and felt that it wasn't your best interview, blogger Tom Clifford suggests questions that will keep the interview interesting and ideas that should keep the conversation going. Some questions you can ask include, "How did you get involved in this business?" or "What do you think your story tells our audience?" Keep your questions brief. Don't interrupt. Listen to your interviewee 100%. If your "hero" says something surprising, follow their lead and ask questions based on the discovery. Ask open-ended questions that keep the person talking. Also, most importantly, if you're meeting with the interviewee in person, create an environment that is comfortable for them and be sure to have a smile on your face. My 22 Best On-Camera Interviewing Tips
BusinesssWeek gets a communication coach to analyse Steve Jobs' latest Macworld keynote speech and pull out 10 tips that us mere mortals can apply to our own presentations. One strategy in particular seems to be what makes Jobs' product introductions stand out from the typical "gee whiz" events:Sell the benefit. While most presenters promote product features, Jobs sells benefits. When introducing iTunes movie rentals, Jobs said, "We think there is a better way to deliver movie content to our customers ... most of us watch movies once, maybe a few times. And renting is a great way to do it. It's less expensive, doesn't take up space on our hard drive..." Your listeners are always asking themselves, "What's in it for me?" Answer the question. Don't make them guess.Sage advice, and also worth noting for the next time you have to pitch a software purchase to your boss. Hit the link for nine more bits of Jobs-ian advice.Photo by Roberto Garcia.
Deliver a Presentation like Steve Jobs
There's still no getting around the fact that text-to-speech conversion doesn't sound quite, well, human. VozMe, a free text-to-speech web app, sounds better than you'd expect for a free web service, and is pretty convenient to use. Simply paste text into a web form from any source, hit the "Create MP3" button, and you can then listen through a Flash-based player or download an MP3 for later listening. VozMe can also be embedded in web sites or used through an iGoogle gadget, and while you still won't mistake VozMe for a friendly voice, it gets the job done with decent pronunciation, and without any two-program hacks.
Want to hone a second language skill that's gotten a tad bit rusty since you last used it in, say, your first year of college? Babbel, a social language training site, provides both collaborative lesson planning and discussion with a reminder service to keep you on track in your language learning. The site's actual instruction tools aren't up to par with a paid instructional course—you mostly learn to expand your vocabulary and pronunciation through quizzes—but the reminder functions and implied social responsibility might be just what you need to move your language learning from the "One Day" list to the "Every Day" pile. Babbel requires Flash and a free sign-up to use.
The Positivity Blog says there's a simple but forgotten method of building rapport, or establishing a good connection, before you start off on any important conversation:Just before the meeting, you just think that you'll be meeting a good friend. Then you'll naturally slip into a more comfortable, confident and enjoyable emotional state and frame of mind.
This also helps you and the other people to set a good frame for the interaction ... The thing is that the frame that is set in the beginning of the conversation is often one that may stay on for a while. First impressions last.Of course, you may not always want to pretend you're meeting with Cousin Steve when you're heading into, say, a job interview, so the author suggests imagining how a previous, successful meeting went just before stepping in. Have your own mental reassurance hacks for striking up chatter? Share 'em in the comments. Photo by polandeze.
How to Have Less Awkward Conversations: Assuming Rapport
Find yourself stumbling over those ten-dollar words you've read before but don't quite know how to say? Pronunciation search site HowJSay offers instant audio of a huge catalog of words correctly read. Although the words seem to be read mostly by British speakers, American English alternatives are provided for most words that sound different across the ocean. HowJSay might make for a handy Firefox search plug-in when you're preparing for your next speech or presentation.
Learning how to initiate that first conversation can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. Break the ice with meaningful conversations instead. For example, if you're meeting someone for the first time, don't make a negative comment about the event that you're both attending. Ask the right questions to indicate an interest in the person you're speaking to. Find common ground with your peers. Say something smart or witty. It really doesn't take much to kick things off, and it's great for networking in just about any social situation. Photo by wili_hybrid.
The Public Speaking Blog never met a tip it couldn't share—or so it would seem from an extensive roundup of suggestions, dos and don'ts posted there. You might not want to sit down with the entire list before your moment at the mic, but a few of them are worth writing down somewhere, including this bit of speech-prep zen:Present 70% of what you prepared. Keep the rest for emergency purposes, e.g. during Q&A or when you need to show off.One of the tips, of course, is to never stick too hard to such rules, and to adapt to a crowd's response. One more great tip? Don't kill your audience with PowerPoint. Photo by eschipul