Friday, 28 October 2011

Don't try this in public! Public Speaking Tips

If you are a musician, you play scales to warm up you fingers before playing. If you are a sportsman, you stretch before the vital match. If you are an artist, you sharpen your pencils before beginning your masterpiece. So why on earth would you begin a speech before preparing your voice?

Find a quiet place and do the following.

Step one: shake all the stress out of your body. Don't be shy; as my mother would say as she forced us to try on clothes in Dunne's Stores, "who is going to be looking at you?"

Step two: breathe deeply, releasing your stress. Breathe in to the count of five, out to the count os six.

Step three: hum to yourself to warm up your mouth and chant to open up your vocal chords. Put your heart into it!

There are many more exercises you can do prepares yourself but the key is this; no one can see you and this is your chance to prepare the only instrument you will be using for your speech... your voice.

And to finish; thank you to all my students at Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Hong Kong PolyU) Your enthusiasm and desire to make yourself into superb public speakers has been inspiring. Thank you!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Know thyself - identifying public speaking problems

According to the personals columns, the majority of us have a GSOH (Good sense of humour) In contrast, I have yet to hear anyone saying that they are a Good Public Speaker! In this update, I would like to try to provide a quick check list for you to identify areas which may need work and will be providing some ideas to help in the near future.

The voice:

You will need: a voice recorder, a newspaper

Put the voice recorder in a place where it will pick up your voice but not so close to you that you do not need to project. Record yourself reading any article from the paper as though you are reading to an audience.

When you play back the piece, you are listening for:

1: Words which are indistinct (is there a pattern; are they at the end of sentences? Do they include the same letter combinations?

2: Changes in volume; are they logical?

3: Pace; do you rush?

4: Tone of voice; would you want to listen to yourself?

Based on your self-diagnosis, you will have a better idea of your strengths and weaknesses. The next few posts will give you exercises you can use to address any issues and we will then move on to structure. In next to no time, you will be able to add "Good public speaker" to your list of accomplishments.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Speech Festivals - A source of lifelong learning

The Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival is an event in which many children compete and only a few win. Or do they all win? I believe so! Why?

1: Experience speaking in front of an audience is never wasted; the more opportunities you have, the more confident you become.

2: Poetry enhances vocabulary. I can still remember GK Chesterton's The Donkey which I recited a hundred years ago in a speech festival! It taught me about alliteration, parody and made me look at animals in a completely different way.

3: Festivals are so called because they celebrate the power and beauty of the human voice. Listen to the myriad of ways people read and you may pick up some new skills

We compete, some get placed but all are winners and the prizes last for a lifetime.

To read "The Donkey" by GK Chesterton an outstanding poem for reading aloud

To find out more about Brandon and our philosophy we are opening in Jordan shortly, very exciting!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

England from a distance

Anyone associated with England cannot help but be dismayed by recent events. There is beauty and strength in the hearts of the majority of British people and we are all diminished by the chaos in English Cities.

Macaulay wrote a stirring epitaph from the perspective of an exiled Jacobite (supporter of King James II) The language, love of country and people and yearning to return to homeland is a tonic in these grubby times. I defy your audience not to raise a sigh of appreciation when you read this stirring call for peace.

A Jacobite’s Epitaph

To my true king I offered, free from stain
Courage and faith; vain faith, and courage vain.
For him I threw lands, honours, wealth, away,
And one dear hope, that was more prized than they.
For him I languished in a foreign clime, 5
Grey-haired with sorrow in my manhood’s prime;
Heard on Lavernia Scargill’s whispering trees,
And pined by Arno for my lovelier Tees;
Beheld each night my home in fever’d sleep,
Each morning started from the dream to weep;
Till God, who saw me tried too sorely, gave
The resting-place I asked, an early grave.
O thou, whom chance leads to this nameless stone
From that proud country which was once mine own.
By those white cliffs I never more must see,
By that dear language which I spake like thee,
Forget all feuds, and shed one English tear
O’er English dust. A broken heart lies here.

Thomas Babington, Lord Macaulay (1800 – 59)

A rememberence of glorious sentiment and a call for calm and peace in a world which is increasingly becoming full of the bellows of self-serving louts!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Interview Traps Number Two - You never get a second chance to make a first impression

The limp handshake... the avoidance of eye contact... the muttered greeting. Typically not the way you would want to start an interview? Agreed but a poor start does not necessarily mean a miserable finish.

The prospective interviewee has their mind on answering tricky questions but the interview has started the second they walked through the door.

We all suffer from nerves and this affects the way we behave when meeting strangers. Once we have calmed down, we are different people. Unfortunately, those first few minutes count. So does a poor beginning always result in a total failure? Not necessarily...

Be aware of your behaviour under pressure. Do you quake? Do you become aggressive? Do you want to hide in a corner? For adults, once we realise our behaviours we can start to take action. For children, parents can help by observing how they react and make them aware of the effect this has on people.

Having to overcome a poor start means you have to work harder to establish a bond with your interviwer but it is possible. Once you have calmed down, work on eye-contact, interaction and make sure that your final handshake is not of the wet fish variety!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Interview Traps - Number One - "The Robot"

"I interviewed a boy yesterday and it was like interviewing a computer; all you had to do was enter the question and an automatic pre-set answer came out! After half an hour, I still had absolutely no idea about what really made the boy tick." (House Master, UK School)

As parents, we can see that being selected by one school over another will set our child on very different paths. Behind this poor boy will have been parents who only have his best interests at heart and will have stuffed the poor child so full of "good" answers that he could probably recite them in his sleep. They have unwittingly created a barrier between the delight of their child's personality and skillset and the interviewer.

In an interview situation,it is immediately clear and ultimately frustrating when a child is a mouthpiece for parents' ideas. It is your son or daughter who will be joining the school, not you!

Resist the temptation to cram them with answers and focus instead in helping them to develop a dialogue with adults they come into contact with. Encourage them to develop ideas as you encounter new experiences or read together "what do you think about..." "how would you feel if..." "why would you like to..." "what would you change if..." Not only will your child develop critical thinking skills but you, as a parent, will form a deeper understanding of what motivates and inspires them.

In the next few posts, I will focus on school interviews and then move on to job interviews. I will identify some common areas and suggest solutions. My aim is not just to help in an interview situation but hopefully to encourage communication skills which will have long term benefits.