Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Public Speaking: Getting your feet wet

Here's another story from my vacation in beautiful Bintan, Indonesia (I'm on vacation this week, remember?). I promise after this week I'll get back to business.

My husband and I took our 2 1/2 month old daughter swimming for the first time yesterday, and I think it's the first time I've seen real fear in her eyes. We took things slowly, splashing the water up on her legs before taking her into the pool. The minute her little toes touched that cold water her eyes got huge and lip started to quiver before she let out her huge "I hate this!" scream. But once she got used to the water and figured out what it was we were doing she just loved it. We took her into the pool again today and got nothing but big gummy smiles.

So how does this relate to public speaking? Of course you're scared to jump right in and put yourself in the vulnerable position of speaking in public, but sometimes the best way to get over your fear is by taking it slow and getting your feet wet. Once you do it a few times you'll find that you start to enjoy it, well, maybe not enjoy it, but it will start feeling more comfortable anyway.

What if we had ripped our daughter out of the pool the minute we saw she was scared? What if we never put her in the water again? Think of all the fantastic experiences she would miss out on! And think of all the experiences and opportunities you are passing up by giving into your fear and avoiding the discomfort of speaking in public!

For more motivation, see my earlier post, "Public Speaking: Just do it!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Speech Training: My fuzzy daughter - Voiced vs. Unvoiced Sounds

My inspiration for this entry comes from my husband (a non-native English speaker) who continues to tell me every time our 2 1/2 month old daughter starts to cry that, "she's a litte fuzzy today."

"Fuzzy?" I picture our daughter with a beard and hairy legs before I switch to 'English trainer' mode and try to decipher what he meant to say. "Fuzzy or fussy?" The answer is clear.

This mistake is a very common one among native and non-native English speakers alike. The words are almost identical. The only difference is whether you use your voice on the s/z sound or not. 'S' is an unvoiced sound, whereas 'z' is a voiced sound.

These two types of sounds are very similar and can easily be confused. Generally speaking, the position of the lips and tongue are the same in order to produce the sounds. The only difference is whether you use your voice.

Here are some other consonant pairs that can lead to the same confusion (the voiced sound is listed first in each pair):

b-p, d-t, g-k, th(this)-th(thank), v-f

One way you can practice voiced and unvoiced sounds is by creating minimal pairs. Minimal pairs are pairs of words that are identical except for the one sound you are trying to practice. ‘Pat’ and ‘bat’ are an example of a minimal pair that helps to practice the ‘p/b’ distinction. You can create minimal pairs for any sounds you would like to practice. For more information on minimal pairs, see my earlier post.

Two other ways you can tell the difference between voiced and unvoiced sounds are:
1. Put two fingers over your voice box and make different sounds. You will feel your vocal chords vibrate during voiced sounds.
2. Put the palm of your hand in front of your mouth. You will feel an explosion of air when you make unvoiced sounds.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Speech Training: Top 6 Tips for Announcers

Today my husband, daughter and I sailed from Singapore to Bintan Island, Indonesia for a week-long vacation. So here I am by the pool writing today's entry. Is that dedication or what?

The reason I'm telling you this isn't just because I want to rub it in that I'm on vacation right now, but also because the trip over here got me thinking about how clearly people need to speak when they make announcements.

We have heard tons of announcements today in the ferry terminal, on the ferry and even on the shuttle bus to our resort. I didn't understand one of them.

Announcers everywhere, take note! I don't care if you make announcements in a bus, train, plane or ferry, do the morning announcements at your high school, work at Disneyland, make announcements about lost children in huge department stores, or announce the blue light specials at WalMart, you must remember to alter your delivery slightly over the public announcement system.

Here are a few points to remember:

1. Slow down
You can't speak at the same rate over an announcement system as you do to your best friend over coffee. Slow down so we can better understand you.

2. Use pauses
Your announcement is not a race. Take the time you need to make your message clear. Pause between your sentences so the announcement doesn't sound like one long rambling instruction.

3. Speak clearly
Pay special attention to your articulation. Pronounce consonant sounds, especially at the ends of your words.

4. Love your job - if only for a moment
If you are the one chosen to make an announcement, you are representing your company, industry and/or colleagues. Put on a happy face and have a good attitude. It is so easy to hear a person's mood in their tone of voice. For the few seconds your announcement lasts, go to your happy place. When it's over, you can go back to being grumpy.

5. Don't put your mouth too close to the microphone
We've all heard mumbled, scratchy announcements where it sounds like the announcer actually has the microphone in his/her mouth. Make sure you aren't too close to the microphone. That will make your announcement fuzzy.

6. Get feedback
You should always have someone listening to your announcement so they can give you feedback not just on how you sounded, but also if they could hear you at all. Sometimes there are problems with your equipment that are out of your control. If you don't specifically have someone listening along with your audience, you might not realize that there's a problem.