Jan 132020
 

If you’ve ever felt you were the only one fearful about making a presentation, be assured, you’re not alone.  In fact, you have most of the world agonizing with you.  

For many people deciding what to say, how to say it, then standing up in front of others is like confronting a fire-eating dragon.

  • The fear of speaking in public, “glossophobia” affects at least 75% of the population.

  • A 2012 research study showed that participants feared “speaking before a group” more than “death.”

In an earlier article I wrote about stage fright or “performance anxiety” among famous individuals.  Can Stage Fright Be Good For You?

The great ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ella Fitzgerald suffered from stage fright but forced themselves to go on with the show.  Sometimes notable performers find other ways to continue their careers: the actor Daniel Day Lewis left the stage during the middle of a performance and never returned. He dealt with his stage fright by continuing his acting career solely in the movies.  A fairly extreme solution for a famous actor!

  • Some performers prefer to call it shyness, not stage fright.

Carly Simon took off six years from live performance.  But when asked about her decision, she declined to call it stage fright and defined it as “shyness.”  Being center stage, exposed to criticism, may be the underlying reason for what we refer to stage fright.

  • So how can this be overcome by the average person who doesn’t necessarily have to perform in front of a large audience?

Changing one’s thinking about public speaking as “exposure” is a starting point.  Giving a presentation, report or making a toast is not a performance.  If you have prepared sufficiently and most importantly have rehearsed — out loud — in front of a coach or trusted friend/colleague, it’s not a performance. You’re presenting your research or experience to individuals who probably want to hear what you say.  

The best way to slay the dragon of stage fright is to focus on your task, not whether you’re inherently shy or afraid of the audience’s disapproval. Planning, practice and professional coaching are the tools to make you successful — and success creates confidence!

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Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, communications, speech pathology and executive function.

 

 

Oct 082019
 
  • Do people really want to hear my story?

  • Do I want to relate personal details to strangers?

Whether you’re an executive presenting your sales pitch, a college graduate interviewing for your first job, or a high school student speaking with an admissions officer, your personal narrative can be the key to reaching your goals.  Telling someone else about why you believe in your work, what you seek to achieve, or why you’re the best candidate connects you to your audience in a powerful way.

Yes, other people do want to know why you’ve chosen to work in a specific field, why you want to attend a particular college, or why you have a service or skill that you’re promoting.  We all have a fascination with the details of people’s lives, primarily so we can learn and sometimes identify with other people.

At a recent Democratic presidential debate, the candidates were asked to describe a setback in their professional lives.  Vice President Biden chose to speak about the accident that killed his wife and young daughter and seriously injured his son.  He took a bold step in relating this critical event in his life because it shaped everything personally and professionally that followed.  Sworn in as a senator sitting at his injured son’s bedside in the hospital, he undertook the most challenging job of his life while in mourning.  The odds were certainly against him when he became a member of Congress as a grief-stricken husband and father.  Yet he prevailed and the rest is history.  While some media individuals criticized his choice of this personal event rather than a professional incident during the debate, no one could deny the power of his personal narrative with viewers.

The answer to the second question: do you want to share your personal story?  You’re the storyteller and you have the right to share whatever is comfortable.  Your goal is connection, not catharsis.  The specifics you choose should have a direct link to the context; for example, why you’re a good candidate for a job based on your personal experience.

A case study:

A client recently asked me to write a personal narrative she could weave into a presentation of her organization’s investment approach.  She chose to work in this field because of her family’s immigration  and success in this country: their careful investment strategy allowed them to accumulate enough money to support them in retirement.  She wove this narrative very successfully into her presentation using her personal history as the basis for her confidence in her team’s product.

You control the narrative so rest assured, no one compels you to reveal personal details you’d prefer to keep to yourself.  But using your own story to connect to others is one of the most powerful, effective tools to reach your audience and create your success.  Use it and empower yourself!

You may want to read more articles on my blog related to this area:  Learn To Tell Your StoryBe Happier and Healthier By Telling Stories Throughout Your Life

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Check back soon for more articles on effective speaking, speech writing, cognitive function and speech pathology.

Mar 112019
 

Create a Dialogue

If I’m giving a presentation, why do I need to create a dialogue with my audience?

When you make a presentation — to one or 500 people — you want to capture their attention and engage them so they see your point of view.  If you’re simply speaking “at them,” it’s likely you will not gain their full attention and communicate your ideas. 

A dialogue is an interactive process where the speaker engages with an audience and creates a “give-and-take” exchange so the audience genuinely responds, a process where the speaker’s words and ideas spark interest, provoke questions and elicit an internal reaction from members of the audience.  

Does dialogue naturally occur in an interview?

The obvious context for a dialogue is an interview or a one-to-one discussion. But in my work as a speech coach, I find that many people miss the opportunity to create a truly interactive exchange with another person.  Understanding another person’s point of view, interests, and objectives is critical for creating a meaningful context to connect.  

For example: Why should you be hired for a particular job?  The answer is not simply because you would like the job.  If you prepare in advance to understand the company’s structure, goals, and clients, you’ll have a chance to be specific about your credentials.  But in every interview, listening is critical.  Allow the interviewer to tell you about what the company needs, the specifics of the job so you can describe your skills and experience for this position: “why you’ll be an asset to this company.”

How can I create a dialogue with more than one person?

Ask yourself these key questions:

  • Have you considered what will be of interest to this audience?
  • What can the audience learn/gain by your presentation?

Planning a presentation tailored to your audience is the first step in creating a dialogue:

  • Consider the time you have to present: include enough information to convey your ideas but don’t burden the listeners with more information than they can process.
  • Make it clear what they can gain from your presentation, your take-away points.
  • Plan your presentation for the allotted time and don’t include more than you’ll be able to say — so you won’t feel compelled to speak fast.
  • Look at your audience, make eye contact, watch your body language and speak in a natural voice.  

All of these critical features for making a great presentation can be found in articles on my website: see the Blog and Publications sections of my website and use the “Search” tool or choose from “Categories”.

Here are a few links on the subject, but you can find many more on my website: 

What You Mean Is In Your Eyes, Not Only In Your Words

Capturing the Authentic Voice

The Two “P’s” for Effective Speaking

Is It WHAT You Say or HOW You Say It?

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Check back soon for more articles on communications, effective speaking, writing, speech pathology and executive function.

 

 

Jan 182019
 

Technology has broken barriers in speech coaching and therapy

Not only has technology revolutionized the work environment for millions of executives, but it has also introduced alternatives for speech coaching, executive skills training and traditional speech language therapy.

In my practice I have incorporated remote therapy using Skype or FaceTime to help clients in all parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Westchester and Rockland counties, as well as other areas of the United States.  Technology has allowed me to assist clients in Israel and various countries in Europe. 

Virtual platforms have broken down the barriers for communication in revolutionary ways. Busy executives can now utilize my services from their home or office, rather than spending valuable time commuting to an appointment.  

Skype and FaceTime works well for adults and adolescents who have active lives and for whom travel makes coaching and therapy difficult or impossible.

My office in Tarrytown, New York still allows clients to meet in person — which may be preferable in some cases.  Phone conferences can augment face-to-face meetings as well.  

Whether you live in Soho, the east or west side of Manhattan, or as far away as Israel, you can access the services of an experienced speech-language pathologist, communications coach and speech writer.

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Check back soon for more articles on communication coaching, executive function, speech pathology and speech writing.

 

Sep 142018
 
  • How important can storytelling be if it’s not taught in school?

In a recent article in The New York Times by Frank Bruni entitled, “How to Get the Most Out of College,” he writes: 

“Every successful pitch for a new policy, new product or new company is essentially a story, with a shape and logic intended to stir its audience. So is every successful job interview. The best moment in a workplace meeting belongs to the colleague who tells the best story… take a course that exposes you to the structure of narrative and the art of persuasion.”

For many years, storytelling was the means of communicating the important events of a group of people and carrying on the traditions of a tribe, sect or culture.  The value of transmitting “oral history” was unquestioned as an essential skill for thousands of years.  With the invention of the printing press and the rise of reading literary, less emphasis has been placed on oral history.

But on a personal level, “telling one’s story” remains as important as “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.”

  • If story telling is such a valuable skill, why isn’t it taught in school?

The old adage of going to school to learn “reading, writing and ‘rithmetic” has been translated into Common Core requirements during the last decade. While these remain critically important skills for students, the value of verbal expression has been lost in the drive for mandated educational goals and standardized assessment.

In today’s educational environment, teachers can be faulted for not teaching to a state-mandated curriculum that will be measured at various intervals by comprehensive testing. In some areas of the country teacher salaries and retention have become directly linked with testing results.

  • So where is the incentive and the time to implement storytelling skills in the school curriculum?

Few teachers or school districts will defy the current movement for accountability by allocating time for public speaking, learning to express oneself verbally and telling a personal story. Yet, clearly, this is a skill that will shape an individual’s future, as Frank Bruni emphasizes in his insightful article.

If schools cannot be relied on to teach storytelling skills, then it falls to families to foster these skills as much as possible. Find opportunities to share the stories of previous generations, as well as the daily incidents of life in your family.  Encourage everyone, even the youngest child, to share experiences and ideas, and give each person the time and opportunity to be the center of attention by “telling a story.”   

For adults who need to hone their storytelling skills, seek out opportunities to relate stories to friends and colleagues.  If you feel uncomfortable with this prospect, work with a professional who can help you shape a personal narrative and develop your speaking skills.   Being able to represent yourself may be the key to achieving your personal goals — as well as modeling those skills for your children.

Practice your skills by telling stories and equip your children for success by finding ways to help them become storytellers.

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Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, writing, speech-language pathology and executive function skills.

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 022018
 

Whether speaking or writing the following key points apply for effective business communications:

  • Tailor your message to your audience

If you’re trying to create a dialogue with another individual, consider the interests of the person you’re interacting with: are they receptive to what you have to say?  Do you need to capture their interest?  What expectations will they bring to your message?

  • Be clear and direct in your language

Choose your words carefully to carry your message.  Consider the different ways some words can be misunderstood: semantics matter!  If you mean to convey a humorous tone, make that clear by the words you use.  Avoid sarcasm which can easily be misunderstood and taken negatively.

  • Avoid slang

 Unless you intend to use a “breezy” tone,  utilize standard English words that will not be misunderstood, especially if you are conveying serious information.  In casual conversation slang expressions may be more appropriate, but generally not in business communication.

  • Use the technical vocabulary of your field

 If you want to be perceived as knowledgeable in a particular area, learn the terms specific to the field and use them appropriately in your message.  Avoid generic terms if you can use more specific vocabulary.

  • Avoid flowery, verbose language

Your audience will appreciate language that gets to the point and doesn’t waste time. Remove ambiguity that can occur with extra words or sentences that are vague or repetitive.

  • Always be socially appropriate

 Be gracious in your communications.  Thank people for their time and attention and make it sound like you mean it by choosing socially appropriate language.  Try to personalize your communication by avoiding overused (throwaway) phrases.

  • In face to face speech, match body language with your words

As specific as you may be with your words, be sure you “look” like what you are saying by showing appropriate affect in your facial expression, gestures and posture.  Body language conveys meaning all by itself and can enhance “what” you say.  How” you say it counts as well! 

Polished language in business communication creates successful interactions — the key to success!

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Check back soon for more articles on language, communication, speech pathology, writing and executive function

 

 

 

Feb 152018
 
  • Good speakers are born that way.

  • Being shy will prevent you from being a confident speaker.

  • You need to have a theatrical flair to capture an audience’s attention

If you believe any of these statements, you’ll be relieved to know that these are merely generalizations. 

Being able to translate one’s thoughts into words and then speak phrases and sentences in a way that communicates effectively with other people is actually an astounding skill that only humans possess.  While birds may sing and dolphins emit sounds to their peers, only humans have the range and fluency we know as verbal communication.

But with this unique skill comes a range of abilities based on genes, nurture and practice.  Some individuals are truly gifted, captivating speakers: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King are known for their extraordinary speaking skills.  But for most people, early nurturing in storytelling families, practice in school and coaching are the keys to becoming a good speaker.

Can inherently shy individuals become good speakers?  There’s no reason people can’t prepare their thoughts and practice a presentation or the dialogue they can use when called upon to speak. Jessica Chastain, Lady Gaga, James Lipton, to name a few, consider themselves “shy” or “introverted” by nature. But that hasn’t stopped them from rising to the top of their professions as actor, singer, interviewer.

Practice in storytelling, even at the earliest ages, primes children to express their thoughts and experiences.  Even as adults, we enjoy a speaker who tells a story using natural speech melody, expression and body language.

You can achieve confidence as a speaker by learning the tools of “dialogue” to capture the interest of another person or many people and make any speaking situation a “give and take” process.

Too many people view public speaking as theater, yet most trained actors and accomplished speakers will tell you they learned the techniques of speaking in public despite their shyness, and in some cases, articulation or fluency difficulties. Consider this little known fact: Marilyn Monroe’s breathy voice was her technique for coping with a stuttering disorder.

Young children can be nurtured to become good speakers in their families and in school, while teenagers and adults can develop the “art” of speaking and gain confidence by coaching and practice.  

Great speakers are taught, not necessarily born that way!

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Check back soon for more articles on effective speaking, writing, executive function skills and speech-language pathology.

 

Jan 052018
 

If you’re invited to make a speech, accept an award, introduce an honoree or give a toast, you can have a polished, professional speech written for you no matter where you live.

Gloria Lazar has written customized speeches for clients all over the country.  She creates a presentation to reflect each speaker’s goals and ideas.

You don’t have to live in Westchester county or New York City to use her services.  Clients can communicate through telephone, email, or Skype to discuss their goals and drafts of their speech.

If you need coaching to polish your speaking skills or boost your confidence as a speaker, you can meet in her office in Westchester county — or by using Skype or FaceTime you will have face-to-face practice and feedback from a professional speaking coach.

Employing the skills of a professional speechwriter and speaking coach can make you into a polished speaker.  A speech that influences people begins with a strong script.

That promotion or new business deal you’re hoping for can be even closer now!

 

Free stock photo of earth, guide, universe, travel

Apr 252017
 

“The eyes are the window of the soul.” Old English proverb.

Beyond the power of words, the way you speak conveys what you mean.  In the face to face conversations between human beings, the eyes and facial expression transmit at least half of the message.  A person’s eyes communicate interest, care, anger, distrust, sincerity and a host of other mental states.

In the age of email and texts, so much of the potential for direct human exchange has been diluted.  The opportunity of establishing dialogue between individuals diminishes when so much interaction takes places electronically.  While opportunity may diminish, the importance does not.

Why is it important to establish dialogue?

When people speak to each other face to face, an expectation exists that one person wants to convey information and establish rapport.  From the mundane activities of daily life to professional interactions, speaking effectively to someone else requires establishing a direct connection to an individual, a dialogue.

How important are the eyes in dialogue?

When we speak with someone our first instinct is to look at the other person’s eyes.  Interest, mood, trustworthiness are some of the key features signaled by an individual’s eyes.  Maintaining eye contact remains one of the universal fundamentals in establishing a relationship, whether meeting someone for the first time, interviewing for a job, or making a presentation.

What else besides the eyes is important? 

We convey information about ourselves through facial expressions, body language and vocal features.  How we say our words communicates almost as much as what we say.  People expect to be “spoken to, not at.”  Sometimes more meaning is conveyed in face to face interactions by how someone speaks, rather than the words spoken.

Can we lose the ability to speak to other people?

As a society, can we evolve to becoming poor communicators? With limited practice and opportunity, many teenagers and young adults today are less comfortable and capable of speaking with others, especially adults. 

In my practice I have worked with students who think they interact well with their peers but have little skill in interviewing for jobs or presenting themselves in an articulate, mature manner.  The first skill they need to learn is the importance of looking at another individual in order to create dialogue.

When we speak to people, if we want to express truth, sincerity and concern, we need to remember that we speak through the eyes as much as the mouth.

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Check back soon for more articles on communication, speech pathology, executive function and writing skills.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 152017
 
  • Do you feel uncomfortable speaking in public?

  • Do you wonder if people will listen to what you have to say?

  • Do you think you need to have an unusual or unique life to talk about yourself?

More people than you can imagine will answer “Yes” to all the questions posed above — though they may not admit it out loud. Believing that you need to have a “charmed” life to tell a story about yourself is to deny the uniqueness we all possess.  Every person has their own story to tell, their own lens they use to see the world.  

But being a good storyteller doesn’t always involve relating your own story.  Indeed, many of the stories that capture our fancy beginning in childhood involve imagination, as well as observation.  The stories we witness that don’t necessarily involve ourselves, as well as those we create about others — these are all part of the storyteller’s raw material.

The essential skill to being a good storyteller involves creating a “dialogue” with other people.  Looking directly at your audience (of one or many) and using the importance presentation skills of voice, gesture, and body language will make your story appealing.

As children we know the  words, “Once upon a time” signal the beginning of a story.  But to capture our attention, these words need to be accompanied by the intonation, rhythm and rate that conveys a natural speaking voice.

One of the critical features of storytelling is the investment in the story by the storyteller.  A good storyteller conveys conviction:  the storyteller believes the story and wants to take you on a journey.  From “spinning a yarn” to “this is the absolute truth,” the stories that capture us are told in a way that invites us to listen and believe.

So why is storytelling so important?

Whether you’re pitching yourself in an interview, selling a product, or giving a presentation about your research, engaging the audience is the key to effectiveness.  

If you practice the art of storytelling you will approach any speaking situation as a moment to capture other people’s attention and involve them in what you say.

The answers to the questions posed at the beginning of this article can become “no” if you approach your speaking as “telling a story.”  You’re no longer the public speaker standing in front of an audience but a storyteller evoking the interest of everyone who has loved a good story since childhood.

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