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.

 

 

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.

 

Nov 102016
 
  • Myth # 1:  It takes years to become an effective public speaker.
  • Myth # 2: Nobody else seems nervous when they make a presentation.
  • Myth # 3:  Most good speakers are born with the “gift of gab.”
  • Myth # 4: Being forced to stand up in front of others in a public speaking class will make you a better speaker.

These myths along with many others seemed fixed in most people’s minds but they’re not valid.

Consider this scenario:  You have to make a company presentation in two weeks.  You’ve written your material and organized your slides.  But when you stand up to rehearse, it doesn’t come out the way you imagine.  Panic sets in!  Is it too late?

Working with an experienced speech coach doesn’t have to be a long, arduous process.   Sometimes I need to help a client reshape a presentation by editing material to focus on key points.  At other times the material and slide presentations have been developed to suit the audience and time frame, so our work concentrates on presentation skills. While it usually takes several sessions to prep for an individual presentation, you should have some concrete tools to use after the first session. 

In some cases a speech coach helps a client deal with nervousness and fear of making a presentation.  It’s normal to have some anticipation before speaking in public; indeed, the spurt of adrenaline that occurs when we engage in a difficult task can be channeled to infuse your speaking with enthusiasm and energy.  But for those individuals who find themselves tongue-tied or hesitant because of nerves, the process of understanding the important features of effective speaking can be liberating.

Does a public speaking class where you take your turn making presentations reduce nervousness  and improve speaking skills?  I have worked with many individuals who have tried peer-based courses or cookie cutter approaches without any gains.  For most people an individualized program with an experienced speech coach makes the critical difference.

 Developing a plan based on your individual needs, learning the skills that apply to you, practicing your presentation and receiving pointed feedback from a professional can change your thinking about the myths that hold back many people from seeking out speaking opportunities.  In our competitive professional world, lacking the skills to speak effectively in a public forum limits your opportunities.

Even last minute coaching can make all the difference in your public speaking skills and professional advancement.  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oct 142016
 
  • Do you hear your voice on a recorded message and wonder, “Who is that?”
  • Have you ever felt uncomfortable with your voice and wish you could speak differently?

Of the many people who answer “yes” to these two questions, only a fraction ever see a speech pathologist or voice coach to improve the sound of their voice.  It is possible to develop a voice that reflects who you are and the imagine of yourself you want to project. Possessing a melodic voice with resonance is an asset on both personal and professional levels.

  •  What defines a “good speaking voice?”

Clear speech with standard production of all speech sounds is a prerequisite. In order to be clearly understood, your voice should be free of articulation errors, in other words, employ proper “diction.” For some speakers, especially those for whom English is not their native language, this may mean accent modification.

A natural sounding voice includes appropriate melody and rhythm to capture the listener’s attention. Flat, monotone speech with little variation puts listeners at arm’s length.

Speech with appropriate inflection helps reinforce you as a knowledgeable speaker. Sentences you use to give information should have a downward inflection at the end. “Up Speak,” that annoying rising inflection at the end of every sentence does not help to inspire confidence.

Vocal resonance is one of the keys to a voice that listeners find pleasing to the ear. Good resonance involves proper placement of speech sounds in the vocal and nasal cavities and provides a richness and warmth to the voice.

Vocal projection remains a critical factor: if you can’t be heard who will listen?  Projecting your voice doesn’t mean yelling, however. Infusing energy with good breath support is the key to being heard.

Speaking with authority employs many of the features I’ve noted above and is probably one of the main reasons that doctors, lawyers, professionals in many fields, employ a vocal coach.

Good speakers who capture the attention of their listeners are not necessarily born that way. Many people work with a speech pathologist or voice coach to develop a more effective voice. Possessing a voice you like will make you a more confident person. Can you develop the skills to change the sound of your voice? Absolutely!

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

 

 

 

 

Jun 082016
 
  • You’ve always wanted to become a better public speaker but you’re so busy with your job there’s very little time for personal growth.
  • How to find time to work with a professional on developing stronger communication skills?

While possessing good speaking skills remains a personal skill set, it’s also a critical ability for professional growth in nearly every field:  sales, finance, law, healthcare, any job that involves communicating with others.

Many individuals who come to me for speech coaching have tried Toastmasters or other programs, only to feel frustrated by the time spent in a communal atmosphere with limited presentation possibilities and minimal feedback.  For most people, sharing the experience about the difficulties of presentation does not lead toward developing better  skills.

Without a skilled professional guiding you in the key points of public speaking, time and energy can be wasted.  Even worse, the lack of change can make a person feel even more convinced that he or she will never be a competent public speaker.

Individual sessions with a speaking coach, whether in person or through “telepractice” via Skype can be the most effective way to develop a valuable skill.

Learning to organize a presentation, integrate visual materials, and deliver a speech can be accomplished in an effective, satisfying way by working one-to-one with a professional speech coach.  Technology has made it possible to expand the limits of time and geography so you can become a more polished, confident speaker.

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

 

 

Apr 142016
 

“I hate speaking in public!”

“I don’t know what I’ll say!”

“What if I bore everyone?”

Spring and summer bring the season of weddings, anniversary celebrations, birthdays, retirement parties.  The time for toasts, speeches and tributes evokes if not panic, a good deal of discomfort for many people.  What is it that makes these occasions so daunting?

Giving a presentation of any type is a two-fold process: framing your message in the appropriate words to reflect the occasion and delivering that message in an effective way.  For some people the problem lies in writing the speech, while for others it may be speaking in public.  And for a number of individuals, both elements make the task uncomfortable, sometimes overwhelming.

We’ll begin with the speech:

Creating a speech is a time-consuming activity requiring a particular set of skills.  If that’s part of your concern (or your major issue), you can work with a speech writer who will help you craft a speech that reflects your ideas and sentiments.  Presidents, CEO’s, major public figures use a speech writer, why not you?  I’m not referring to a canned speech but a custom presentation for which you have as much input as you would like to have.  Working with a speech writer who understands the importance of the occasion and shapes your remarks to reflect your preferences can make the process fulfilling.

And now your delivery:

Some individuals have no difficulty writing a speech but worry about how they will present their message, comfortably and effectively.  We’ve all been at occasions where the speaker’s voice reveals his or her uneasiness through a monotone delivery, or a pace so fast no one can follow, or a voice so quiet, despite the microphone, no one can hear what’s being said. “Speak louder, we can’t hear you,” may be the words that make an already uncomfortable speaker even more nervous.  A speaking coach can give you the tools to make a toast or a speech that will enable you to capture the audience, say what you mean, and make this occasion one that everyone enjoys — even you.

Engaging a professional who can assist you in writing your speech or delivering your presentation, or both, may be the key to making this an event you can remember with a feeling of accomplishment.

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

 

Feb 102016
 

HOW TO GRAB YOUR AUDIENCE

Learn how to speak with confidence to one person, a small group, or a large audience. Whether you are selling yourself, your business, a product or a concept, being a great speaker is not just important…it’s essential. Take advantage of the opportunity to make a special occasion-toast, corporate presentation or sales pitch by improving your speaking skills. In this hands-on workshop you will learn and practice the basic tools to gain and sustain the interest and respect of your listeners. Limit of 10 students.

 

Gloria S. Lazar, M.S., M.Phil., CCC, is a speech-language pathologist and has been in private practice since 1988 working with adults on speech skills. She coaches professionals in a variety of fields, including law, medicine, teaching, financial services and entertainment. Tuesday, April 12 • 7 – 9 pm Bronxville School $45.

Register at www.bronxvilleadultschool.org, by phone at 914.793.4435 or by mail.

Jan 252016
 

“If only…”

Life is full of “if only” statements — wishes and regrets in hindsight.  Possessing the skills and confidence to present in front of an audience, give a report, or succeed in an interview remains high on the “if only” list of many people.

Nearly every individual, whether student or accomplished professional, tells me that preparation for speaking and presenting in public was never addressed during their regular school curriculum.  If that was the case in past decades, we can be sure that the current educational environment, with a stress on standardized testing, will not include time for class presentation, debate or activities devoted to improving speaking skills.

While most educators and certainly adults in professional fields involving personal interaction will endorse the importance of “speaking well,” this skill seems to be treated as a natural given that will develop organically, without explicit instruction or practice in a person’s education and early experience.  Perhaps this growth develops spontaneously for some people, the way some are natural athletes, but my experience as a communications coach has generally proven otherwise.

Just as sports teams and athletes have coaches, so too, the majority of public speakers have speaking coaches.  Actors utilize drama, voice and accent coaches, while politicians and other public speakers have numerous advisors and “coaches.”  Every candidate in a public forum has been assisted by a team that includes a speaking coach.  Some gifted orators stand out among the crowd — Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy in recent times.  A few are naturally gifted, but most have worked on developing their speaking skills. We applaud the ones who seem to speak particularly well, even if we don’t know exactly how they accomplish this task — and we recognize the ones who don’t, especially in spontaneous situations.

Is there hope that schools will incorporate speaking skills (or what used to be called “elocution”) as a necessary skill within the curriculum?  Based on the thrust toward fulfilling a mandate for what are considered “Common Core” requirements, it’s clear that instruction and practice for speaking well will not make it into the lesson plan.

But adolescents and adults can develop strong speaking skills and confidence as communicators by learning the critical principles for clear, well-articulated speech, as well as the tools for verbal expression.  Training at an early age as part of the educational curriculum would be the best time to develop these skills but if this isn’t possible, then intervention at any age is the key to developing the strategies and confidence to be an effective speaker.

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

 

May 192015
 

GSL

Develop your skills to become a great speaker at my upcoming workshop at Watercooler in Tarrytown, on Tuesday, June 2nd, 7-9 PM.  Registration is still open but this program has sold out in the past!

Click here for the link: http://lazarspeech.com/2015/04/21/how-to-grab-your-audience-with-gloria-lazar-a-workshop-to-become-a-confident-speaker/

Apr 212015