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.

 

 

Jul 052016
 

Interview on WVOX.6.10.13Hear a clip from my latest radio on Peter Moses’ show, “Eye on Westchester” and learn tips on how to be an effective speaker.

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.

 

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.

 

Aug 242015
 

Some children, as well as adults, punctuate their speech with “um’s” and “ah’s” to their discomfort and those around them.  I am often asked:

  • Are repetitions of words and phrases a form of stuttering?
  • Can anything help people who can’t seem to get their words out?

“Ums” and “ahs” can be found at times in most people’s speech, but for some people this becomes a constant pattern.  As a speech pathologist I’ve heard many people describe their own speech or the speech of others as stammering or stuttering.  But are there really so many stutterers in the world?

Approximately one percent of the adult population can be termed true “stutterers.”  A stutterer’s speech is notable for repetitions or prolongations of sounds, especially at the beginning of a word, but also within a sentence. Facial characteristics of eye blinking, grimacing or other physical gestures can accompany stuttering.  Most stutterers exhibit this pattern beginning in childhood but the onset may begin in early adolescence.  A speech pathologist will be able to diagnose stuttering, which differs in intensity and characteristics from normal dysfluency.

  • Why do some people seem to have difficulty finishing a sentence?

“Um’s” and “ahs”, as well as repetions of words and phrases, function as “fillers” for both children and adults.  Expressing one’s ideas in a novel string of words is actually rather miraculous.  Of all species, only human beings are unique for the ability to find words and create sentences full of meaning and variety.  For some people, this process does not come so easily.

Both children and adults can create more fluent speech by planning their sentences, focusing on the ideas they want to convey, taking time to generate words and sentences, and using silent pausing rather than filling space with “um’s”, “ahs” or repetitions.

For individuals who find modifying their speech a difficult task, therapy for fluent speaking will make a critical difference.  Becoming a fluent speaker can become a gratifying means of expressing oneself — satisying  for the speaker and for those who are listening.

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

 

Jun 022015
 
  • Are the 3 r’s,”reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic” the basics of what one needs to know?

For many years, educators have emphasized “the 3 r’s” as the cornerstone of skills students must have for academic success.  While these remain critical skills, the fourth part of the cornerstone has rarely been given appropriate focus but remains essential for students and later in adulthood. Speaking, the other half of reading/writing, remains a neglected skill in education — but has major significance for students and adults.

Acquiring the ability to find words to express oneself, string them together in phrases and sentences, and articulate these complex sounds with the standard production within one’s spoken language is a process we take for granted.  Only when the process becomes disrupted do we question what is truly a miraculous feature of the human brain and nervous system.

When children have difficulty with developing speech and language — for a variety of reasons — we may come to understand how unique speaking is among all the living species.  So too, only when an adult has an injury or illness that disrupts the normal process of speech and language do we come to realize that these are skills usually taken for granted.

  • What about healthy, educated adults who find expressing themselves difficult?

To those individuals who have difficulty speaking — especially where they’re being judged or evaluated — it may appear that everyone else speaks fluently and easily.  This isn’t the reality, however.  More people have difficulty expressing their thoughts in formal settings than they will admit.  Adding to the pressure to speak well, the contexts for speaking/presenting occur more frequently as one progresses up the professional ladder.

  • Do poor speaking and/or writing skills make a difference in a world where technical knowledge remains most important?

In my practice I have worked with educated, intelligent individuals who need to express their ideas to clients and present their work in public forums.  Even further, they need to create reports and written documents to summarize and illustrate their expertise.

The critical abilities for organizing information and presenting in front of other professionals in a variety of contexts becomes a stumbling block for many people seeking professional development.  The link between the organization of material — focusing on key features (critical for any presentation) — and making a strong verbal presentation involves both writing and speaking skills.

  • Even in our technologically-oriented world, the twin verbal skills of speaking and writing remain critical life skills.

It seems clear that in the 21st century, the “3’r’s” need to be modified to the cornerstone of “3 plus 1”: “reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and speaking.”  Technology has become an important tool for information management and presentation, but the spoken/written word remains essential.

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Check back soon for more articles on public speaking, writing, speech pathology 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
 
Mar 162015
 
  • Some people seem able to answer a question or express an opinion effortlessly in an open forum.

Whether in a business meeting, lecture hall or classroom, it seems there are always individuals who can pose a question or make a comment smoothly, without hesitation.

  • Don’t they have the heart hammering, sweaty palms that many people experience when all eyes are on them? How do they appear so confident?

THE ANSWER:  They’re confident because they have the skills to express themselves.

  • Is this a natural skill for most people or one that’s learned?

For some, verbal fluency comes naturally, but for the majority these are skills nurtured by teachers and the opportunity to practice.  Years ago, schools and colleges used to require poetry recitation, class presentations and public speaking courses.  The goal of developing the skills needed for successful public speaking have been largely replaced by an emphasis on subject matter knowledge.  Strong verbal skills have been relegated to a less important status in our highly specialized, technology-driven society.

As a speech pathologist and public speaking coach, I see many professionals, as well as students, who dread making presentations, answering questions or offering a comment in public — and the most challenging situation —  interviewing for a job. 

The answer to the question about what is the key to public speaking effectiveness? Both confidence and skills.  But these are not mutually exclusive: verbal skills bolster confidence.  Acquiring the skills to express yourself can be learned and practiced so that you are confident and successful as a speaker, one-on-one, in a class, or a public venue.  Being able to describe your thoughts, your work, your expertise in a field is a life skill that enhances your professional value and provides an outlet for your accomplishments.

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