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Could you repeat that? 3 steps to improve communicating with an accent.

Could you repeat that? 3 steps to improve communicating with an accent.

Are you a non-native English speaker navigating an English speaking workplace? Does your accent pose a communication challenge from time to time?

Are you asked to repeat yourself?  Or asked to repeat words containing a particular vowel sound that consistently trips you up?  Being unable to communicate effectively and efficiently can be a nerve-wracking experience.  

What’s more, the American Speech Language Association acknowledges that having difficulty communicating with those around you can lead to avoiding social interaction.  And frustration from having to repeat yourself all the time.  These feelings over time can negatively affect personal and professional relationships as well as job performance.  The tips below are geared to help you avoid shying away from words you’d really like to use (or perhaps must use) when communicating at work that are difficult for you to pronounce.

#1: Identify Potential Trouble-spots In Advance

Speaking in front of an audience, especially when you’re aiming to impress, can be a stressful experience. And this is true for English and non-English speakers alike.  Add in the extra challenge of navigating a workplace presentation in a language that’s not your own and that stress rises to a whole different level.  If you will be speaking from prepared notes the first thing you should do is prepare your talking points using words that best describe what you’re trying to convey.  Don’t compromise the content of your presentation by purposely avoiding words that you don’t like pronouncing – yet.  Once you’ve finalized your content print it out.  Recite your presentation out loud a few times and when you reach a word that you have difficulty with highlight it.  Then, create a separate list containing only the highlighted words you’ve identified that give you trouble.  Print this out too.  Now you’re ready to tackle what’s tripping you up and regain your control.

#2: Break It Down

Now you have your list of words that give you trouble.  Say each word out loud no less than 10 times.  I know this sounds excessive but it’s important.  It will help make the feeling of the word in your mouth more familiar.  It will also increase your ear’s familiarity with the sound of your voice pronouncing it.  Increasing comfort in both of these regards is important .  The last thing you want to be focused on in the middle of your presentation is a word you don’t like pronouncing coming up two sentences away.  You want to be connecting with your audience and communicating with confidence!  

Repeating the word this many times outloud will also provide you the chance to play with speed. Practice saying the word slowly, then fast.  Then purposely over-pronounce and exaggerate each of the vowel and consonant sounds.  If you gain understanding of why it’s difficult for you to pronounce the word you regain some power and control-power you may feel you lack after previous verbal exchanges using this word that were frustrating.

#3:  Get out that smartphone.

Nowadays every smartphone contains a voice memo app. Record yourself reciting the full sentence in which the word appears.  Do the words that occur directly before and/or after the troublesome word influence your pronunciation of it?  Note this if so, and make any necessary adjustments.  Once you’ve done this for each sentence where a highlighted word exists, record yourself giving your entire presentation.  When you listen back to the recording pay close attention.  Are there any moments where you hear hesitation?  Or where you recall losing your sense of control?  Continue practicing until you no longer experience discomfort or lack of assuredness when you reach these moments in your presentation.

Finally, enlist someone you trust – a friend or a colleague – and practice your presentation in front of them.  It’s important that you bridge the gap between practicing alone with your voice recorder to sharing your thoughts with a live audience.  You may notice that the progress you made alludes you at first.  Nerves have a way of doing that.  Be patient and kind with yourself.  Just take a deep breath and try again.  If you are willing to invest the time you will find that over time words that seemed impossible for you to pronounce will have worked their way into your everyday vocabulary and you’ll be using them without a second thought.

Embodied Cognition: How to fake it till you make it

Embodied Cognition: How to fake it till you make it

Embodied Cognition is the idea that what you do on the outside affects how you feel on the inside. Popularized by Amy Cuddy, the idea that your body and environment can influence your mind can be life-changing.

At Bespoken, we call this way of working “Outside In”. We know that a physical change which makes you look more confident on the outside can help you feel more powerful on the inside. Even though Cuddy’s Power Posing has come under scrutiny in the last few months, there is still a solid amount of science to back up the idea that our physical environment can instantly change the way the world sees us (and how we see the world). In fact, we’ve seen people transform in just moments by making a few small adjustments.

President Eisenhower used Embodied Cognition. He “firmly determined that my mannerisms and speech in public would always reflect the cheerful certainty of victory… To translate this conviction into tangible results, I adopted a policy of circulating through the whole force to the full limit imposed by physical considerations. I did my best to meet everyone from general to private with a smile, a pat on the back and a definite interest in his problems.”

The status-enhancement theory asserts that people gain influence by acting dominant and confident. Politically, we are seeing daily how a statement made with conviction is taken to be true even when it is completely false. So, how can we use Embodied Cognition to our advantage and fake it till we make it?

Eye contact

The head of TED says eye contact is the first thing speakers should do to engage an audience. When you look into someone’s eyes, their body produces a chemical called phenylethylamine which can stimulate the feeling of being in love. Another study found that eye contact utilizes the same part of your brain as complex reasoning, which is why people often have to look away during conversation when they are thinking. When used as a tool, eye contact can be a litmus test of confidence—it’s a way of jumpstarting an emotional connection.  Practice maintaining eye contact with the person who pours your cup of coffee and work up from there. Using eye contact can be an anchor when communicating and will make you appear more confident and in control.

Speaking on your spine

Pay attention to your posture in different situations. When you’re nervous, are you closed off? When you’re comfortable, are you standing up straighter? If you naturally slump to one side, intentionally find your postural center and get comfortable living there. You will appear more confident standing openly and upright. According to Cuddy, standing in this position for more than 60 seconds increases your testosterone (making you feel more confident) and decreases your cortisol (making you feel less stressed).

Mindful breathing

Telling a nervous person to take a deep breath can be a recipe for disaster. Breathing can quickly become another thing you’re not doing correctly. Anything that adds to the cacophony of thoughts can be unhelpful. The act of simply putting your attention on your breath can be soothing. The trick is to keep reminding yourself to return your attention to the breath without judgment. Practice Meditation Lite—where you simply watch the breath go in and out for ~25 breaths. Breathing intentionally for a short period of time can soothe the sympathetic nervous system (the part activated by stress) and stimulate the opposing parasympathetic reaction (the part that calms us down).  Setting up small wins is sometimes the best approach to changing lifelong behaviors and learning new things.

Conquer Your Public Speaking Fear in the New Year

Conquer Your Public Speaking Fear in the New Year

A Practical Guide for How to Speak in Public 

You stand up to speak. Your mouth is dry, your heart is beating out of your chest, and you can’t think straight. Many people avoid public speaking all together—in fact, 74% of us are terrified of it and many prefer death to the thought addressing an audience.

It makes sense. Not too long ago, you could be exiled for saying something disagreeable to your fellow humans, and you would be 26% more likely to die if that happened. It’s no wonder then that public speaking triggers our fight-or-flight response.

Just because public speaking makes you feel like you’re about to die doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it (promise!). The key is not to eliminate nerves—that’s setting yourself up for failure. Instead, institute a system that puts you in the driver’s seat of your own voice and makes you feel in control.

We believe that great speakers are made, not born. If you have never spoken in public (or if you have and it didn’t go well) making the decision to overcome your fear is step number one.

In January of last year, Na’ilah Amaru made a decision to overcome her fear of public speaking. Seven months after coming to Bespoken, she addressed the nation onstage at the Democratic National Convention to introduce Hillary Clinton with poise, power and precision.

Na’ilah exceeded her expected goal but we recommend starting small—public speaking doesn’t have to mean addressing a crowd at a podium on national television. It can be speaking up in a meeting, introducing yourself at a networking event, or pitching to a group of investors. Choose a speaking engagement that is achievable and set yourself up to succeed.  Schedule a meeting, apply to a pitch night, or sign up to speak at a community board meeting.

Overwhelmed? Break it down

Deciding to speak in public is a big step so pat yourself on the back! It’s a huge undertaking, and one that takes preparation and practice. Creating a plan for yourself moves public speaking from the scary abstract to the doable specific. Break the process down into actionable steps as much as possible. Here’s a suggested starting point:

Identify your audience

Are you addressing eager students or seasoned executives? Understanding your audience helps you pinpoint their needs, which takes the focus off of you.

Name your objective

Specify what you want your intended audience to do immediately after hearing you speak. Do you want them to hire you? Go to your website? Buy your product? Sign up for your newsletter? Be specific!

Familiarize yourself with the environment

Will you be onstage, in a boardroom or in an elevator?  How big is the room and will there be a microphone? Envisioning the space during the preparation process is essential to success.

See content creation as a journey

Knowing what you want to say takes time. Jot down some ideas and let it soak for a few days. Create an outline of bulleted items you want to include. Perfection is the enemy of good and speaking is dynamic so don’t finalize anything!

Practice

We know that practice is essential and yet, we avoid it and wing it anyway. Deciding to actually work on it sets you up to succeed. Your goal should not be to get it right but instead to practice so you can’t get it wrong. Don’t expect to hit it out of the park the first time you stand to speak it out loud. It’ll be messy, and that’s the point: You’re figuring it out!

Harness nerves

The only thing to fear is fear itself, and fearing nerves gives them power. Accept that nerves are a part of the process. Ask others what their reactions are to public speaking and you’ll find that most people experience similar physical sensations, making you feel less alone. They may call it adrenaline and you may call it anxiety but it’s all the same. Speak it out while running on a treadmill to get comfortable in the discomfort.

Seek feedback

Don’t let the event itself be the first time you do it. Join Toastmasters or ask a trusted friend to come be an outside eye. Better yet, stage a test run in the safety of your own home and welcome constructive criticism on your turf.

Be present

Presence onstage is the exchange of energy, so make connecting with your audience your primary goal. Make eye contact. Breathe. Be in your body. Know that nothing can go wrong because you have prepared.

Still overwhelmed? Break it down even more, and most importantly, make the plan your own. You know yourself better than anyone and you will only succeed if you feel ownership over the process.

1/24 Public Workshop: Train for TED – A Compelling Communication Experience

1/24 Public Workshop: Train for TED – A Compelling Communication Experience

Train for TED on Jan. 24th

We’re partnering with VitaminR Studios on January 24th from 7pm-8:30pm for Train for TED.

More details here: http://bit.ly/2iHPdZY.  Email kori@inspirality.com for a complimentary ticket!

In this workshop you’ll learn to:

  • Transition with ease between communicating with different types of audiences such as potential clients and superiors
  • Vocal techniques to speak with conviction, confidence, and clarity about your work
  • Ways to tackle the discomfort associated with speaking in front of an audience in order to understand where the fear comes from and how to diffuse it

Participants improve communication and presentation skills in a safe space with a trusted outside eye by watching each other incorporate feedback that is personalized for each voice in the room. (Note: participants are invited to come prepared with a two-minute excerpt of a presentation or speech, a personal story, an elevator pitch, or similar.)

Video: #BEprepared | Punch It Out

Video: #BEprepared | Punch It Out

Watch the latest installment in our #BEprepared video series to improve your business communication skills and remember to Punch It Out before a big speech or meeting. For other videos in the series, visit our Videos page.


FOX_0187Bespoken co-founders Leah Bonvissuto and Jackie Miller channel years of professional theater experience into training people to be better communicators and powerful speakers. Our work is customized, on-your-feet and interactive, and designed to improve communication and presentation skills, confidence, presence and emotional intelligence. Rooted in powerful yet practical theater techniques, we provide personalized, in-the-moment feedback to optimize retention and growth. We believe everyone has an innate ability to communicate powerfully and purposefully.

We’re Partnering with Spark Labs. Join us!

We’re Partnering with Spark Labs. Join us!

We are thrilled to announce our new monthly professional development masterclass series in partnership with Spark Labs! Each masterclass will focus on the art of public speaking to help entrepreneurs and professionals strengthen a specific communication or presentation skill. Join us on February 9th for our inaugural class, Own Your Voice with Bespoken, where you’ll learn practical and pro-active techniques to improve vocal command and presence when speaking in high-pressure situations. In this interactive, on-your-feet experience, you’ll receive personalized feedback to optimize your communication and presentation skills. We’ll show you how to make the impression you intended—no matter the stakes. Click here to register (free for Spark Labs memberscontact Andrea to sign up).

About Spark Labs

Spark-Labs is a coworking space based in New York, built by European entrepreneurs who have successfully created, scaled-up and sold startups in the US the past 15 years. Spark Labs is a community of tech entrepreneurs oriented towards collaboration, innovation, and success providing every service required to build a successful business such as a convenient space, investors, mentors, networks, workshops, events, and benefits from partners.

About Bespoken

The story of Bespoken began when two friends decided to channel years of professional theater experience into helping people be better, bolder communicators. We are inspired by the vibrant and powerful connection between speaker and audience and thrive on working with people from all backgrounds and experiences.

Leah Bonvissuto, Co-Founder – Leah Bonvissuto is an award-winning theater director. Always fascinated by what makes the audience-speaker relationship unique and powerful, Leah has worked extensively outside the theater to translate performance-based techniques for non-actors of all ages and backgrounds in organizational and educational settings.

Jackie Miller, Co-Founder – With over a decade of experience in New York City as a director and curator of cultural public programming, Jackie’s work is creatively driven by the relationship between audience and performer. As the Artistic Director of Only Make Believe she serves as the company’s creative lead, producing over 300 interactive theatrical performances for children in hospitals and long-term care settings each year.

Video: #BEprepared | Get Rooted

Video: #BEprepared | Get Rooted

We're excited to debut our brand new video series--#BEprepared with Bespoken. In each video we give you practical, applicable tools to utilize before speaking in public, networking, interviewing and more! Check out the first installment below where we help you Get Rooted before a big speech and be on the lookout for more in the coming weeks! 

#BEprepared | Get Rooted

Go Pitch Yourself at LMHQ on November 3rd

Go Pitch Yourself at LMHQ on November 3rd

DATE: 11/03/2015
TIME: 6:30 PM

WHERE: LMHQ, 150 BROADWAY, 20th FL., NEW YORK NY
FEE: $40

“You cannot think and hit at the same time.” – Yogi Berra

Communication is a skill. Have you honed it? Your expertise and enthusiasm for what you do make you uniquely qualified to speak about your work and your company.

Go Pitch Yourself is an interactive, on-your-feet masterclass where participants hone how to persuasively talk about what they do with potential stakeholders – think: lunch with an Angel Investor or coffee with the Director of Annual Giving at that huge foundation which actually read your LOI.

You’ll practice vocal and physical techniques that will help you make the impression you intended even in the toughest conversations. Together we’ll help you own your ideas and speak from the heart.

Given the interactive format of this event attendance is limited to 15 participants.

Register to Attend

We are Bespoken

We are Bespoken

We’ve walked you through our process. We’ve shared our methodology. In the final part of the series, find out how we use acting techniques to help you own the room and speak with confidence and conviction.

There is a common misconception that the best actors have perfected lying or pretending when actually the opposite is true. Actors train for years to learn how to be truthful in the most unrealistic environment of all–the stage: stakes are high, lights are bright and there are strangers watching their every move.

Actors learn how to speak from a place of truth, clarity and distinction and develop their bodies to be open and responsive. Actors know that the stage acts as a magnifying glass: their words and gestures and the ideas they share must be clear–otherwise, they risk detracting from the story and confusing their audience. Actors spend countless hours in the rehearsal room dissecting the choices they will make onstage in order to consistently connect to the truth of each moment in the play, no matter what is thrown their way. This is called technique.

We believe that these technical skills can be taught to anyone speaking to an audience of any kind.

We trained at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in a method that encourages each actor to use their unique vision to imagine the world of the play so completely that they are not acting at all but merely existing in a set of given circumstances defined by the playwright. Stella Adler believed that the growth of the actor is synonymous with the growth of the human being: “The play is not in the words, it’s in you.” Stella also believed that drama depends on doing, not feeling; feeling is a by-product of doing. Her approach to acting depends on connecting strongly to each other by way of actions and creating dramatic events that take place between “I and thou,” not between “me and myself.”

Like Stella, we believe that you are at the center of your most passionate ideas and that it is essential to optimize your unique perspective in order to connect with your audience. This cannot come through “feeling” but instead must come through doing; physically implementing active tools for communicating effectively.

In addition to training at Stella Adler, we have trained in a wide range of performance techniques—Commedia dell‘arte, Shakespearean performance, clowning, Viewpoints, improvisation, voice and speech and many forms of movement–each aimed at stripping away destructive habits and improving physical awareness in order to engage an audience. We thrive on working with people from all backgrounds and experiences, adapting techniques and tools to fit each person.

At Bespoken, we believe that great public speakers are made, not born. Get in touch to find out how we can help you tell your story and speak from the heart.