Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Best Thing I Heard in 2013 About...Public Speaking

During one of our Sandbox Summer Accelerator classes, Todd Frye (Mill Cities Leadership Institute) offered us a class on public speaking.

One thing he said that stood out for me was a break-from-the-crowd opinion about so-called "filler words." His take on them?  They're okay.

Of course, he quickly followed that up with "in moderation."  Still, I like his point -- in so many classes about communication and public speaking, moderators take the approach of, "Get rid of ums, uhs, y'knows, reallys, and likes -- at all costs."

But guess what?  They're natural.

Only when they become a distraction -- like when Caroline Kennedy says 'you know' 163 times in a three-minute TV interview -- are they bad.

Listen to regular speech, though -- the normal, pressure-free, chit-chat type stuff among friends.  The phone, the elevator, the bus stop, the coffee breaks, etc.  You will hear a few of these 'filler words,' but you'll have to pay attention enough to seek them out...they're subtle and sometimes easy to miss.

When people prepare to speak in public, they should be aware of their nervous tics and blind spots, if possible.  They should avoid filler-word repetition that distracts from the ACTUAL purpose of their words. But they should NOT be brought down by a desire to completely eliminate these words...if too much mental energy goes towards THAT purpose, the overall quality of whatever is being said will decrease -- esp. if part of it needs to be extemporaneous, or if it includes Q & A that cannot be scripted.

So, umm...just think about what...uhh...really, like matters...and don't get too bogged down with those, you know, filler words, or uhh...whatever they call them.

Project your voice.  Be confident.  Know your stuff.  Make some eye contact.  Those are the biggies.  

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