Sunday, July 12, 2009

Your top priorities: "I need to enunciate"

On the Eloquent Woman Facebook page, I've started a discussion to ask readers to share their top priorities for improving their public speaking. Enunciation and clarity are noted by two readers. In the study of phonetics, enunciation actually means the act of speaking, and to do it well involves clarity and concise speaking. What better target could a speaker have?

I wasn't surprised that these readers mentioned pacing in the same set of concerns, because pacing often can help you achieve better clarity and enunciation. Here are some tips to get you moving toward better enunciation, clarity and pacing:
  • Practice with a text: While my goal as a coach is to get you off the page and into the extemporaneous as a speaker, this is one area where practicing from a written text can help you improve. First, read through a text while recording yourself on audio or video. Play back your reading with the text in hand, marking areas where you hear slurs, combined words, stumbles or just too-fast reading.
  • Adjust the text: Once you've heard and identified your stumble areas, mark the text to alert yourself to the need for pauses, and underscore specific letters or syllables you need to pronounce more clearly. If need be, prepare a version of the text with phonetic spellings for hard-to-say words--or, rewrite the text to work around words difficult for you. (In my journalism days, I once had to rewrite a radio script because the on-air announcer popped her P's...a real problem when the script described "pickpockets" and "purses." We went with "robbers" and "handbags" instead.)
  • Know your problem words. Use these exercises--and any public speaking experience--to note specific words or phrases that trip you up, and repeat the adjustment exercise, above, until you find the right solution.
  • Slow down! For many speakers, words running together are a symptom of too-fast speaking. Stop yourself mid-phrase, if need be, to make sure your audience can hear you clearly. (You can say, "I want to make sure I don't rush through this, so you can hear how important this point is," and then re-deliver your line--or pause and ask, "Did everyone hear that?" with a repeat, slower than the first delivery.)

If enunciation and clarity are among your top priorities, I hope you'll take the time to enter our contest, 15 Weeks to Step Up Your Public Speaking, by midnight ET July 31, 2009, and join our Facebook fans using the link above right. You'll get the chance to win free coaching around your top 3 speaking priorities, plus a Flip Mino HD camcorder.

Related posts: When the speaker needs to catch her breath

7 reasons I want you to talk less

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