The Business of Speaking
You might not think that being a good public speaker is a very needed skill in your particular ministry or line of work. But you witness, don’t you? You probably also give 12 FS classes from time to time, or help host seminars, pitch appeals, present your work, and participate in performances and shows, all of which could be enhanced by your learning a few of the basics of public speaking.
To highlight this point even further, here’s a foreword from the Lord:
Jesus: The Family needs those who are trained and educated in the area of salesmanship, public speakers, those expert in relating to people. The Family needs those who can host and teach a seminar, pull off a large-scale fundraising event, or organize a program for the top of their area. These are skills that you can’t just pull out of a hat–you have to learn them, and studying the basics really helps!
If you want to become an expert or a professional in some field, then you’re going to have to do some study and really show you’re serious about it. That’s why I’ve made [education] a requirement—so you can build on your God-given talents and inclinations and become professionals that I can really use.
Again, even if you don’t have a ministry that requires a lot of public speaking, being exercised in the basics of good public speaking can only enhance your witness, presentation, and interaction, on any level, including at home. Now how could you not want that?
So without further ado let the journey begin…
What happens in the shower, stays in the shower
The first thing to realize is that if you’re afraid of speaking before an audience, you’re not alone! Some of the greatest public speakers of our day started out as extremely shy, private people whose main strength was that they refused to accept their speaking inadequacies. That being said, the outlook for your becoming a decent speaker, one who can actually feel comfortable before an audience, is rather bright if you’ll follow a few simple procedures that can be helpful.
Let’s begin your journey toward effective speaking by leaving out the “public” for the time being. There are several ways to go about this.
—First, go into your bathroom, take off your clothes, and step into a nice hot shower. With the water going full blast, open your mouth and say in a normal tone of voice, “Good evening, folks!”
Ridiculous? Not at all. One of your main problems as a speaker is that you don’t speak enough. The more you speak out loud as though you are speaking in public (even if the “public” isn’t present), the better you’ll get.
(Editor: Of course, most of us live communally, so attracting a crowd during one of your shower monologs is possible if you get carried away. Heh. Something to be mindful of.)
—Next, while you’re still standing in the shower, imagine there are some people before you and try a few “silly” sentences. You might say, “Good evening, folks. … Unaccustomed as I am to speaking about world affairs while naked as a jaybird—I like it!” Complete nonsense, but very important as a first step in your effort to turn yourself into a good public speaker.
The main idea behind this exercise is twofold: (1) to get you into the habit of seeing yourself in the attitude and posture of a public speaker, and (2) to give you practice in hearing yourself speak out loud before an audience, even if the audience is imaginary.
Warning: Do not imagine you’re addressing an audience of thousands. If you do, chances are you’ll freeze! So limit that shower “audience” to just a few people, maybe a dozen or so old friends. After all, how many people can you crowd into one shower!?
—Now, try the exercise again in a slightly louder voice—but this time step outside the shower and watch yourself in the bathroom mirror as you speak. Keep loose and natural, and remember: What you say doesn’t have to make a bit of sense. It doesn’t matter, by the way, if you have to stop for a few moments as you wait for a thought to come to mind. Pauses are a key part of any good speech, so the sooner you get used to silent moments in your delivery, the better.
After you’ve spent a few days speaking out loud to your mirror, or under the cover of the shower water, you’ll be ready to move out of your bathroom and into the world. But don’t worry! You’re not going to appear before a real audience yet. You’re still in the “secret” stage of your speech making. At this point, though, I do want to put you in contact with a real person.
—Start with your family or a very close friend. You’re not ready yet for practice in front of outsiders, no matter how much confidence your shower speaking experience has given you. Effective public speaking is a step-by-step experience, with the first steps being as short and measured as possible. If you try to move ahead too quickly, you may fall flat on your face, lose whatever confidence you have gained, and be discouraged from continuing with the program at all.
It’s best to start this phase of talking to real people slowly, just as you did with your isolated practice in the shower. You could start with your own family at the dinner table.
—To find something to talk about, look through the newspaper or a recent magazine and find a story that is full of human-interest details and doesn’t try to be funny, preachy, or persuasive. The subject you choose should have enough length in the telling—perhaps a couple of minutes—so that there is an opening, a middle, and a strong finish. Now, tell the story in your own words. Your telling of the story should be continuous until its completion. Use this technique for a few weeks.
—Next, you should try to vary your “secret speaking” projects by choosing more difficult topics and then moving outside your family to try out your budding talents on friends and acquaintances you don’t know quite as well. Before you get together with these outsiders, though, you may want to spend some extra time planning what you want to talk about. One approach might be to…
*Look over a recent magazine or newspaper article that you’ve read and pick out one news story with an interesting sequence of events
*Study it closely
*On a separate piece of paper, jot down what you consider to be the three or four most important points or facts in the article
*Finally, note your opinion of the event or editorial viewpoint you’ve read about. It’s absolutely essential that an effective speaker have a definite position—a clear-cut set of convictions on the subject he’s talking about. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, you can’t be a truly effective public speaker.
*It will also be helpful to go over, out loud, the points and brief opinions you’ve written down. Practice your “secret speeches” privately a second and third time out loud, just to be sure you can express yourself fairly smoothly. At this stage keep your talking short—only two or three minutes for your description of each article.
—When you’ve finished your third dry run, you’re ready to get together with your friend. Sit down at the table with him, act natural, and talk about whatever you normally talk about for a few minutes. Then try telling your news story to him.
So how’s that for a simple start. Not too bad, right? Don’t forget too that there is plenty of help Upstairs available to you. Between the Lord, the keys, that host of helpers, and a little practice applying some of these techniques you should be well on your way to being a better—and perhaps eventually a great—public speaker.
The reason that most people are afraid to speak publicly is that they’re too self-centered. We each tend to constantly evaluate ourselves in light of what others think of us. And because our personal flaws are more exposed when we’re speaking to 50 people than when speaking to one, we tend to become 50 times more worried about the image we’re projecting.
The real secret of overcoming this self-centeredness is to focus on the other person, or on other people if you happen to be speaking to a group. Ask yourself, “How can I get my point across to the greatest number of people out there? What do I have to do to convince them that what I’m saying is really important to them?”
Focus on getting outside yourself when you face your listeners. Keep your eyes and your attention always outward, rather than inward. Get more interested and absorbed in your audience than in yourself. And soon you’ll find yourself moving with the ebb and flow of emotions and reactions being emitted by your listeners. When you begin to sense this spiritual and emotional movement in your audience, you’ll find yourself being catapulted into a new dimension of communication with other people. And you’ll begin to think, perhaps when you’re in the middle of a presentation, “This is exhilarating! This is fun! Why haven’t I been doing this all my life?”
Dad: The greatest stars are those who don’t know they’re stars. The greatest men are the ones who didn’t know they were great, at least they didn’t feel great. What makes you REALLY great is the greatness GOD gives you–the SPIRIT, the inspiration.
You have to have the Holy Spirit which people recognize as something great. That’s what the world today calls charisma, a kind of a mystical charm, a divine anointing, a supernatural fascination. That’s what every really great musician, singer, speaker, performer, prophet or king must have, a divine anointing.
It’s the power of God! He makes the difference between lifeless clay and the alive, pulsating energetic body of a human being! It’s the breath of God, the anointing and power of God that makes the difference–and don’t you forget it!
Without Him you’re nothing! I don’t care how much education you have, how much of an orator you are, if you haven’t got the fire, it profits nothing! If you haven’t got the fire I don’t care how “good” a witness you are, how many verses you learn, how much you understand Bible Prophecy and can describe every Beast in the Book and hang a label on every horn! If you haven’t got the fire, it’s just cold dead icicles of facts and figures–no warmth, no heat! You’ll never set anybody on fire without it! All you’ll do is get them muddled up and turn them off.
The SPIRIT can turn it on, no matter what it is or who it is, and give it glory and glamour and life!–Beauty, joy and life and heat and everything.–You name it! It’s the SPIRIT that makes the difference.
Man of the Hour
Apostle Peter: I’m not here to teach you a lot of tricks to make you look confident or tell you how to know just what to say in every situation, or even to tell you catchy phrases that everyone will like. I’m here to help you find out how to let go of your own talents and boldness and learn to focus on doing whatever the Spirit leads you to do. Then you will find yourself in just the right place at the right time. As you let Jesus take over your mind and as you speak from your heart, the power, the boldness, and the conviction will pour out.
Top Up: Improving Your Speaking Voice
Do you like your speaking voice? Is your voice clear and forward or does it have a swallowed or strangled feeling? Are you often hoarse after speaking for a prolonged period of time? Are you enunciating when you speak? Are you speaking to the best of your ability?
Following are a few techniques that you can practice on your own to improve your voice quality. Before getting into the details it’s worth mentioning that if you find that these tips make you too self-conscious to make sufficient progress in your public speaking, especially for those of you who are more on the shy side, you can always put these aside until such a time when you feel more comfortable. Or you could focus more on these tips when you’re in a non-public setting, while not being too distracted by them when you’re trying to be more bold in a public setting. Now, on to the tips to improve the quality of your voice:
1. Record and listen to your natural talking voice on either a Dictaphone or voicemail system. Keep repeating the same message until you are satisfied that you sound like a confident and pleasant person.
2. While listening to your voice, search for common voice problems such as a monotonous tone, squeakiness, an accent that is too thick or tendencies to mumble or to talk too fast.
3. Use your diaphragm. Practice long and controlled exhales. When you speak, use breath to punctuate your point. For example, take a breath at the end of each phrase whether you need to or not. Use that opportunity to pause and let the listeners absorb what you say.
4. Moderate your volume. Find out if you speak too loudly or too softly. When you begin speaking, ask your audience how your volume is (each situation is different). Try to stay at the appropriate volume throughout your speech.
5. Moderate your pace. This one is also closely related to breath. If you speak too quickly, people can’t keep up. If you speak too slowly, people will lose interest. Record your speech to determine if you need to change your pace. Get feedback from others.
6. Use pitch. Lower pitches generally are more soothing to hear. However, modulating your pitch for emphasis will keep your listeners engaged. Develop your pitch by practicing humming.
7. Articulate. Try exaggerating your lip movement to reduce mumbling. Practice articulating tongue twisters and extending and exaggerating vowel sounds. Become an expert at articulating tongue twisters as quickly and crisply as possible. Focus on the ones you find difficult.
When Giving a Speech
Step 1. Follow the instructions above on improving your speaking voice.
Step 2. Practice your speech in advance and determine where you want to pause for a breath. For more emphasis, pause for more than one breath. Mark your breathing points in your notes.
Step 3. Loosen up before you begin. Look side to side. Roll your head in half-circles and roll your shoulders back. Shift your rib cage from side to side. Yawn. Stretch. Touch your toes while completely relaxing your upper body, then slowly stand up, one vertebra at a time, raising your head last. Repeat as needed.
Step 4. Release tension in your face. Blow through your lips. Move your face through various expressions. Stick out your tongue. Yawn. Stretch your jaw.
Step 5. Notice your breathing before you begin. Make sure it’s even and natural.
Step 6. Hum before you begin.
Step 7. Drink plenty of water. Have water or herbal tea available during your speech. Punctuate your message by pausing for a drink of water at key points. Avoid milk and caffeinated drinks when giving a speech.
Step 8. Stand up straight and tall to allow full lung capacity and airflow.
In addition, at the start of the day try a few of the following exercises. Soon you’ll find a new, more natural and relaxed voice evolving in no time:
Humming: One of the easiest and most accessible ways to improve the quality of your voice. Rumor has it that Frank Sinatra used this technique as his only “warm-up” before singing onstage. To prove its efficacy, speak a sentence prior to humming. Then hum for five minutes. Feel your lips vibrate. Hum high, hum low. Then speak the same sentence again. You’ll notice a cleaner, more forward sound. That’s the natural sound and placement of your voice.
Yawning: Could this get any easier? That’s right, yawn with sound (that natural “slide” sound from a high note to a low note). Don’t feel like yawning? Then fake it. Try this a few times in a row. Notice the relaxed opening in the back of your throat. Most of us restrict this part of our throat, due to stress and fatigue. The idea is to keep the same open “yawn” sensation when we speak throughout the day.
T-time: Enunciation is one of the weakest elements in most of our speech. Making some small changes in the way you pronounce words can change the way you are perceived. True or not, people who enunciate properly are often considered intelligent and well-spoken. So how do you start cleaning up your speech? Say the words “notice” or “little.” If you “notice,” you probably say something closer to “nodice” and “liddle.” For one day, focus on your T’s. You don’t have to overdo it—small changes make a big difference.
Let Your Words Breathe: Most of us have a tendency to speak in a “slurry” manner, eliding one word to another. Pretty soon, an entire sentence sounds like one word! Grab your nearest magazine or newspaper and read from it. Exaggerate each word, focusing on the separate quality of each and every word. While you may not want to speak like this on a daily basis, you’ll get a sense of what true enunciation is all about.
Listen to the Pros: The next time you are listening to a newscast, imitate the anchorperson. These professionals are trained to speak quickly, clearly, and concisely. Notice how much authority they radiate simply from speaking well. Try it on for size.
Breathing: Ultimately, breathing is the “root” or support of our speaking voice. If you are an anxious or uptight person, you need extra help here. When you wake up in the morning, observe your breathing. It is slow, steady, and seems to come from your abdominal area. Take one minute each day and breathe deeply. Place your hand on your abdomen and focus on your breathing emanating from there. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your chest relatively still. This amazingly simple exercise not only changes your speech, it’s relaxing and reminds you of your true, natural breathing pattern.
These exercises are at your disposal throughout the day, so there’s no excuse not to try them! Remember, your voice is one of the most essential aspects of you. Keep it tuned up and working well. You can avoid an annoying voice quality by taking time to follow a few simple exercises like these—it’s an easy way to improve your voice, thus your communications with others and ultimately, your confidence.