Read it out loud!

Good vocal variety is the best tool in your public speaking toolbox. It helps keep the audience engaged, provide them with your meaning and emphasis, and activate pathos part of the rhetorical triangle. You could learn to use it effectively to enhance your presentation, just need some practice. However, preparing both content of speech and practicing vocal variety could be hard exercise. One possible solution is using existing text to read them out loud, similar to the Toastmasters legacy advanced manual “Interpretive Reading”.

One excellent source of “fake-it-until-you-make-it” texts is famous letters. Project Letters of Note compiled a collection of the world’s most entertaining, inspiring and unusual letters. It is available in a book form of book and in an online-collection. It was extended by a Letters Live project, a series of live events where remarkable letters are read by a diverse array of outstanding performers. You could find many videos on project’s Youtube channel and use them for practice.

Select your favourite letter and read it out loud to improve your vocal variety! (NB: My favourite is Benedict Cumberbatch reads Sol LeWitt’s “DO!” letter to Eva Hesse)

3 Steps to a Clear Message Strategy

Multiple communication channels available 24/7 are a mixed blessing. They allow to spread the message quickly and in multiple formats. However, it can be easy to lose sight of what really needs to be said. Hence, we could technology on a pause for a moment and focus on the message. There are three simple steps to shape the overarching communications strategy and prepare a clear message.

1. 👩🏻‍🤝‍🧑🏻 First, REALLY know your audience

2. 🌟 Then ask, “What do they need to hear?”

3. 🛣 Now for the fun part: building your strategy. Involve your internal stakeholders 👩‍💻 Contributors, 🕵️‍♂️ Reviewers, and 👩‍💼 Approver(s)

Pronunciation made easy

Pronunciation‘ is one of the most commonly mispronounced words. This fact should alert you about particularities of English. During its history English language accumulated words of different origins–Germanic, French, Roman and Greek to mention a few. That is why we have to learn both spelling and pronunciation. Because all ‘c’ in Pacific Ocean sounds different, and because ‘Ghoti’ is a creative respelling of the word ‘fish’.

Crazy English: ghoti by
Crazy English: ghoti by

Technologies make pronunciation easier, if not easy. Two could be particularly useful when you prepare a speech:

Recorded pronunciation in dictionaries. Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries offer pronunciation of words in both British English and American English. Merriam-Webster is an alternative for American English. Simply click on a speaker icon and hear how the word sounds. Try to pronounce it. Hear again. Pronounce again. Repetition makes perfect!

Pronunciation of pronunciation in Oxford Learner's Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster dictionary,

Use Google Translate to listen the whole sentence. There is also a ‘Listen’ button in Google Translate, available for both source text and translation. Select appropriate language, click ‘Listen’ button and hear how your sentence sounds. This could be a great training tool for your speech. (By the way, you could even beatbox in Google Translate.)

Using of Listen function in Google Translate

How I stopped worrying and learned to love the Grammarian role

What could be worse than a Grammarian role?! Poking finger into people’s mistakes? Sounds dull and unexciting. Moreover, for many Toastmasters English is not a native language. Personally, I’ve learned it in a very strange way–practice separately, grammar separately. And I don’t shy away from creative English. I routinely use the verb ‘to guineapig’ for testing done scientifically. Once I used ‘unmisoverestimateable’ to slow down one crazy daisy manager. (If you wonder what does it mean–something so grandiose, that it cannot be overestimated by mistake. I warned you about my English!) So, during two years in the club, I took the Grammarian role only once. It was impossible to dodge it in the legacy Competent Leadership Manual.

Ancient Grammar Difficulties

This time it was different. This time I jump on the role of Grammarian. I need it to collect the flush royale of Toastmasters roles. No way to dodge. But, could I make it a useful and fun experience? What could be great in this role? Why does this role exist at all? It struck me that I was looking at this role from the wrong standpoint. I was pondering “Whats?” of the role, while the right question to ask was “Why?” In essence, the Grammarian is an educational role. Its scope is to help people improve their English. This “Aha!” moment brought me “Why?” Then “How?” and “What?” came easy.

I decided to make the experience of English grammar fun and educational. Recipe? Take a Word of the Day. Mix with spotting predictable mistakes, season with an education mini-session. Top up with good examples from participants. My Word of the Day session was longer than usual. I linked it to the speech topics–persuasive speaking–and chose the word “coax”. I employed a dynamic Powerpoint Slide to bring pronunciation and examples. That was an hors d’oeuvres. The main course was spotting mispronunciation and running an education mini-session. While “foreign accent is a sign of bravery,” it is also quite predictable, especially when you know who is talking. It was very easy to capture a couple of examples. Next, I did a trick. Instead of playing the blame games and lambasting mistakes, I offered a way to improve. Dictionaries offer great pronunciation functionality, both in Oxford Learner’s Dictionary for British English and Merriam-Webster for American English. There is a wonderful poem “The Chaos,” which highlights all complex pronunciation cases. Last but not the least, I hunted for good expressions used by speakers and paraded my trophies in the final evaluation. “Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing” was one example, which resonated strongly with the speech topics–persuasive speaking.

It worked amazingly well! People were quite happy to learn something new. I reached the goal of my role–to help people improve their English in an encouraging and supportive manner. I learned a lesson–start with “Why?” and frame it properly. Choosing a particular means of “How?” and “What?” is easier when “Why?” is clear. And I have just Toastmaster of the Evening to complete my flush royale of roles.