Performing better: developing your speaking skills
It may seem strange to use the word ‘performing’ but that’s actually what we are doing when standing in front of a group of people! Whether we know the people or not, we have to perform in a way that actors perform on stage: we want our audience to be interested (ideally!), we want them to leave having learnt something and the best presentations leave the audience feeling inspired or committed to a course of action. So how can we engage our listeners? What techniques can we employ that don’t rely on advanced level language? Here are some areas we focus on in our intensive courses.
1. Creating emphasis: we can help you to identify words or aspects of pronunciation that create the right emphasis so that you communicate your message effectively. One way to do this is by using an intensifier such as an adverb: we’re doing extremely well, demand has increased dramatically. We look at which verbs and adverbs combine naturally so that your presentation flows. We can also work with certain fixed phrases, which you may hear a lot in native-speaker contexts. We look at your needs and your natural presentation style and develop a vocabulary that best suits you.
2. Involving the audience: it is often more interesting to present your ideas as questions rather than direct statements. In fact, some of our students tell us that this is part of their natural style and they feel it involves the audience more. We work with correctly framing rhetorical questions to help you sound more natural, for example, ‘ What can we take from this information?’ or ‘How does this theory play out in practice?’. If you have a presentation to deliver, we work on it in detail in the individual classes and for any tricky sections, we may even suggest recording some parts so you can take listen and practise further at home.
3. Using your voice: there are a number of techniques you can use to create the effect you want. We start with making sure that the longer or more technical words are pronounced clearly (and with the correct stress). Then we can move onto how language is organised into phrases or chunks, helping you to pause in the right place (we all know the power of a pause!). Then we can move onto the pacing, intonation and the overall delivery. Don’t be alarmed – this is done in subtle stages and the amount of focus that each person needs is different. Some students, for example, have mastered the pronunciation of most of the key words for their presentation and can focus on the pacing.
These are just some common areas where we work; there are many more ways to improve your presentation skills – I personally like triple words together (our service is fast, efficient and professional). Why not visit Trebinshun House and develop your ‘performance skills’?!