Category Archives: Recent

26 
Apr

How old do you sound ?

I have an interesting question for you in this blog. There are individual physical attributes that alter the voice and ageing also affects the way we sound.  So how accurately can listeners estimate how old a talker is without any visual clues?  Not very well, actually: for much of adult life, the voice only changes slightly.  People look for a variety of clues to guess someone’s age.  Perhaps a slower speaking rate is the most useful.  A listener may assume that a lower-pitched voice signals an older voice, despite the fact that a man’s pitch tends to rise after middle age.  Hoarseness, roughness and less precise speech gives no reliable indication either, which may be good news for older speakers as their age may be underestimated.  When we hear a voice that is in good condition, we assume that the speaker is young.

So can we judge height and weight from the sound of a voice?  Well, possibly if we are comparing adults to children or men to women, but within a group such as adult males the voice gives us no reliable clues as to stature.

If we look at other species there is a general trend for small animals to have higher-pitched voices and larger animals to have deeper ones – mice squeak while lions roar.  Also smaller objects which make sounds tend to produce higher-pitched notes than larger ones – listen to a violin and a double base.  This will also be seen when we consider children and adults -size makes a difference to pitch.

Our brains are so keen to develop rules that we will dismiss exceptions like a tall sportsman, such as David Beckham, with a higher voice.  There is a strong relationship between size and frequency for many other sound sources, so we tend to relate this to human voices too.

Perhaps you have had the rather strange experience of meeting someone and thinking that their voice does not match their appearance.  This is especially likely if you have developed a relationship on the phone and created a mind-picture of the person you are speaking to based only on the vocal sound.  Studies now suggest that people are correct at matching faces and ages to voices about 60% of the time.  While this is better than guessing, it is still pretty poor.  So you needn’t worry.  Your voice is unlikely to give your age away!

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!  

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

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Published Date: 26th April 2019
Category: Recent

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28 
Feb

‘I Got Rhythm!’

Apologies for the ungrammatical nature of my title, but I think you will agree that this phrase conjures up a picture of some sort in your brain and that’s the point of this article.

Recent psychological studies have shown that how easily we process a statement can affect our judgement of it. Take the phrases “woes unite foes” and “woes unite enemies”. Basically they say the same thing but the first phrase is more likely to be judged as true because the rhyme and rhythm speeds up the processing in the brain.

Something that rhymes, has alliteration or a rhythmical pattern is assumed to be more likely to be true. This is why politicians and others who want to persuade us, use simple catchphrases which seem to have a ring of truth about them, whether they are true or not.

Advertisers play on this all the time. “A Mars a day, helps you work, rest and play”, is a great catchphrase, although a chocolate bar a day increases your risk of obesity and type II diabetes might be more correct! The use of alliteration, assonance, rhyme and repeated sound patterns can be measured and scientists can now produce software that predicts which lines in a film script will get into the list of most memorable sayings and which slogans will stick in the mind.

It has also been found that if you use more plosives in a phrase, it is likely to be more persuasive. Plosive consonants are the 6 sounds made by blocking the air flow with the mouth and then releasing it quickly. We make two of them with the lips – P & B, two with the tongue-tip T & D, and two at the back of the mouth – K & G. Using plosives makes a slogan more rhythmic and therefore makes it stand out more. Pringles used “once you pop, you can’t stop” successfully in an advert. 

Interestingly, evidence suggests that if you use plosives in your Twitter posts it can improve your retweet rate! Give it a try.

If our brains assume that speech which is easier to understand is more likely to be truthful, what does that say about someone talking in a second language? Does that accent affect the speaker’s chance of being successful in politics, or more generally in a job interview or public speaking? It turns out that talkers with a heavy accent have a harder job of persuading listeners that they are speaking the truth, as a study by the University of Chicago demonstrated in 2010. Researchers asked native and non-native speakers to read simple statements, such as “a giraffe can go without water longer than a camel can”, and asked listeners to judge their truthfulness. On a scale of “definitely false” to “”definitely true”, listeners scored the non-native accent lower for truthfulness. (By the way, the giraffe CAN can go a little longer than a camel because it can get moisture from  Acacia leaves.)


From these results, researchers concluded that because it was hard to process the speech when the speaker had a strong accent, there was a tendency to assume the statement was false. Other research has found that even native speakers with a heavy regional accents are less likely to be trusted but we must remember that this has nothing to do with prejudice. We are simply being influenced by sound and our response to it is subconscious. 

Our responses to regional accents are also driven by stereotypes. Listeners make assumptions of social status, attractiveness and even intelligence based on the voice, despite our brains recognising that this is irrational. In Britain, a “Brummie” accent has historically been singled out as undesirable. Circumstantial evidence of this being a learnt association comes from an unlikely place. A club in Haifa, Israel advertised in a Birmingham newspaper for staff because their clientele loved the sing-song nature of the Brummie accent. As you are reading this you will probably be thinking about accents you like or dislike and the rhythms they make will play a part in this.

Thankfully, there has recently been a general shift in perception. Many regional accents have lost their negative associations and are now often used in call centres because they are seen as warm, kind and friendly. In the US, the British R.P. (middle of the road) voice is often shown as being especially attractive. As one advert attracting UK visitors to Las Vegas stated, ” Visit a place where your accent is an aphrodisiac!”

So there you have it. Our response to a voice is a mix of biological and cultural factors, but don’t underestimate the power of rhythm and speech. Just like that song riff which you can’t get out of your head, your rhythm really matters.

With thanks to George Gershwin and ‘Now you’re Talking’ by Trevor Cox

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!  (there it is again!)

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

 

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Published Date: 28th February 2019
Category: Recent

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02 
Jan

What can speakers learn from the art of rhetoric?

Over 2000 years ago in ancient Greece, Aristotle identified the key principles of rhetoric which are still used by good Public Speakers today and the first of these is the fact that a charismatic voice is as important as a well constructed speech. Here are some of the tricks of the trade:

1) Use contrast/comparison of opposites.
This is a very good way of getting spontaneous applause and politicians do it all the time. You may remember President Jack Kennedy’s famous use of this device:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

2) Groups of three.
If your speech is persuasive this gives emphasis through repetition. It seems to work because repeating twice could be coincidence but four times seems too much. Think of all the examples of this which have been memorable:
“Education, education, education”- Tony Blair
“You will be visited by the ghost of Christmas past, present and future”- Dickens (A Christmas Carol)
“She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah”- the Beatles
“Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” Kenneth Williams in Carry on Cleo.

Studies have shown that lists of three are especially effective in advertising:
“Stop, look and listen”- Road safety campaign
“A mars a day helps you work, rest and play”

You will probably be able to think of quite a few more.

3) Emphatic gesture
Good speakers conduct their audience like an orchestra. You can calm an audience with the palms down gesture and use dramatic movement to encourage a applause on key phrases, but of course this needs to look natural so won’t appeal to everyone.

Well, as I’ve given you three examples, that is probably the ideal number for you to retain so I shall stop now and just wish you happy Public Speaking.

Oh, and while we’re at it, we mustn’t forget that very popular way of beginning or ending a speech
The rhetorical question

Well, what did you expect!?

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!  (there it is again!)

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

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Published Date: 2nd January 2019
Category: Recent

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17 
Nov

Bringing English to Life in China


Last month I spent a week in Shanghai and I thought I’d explain how this all came about.

In 2017 Vivian Wu approached the London Academy of Dramatic Art to see if she could undertake some training to equip her to run an educational company in China which resulted in her obtaining a Teacher’s Certificate in Communication. She had been working in the business sector in the UK for 12 years and was now going back to China where she hoped to offer educational services, including LAMDA exams.

After her return to her home city of Shanghai she set about discovering what the local educational authority were interested in improving and that turned out to be the teaching of English. She contacted LAMDA again to ask if they had an examiner who could deliver a practical course for her and I was recommended. This was partly because I had spent a month examining in China in 2017 and also because I had worked in several schools as a peripatetic speech and drama teacher during my earlier working life.

Emails and phone calls were exchanged and Vivian actually flew over and came to meet me for an afternoon to discuss the potential content of the course. Then it was time for me to write the material, which took a couple of weeks. We began with a 2 day format and this was submitted in competitive tender to the educational authority. We were successful and it then became apparent that there was enough material for a 3 day course and I rewrote accordingly.

Day 1 focused on using poetry in performance to teach pronunciation, rhythm, rhyme and character. The final session of the day explored choral speaking with everyone involved in bringing “The King’s Breakfast” by A.A. Milne to life.

Day 2 was drama based, using devising and play scripts to encourage the natural flow of English expression, imagination, team-work, storytelling and movement. I included mime and mask work too.

Day 3 was instigated by the educational authority. They wanted to see the work in action so I taught 20 junior students (aged 10) using “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll as the source material.

So, October arrived. I flew to Shanghai and had a day to recover before the course began.

There were 33 teachers with an almost equal mix of primary and secondary. Some had very fluent English and some were less confident but all were keen to improve the way they taught the subject. I understood that they only used a “Listen and Speak” workbook provided by the education department and had no direct access to English Literature in the classroom.

This was a very practical course and as non-drama trained teachers they were often taken out of their comfort zone but they all gave it a go.

Questions were frequent and I tried to answer them all. There was a lot of laughter and quite a few “light bulb” moments. When I worked with the primary students, many were astonished.

With the advice of the teacher, 5 children who had good English understanding worked with Vivian on “The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”. I had adapted  “The Pool of Tears”scene for the remaining 15 children in which they all played animals, both real and imaginary. Three strong speakers played Alice, Mouse and Lory who had several lines each and everyone else had one or two. These lines were highlighted on their scripts so after some simple explanation of the characters, where the scene was taking place and what movements they needed, we rehearsed a couple of times and then performed it.

Comments from the teachers included: “You didn’t teach them the words first!” And “They understood that without lots of explaining”. “They now know that part of the book without reading it and they had fun!”

It was a pleasure to encourage the teachers to make their English classes more practical and enjoyable. Feedback has been extremely positive and I anticipate a return visit to Shanghai in 2019 to train more teachers.

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

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Published Date: 17th November 2018
Category: Recent

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30 
Sep

Your Inner Voice

I obviously focus a lot in my posts on the voice and how it affects others but what about the voice we all hear inside our heads?  Well, I suppose it’s the voice we are most familiar with and the one that speaks to us without fear.  You are probably using it as you read this.  In fact, writers of fiction often talk about ‘hearing’ voices of their characters vividly.  That voice can help the writer determine how they look and how they relate with other characters.  They can literally ‘get them talking to each other’.

The voice inside your head isn’t just useful for reading or writing because scientific research suggests that around a quarter of our waking life involves some form of inner speech.  We can use it to help working memory – remembering a phone number for example. It’s also important in motivation – perhaps gearing yourself up for an important presentation or job interview.  And don’t underestimate it’s importance in problem-solving: in an experiment when inner speech was deliberately suppressed, performance suffered.

There are several types of inner speech including the voice that talks when the mind wanders.  This is not engaged in a particular task, but just verbalising thoughts.  Sometimes we call this daydreaming.  Inner speech can be made up of several different voices too.  Try playing with the voice in your head and see what it will do. If you ask a question in your inner voice, do you have an upward inflection at the end of the sentence? For those of you who are old enough, try thinking the famous opening lines from ‘Star Trek’ –  ‘Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise’. Do you find yourself mirroring the tunes of William Shatner?

Perhaps you don’t find it easy to speak with certain accents but your inner voice can be a surprisingly good impressionist.  While many forms of inner speech are closely related to speaking aloud, verbal daydreaming does not have a clear equivalent, except, perhaps, a child thinking out loud when they play.

So what does this teach us about the inner voice?  Well, it seems to be strongly connected with who you are and scientific studies have found that the more people use inner speech, the greater is their sense of self.  And we can can certainly use inner speech to change how we feel about ourselves, which is the basis of talking therapies.

If you found this as fascinating as I did, you might like to read ‘Now You’re Talking’ by Trevor Cox, to find out more about your voice and what it says about you. 

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

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Published Date: 30th September 2018
Category: Recent

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14 
Jul

Exporting Your Voice

Does your business or brand have aspirations or limitations?  I ask this because when you are a sole trader or an SME, it is easy to get into a comfortable rut and bob along happily on the surface of a mainly calm sea………………..enough of these extended metaphors!

I suppose what I’m trying to say is the sky is the limit if you take up all opportunities offered and think BIG even if you are SMALL.

I am writing this month’s blog to tell you about some interesting developments in my own business this year in the hope that they will inspire you to look beyond the everyday and see the possibilities.

Most of my coaching work has been focussed in my Hinckley, Leics studio but 2018 has produced a series of challenges which have come to fruition in the last 6 months.

As many of you know, I have been an examiner for the LAMDA drama college in London for over 30 years.  When I joined the board in 1986 all examinations took place in the UK but in the late 1990’s they were offered internationally for the first time.  In fact, I did the very first session in Singapore in 1996 and later I did the first centre in Tyler, Texas.  All of these foreign centres are an interesting challenge for an examiner.  It isn’t like a holiday where you can plan every detail.  You are usually on your own and you have to cope if something goes wrong.

Last year, in china, I found myself at Beijing airport trying to get a taxi where nobody spoke English.  This was unexpected but after a lot of gesticulating and looking forlorn, someone arrived who DID speak English.  So this year when I was offered 4 days in Vietnam I jumped at the chance to see a new country and, to make the most of it, my husband came too and we had a short break after the work.  I intend to keep taking these opportunities while my health allows.

Today I join a cruise ship as a guest speaker – the first of two cruises this summer.  I’ve been doing this for 4 years now and it came about as a result of a conversation when I was a passenger.  It was suggested by a member of the entertainments team that I should be a guest speaker.  I suppose I could have just laughed it off but I thought the idea was interesting so back on land I looked into it, applied, auditioned and I was accepted.

The first time I stood in front of an audience of 700 people it was scary but also exciting.  Do you have something exciting to share with cruising passengers?  If you do, next year it could be you.

My next challenge is going to involve a lot of work.  I have been approached by a Chinese drama teacher in Shanghai to help her with a project involving the local education authority.  The idea is to train 30 Chinese English teachers to use drama and performance techniques in their English lessons.  I will be devising the 3 day course and we will be delivering it together in late October.  Where might this lead……?  Well, there are 200 state primary schools in Shanghai!

I will only be home for 2 or 3 weeks and then I’ll be back in the Far East in Hong Kong for the Schools Speech Festival.  As some of  you know, I have been going out regularly since 2000 and this is my 10th visit as an adjudicator.  But something is different this year.  18 months ago I was asked to set the syllabus for 2018 and so the entrants will be performing my choices of poetry, prose, dramatic scenes and public speaking topics.  In addition I may be helping to collate a new collection of duologues for future use which will take up a good chunk of my summer break, as the syllabus did last year.  Sharing your knowledge with others is tremendously satisfying and if it means you are helping people to speak better English, it is doubly so.

For those of you who coach, I hope you are exploring the possibilities of working by Skype, Facetime, Zoom etc.  Make sure you spell out the availability of this option on your website because you never know who you may reach.

At the moment I have a client in Armenia – the sky and world are the limit.  Small is beautiful so get out there and market yourself.

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

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Published Date: 14th July 2018
Category: Recent

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09 
May

Why make a Drama of it?


Something is happening in education at the moment which gives me concern.  In order to fulfil the new requirements of the International Baccalaureate many senior schools are having to focus more on extending their ‘academic’ subject range at the expense of creative, expressive subjects like dance, music & drama.

I recently met a teacher who, having worked in a large senior school for 15 years teaching GCSE and A-Level Drama, is losing her job in the summer as the school will no longer be offering these exams.  Should we be concerned?  Well, I definitely think we should.  I’ll use my own education to illustrate why.  At primary school I was fortunate to have the chance to take part in public performances and not just the traditional Christmas Nativity.  We did ‘proper’ little plays and had an Irish dance team which competed in festivals and performed at Cadbury’s annual fete in Birmingham.  I was also in the choir and learnt the piano.  This helped me to develop from a slightly shy youngster (never! – did I hear you say?) to a more self-assured high school student.  

I was fortunate that at my high school and grammar school there were even more opportunities to perform.  We did not have a ‘specialist’ drama teacher but did have English teachers who enjoyed theatre and knew how to bring words to life.  No one wants to sit through a boring class reading Shakespeare.  Of course, everyone hates it – it doesn’t make sense!  But act it out with real feelings and a sense of relationships and it comes to life.  Nowadays many English teachers do not have drama as a specialism and are not natural performers so how are they going to help the next generation to appreciate our great theatrical literary heritage?


What will youngsters be losing if drama disappears from the state syllabus?
→The opportunity to show emotion in a protected environment.
→The chance to let the imagination run wild in creating amazing places, situations and people.
→The ability to rise above any difficulty with ‘words’.  You don’t have to be good at writing to express yourself here.
→The chance to interact with others collaboratively outside of sport.
→The opportunity to learn about the best playwrights in the world and how they have shaped our language today.
→The chance to develop their own ‘Voice’ and confidence in oral communication.

I was also taken to the theatre frequently by my schools – nowadays there are often too many costs or health and safety issues to make this a viable option.  So how are we going to help children appreciate our rich playwriting tradition if they don’t experience it by doing it or seeing it?

I took my granddaughter to her first Shakespeare at the age of nearly 7.  There was some story telling and explaining first but she loved it.  There was visual beauty, magic (literally), spectacle, music and humour.  You don’t need to understand all of the words to feel the atmosphere.

Are we going to confine the subject of Drama to a privileged existence in the Private Schools’ sector?  Are our future actors only going to come from Eton and Harrow?  Diversity?…..don’t make me laugh!  And remember, I have focussed on my particular love – music and dance are destined to go the same way.

You may be thinking – well, does it really matter?  Well, do you want a future where everyone in business is good at taking orders and ticking boxes but has little imagination or creativity and doesn’t know how to work collectively?  I believe that the opportunity creative arts provide to produce well rounded and fulfilled individuals cannot be overlooked.

I hope I have made you think about this.  We owe it to future generations to give them not just a full education at school but a chance to find out what makes them tick as individuals.

“Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.” – Victor Pinchuk

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

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Published Date: 9th May 2018
Category: Recent

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04 
Mar

The Working Voice



Isn’t it interesting that the voice, which we use so much every day, is a part of the body that most of us know very little about. That is because we use it instinctively. But, with a little knowledge, it can become an essential part of your working toolkit.

Voice begins with an impulse from the brain. It is stimulated by an intention to speak or to sing. Two elements produce voice – a flow of air and vibration. The airflow comes from breath. Air goes into your body via the mouth and nose, passes down the trachea (windpipe) and into the lungs. It is drawn down by the contraction of your dome-shaped diaphragm. As this relaxes, the abdominal muscles help to push the air back up the windpipe.

The larynx (voice box) is placed at the top of the windpipe. When we use our voice, we close two bands of muscular tissue in the voice box, called the vocal cords, across the airflow. The out-breath causes the edges of the cords to vibrate against each other, producing sound in a way which is similar to the air escaping from a deflating balloon. The cords vibrate super-frequently. Depending on age, sex, health and pitch the cords may open and close between 60 and 1000 times per second.

The sound waves which are created are immediately modified by the spaces through which they travel. These spaces, the throat, mouth, nose and sinuses – are known as the vocal tract and it is here that the major amplification of the initial note takes place.

Finally to create speech we used the five key surfaces in the mouth – tongue, lips, teeth, hard and soft palate – in various combinations. Our vowels, (producing emotion and accent) plus consonants, (producing precision and clarity), create the words which convey our messages.

Our physical build and habits in speaking affect everybody’s voice. Work on the voice explores the way we make sound. It builds on our natural capabilities, enables us to find new sounds in our voice and to be more effective in our professional work.

The benefits of good voice production are:

  • greater flexibility
  • increased carrying power
  • improved self confidence

So I hope that fills in any gaps in your knowledge in the science of oral communication.

Remember that VOICE MATTERS so use yours to influence others positively.

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

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Published Date: 4th March 2018
Category: Recent

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09 
Feb

Common Sense Tips for Public Speaking


I remember my Public Speaking professor, John Holgate, saying that a good Public Speaker is someone who knows himself very well and can therefore give a very good performance of being himself!

Think about that for a moment. What is public speaking but a formalised one-sided conversation. The key word here is ‘Performance’ because that is an essential element of the speaker’s preparation.

The audience is assembled. Whatever the occasion, they have come to hear what you have to say. This applies to a school hall, a conference room or a rally of thousands of people. They are all there as INDIVIDUALS to listen to you.

Find a moment of relaxation, both mental and physical. Control your body with the correct breathing and then walk with ease and confidence to your required position.

Smile at your audience as you take your place if you can, as this will make them relax and be in a more receptive mood. If you are being introduced pay attention to that person. Keep your eyes up to show alertness and respond appropriately.

Wait for any opening applause or background noise to die down and wait a few more seconds – there is no rush. You can command the room in that pause.

The opening words need real focus as they will allow the audience to ‘tune in’ to your voice. Physically, stand still at the start to allow the audience to concentrate on your words alone. Remain there for a few minutes. Get the listeners absorbed in what you are saying before they have a chance to be distracted by your movements.

So how much should you move? As with many things in life, the answer involves common sense! Moving within limits can be a good thing. It shifts the audience’s focus and can make you feel more comfortable but don’t overdo it. Striding back and forth without purpose is just distracting and can make it hard for people to focus on your voice.

It always makes sense to make your changes of position coincide with natural breaks in the presentation and a new move can re-engage your audience for a new idea.

Relaxation is key but not easy. If you start with a relaxed body and your muscles free of tension then the natural rhythm of your speech should happen without consideration. Facial expression and hand gestures will come naturally too.

Never practice gestures as you will look theatrical. Fussy hands which do their own thing appear nervous, irrelevant and ill-at-ease.


A good speaker looks at the audience, not at his or her feet, the clock on the wall or the ceiling. Try to look about two thirds of the way down the room. Of course you cannot fix your eyes on the same place. You should shift the gaze into different areas, letting each group of people feel noticed.

So do you need to adhere to a specific ‘type’ of delivery when Public Speaking? Well no, because faults in one person are fascinating features in someone else. You may find that certain of your own peculiarities endear you to an audience and if they do you are very lucky. Use them to good advantage.

Always remember that effortless speaking demands effort but what you will find is that once you have made that effort you will also find it enjoyable.

So to summarise – try to be yourself. Strike a confident note at the start. Wait for the audience’s attention before opening with energy. Move about if motivated to do so. Speak naturally using the emotion of the moment. Hands and faces express most truthfully when ignored – just feel it and show it.

Speak wisely
                Speak well
                           Speak Loud & Clear!

Contact:
Web: www.loudandclearuk.com/
Email: priscilla@loudandclearuk.com
Phone: 0800 083 4082
Mobile: 07855685124
Twitter: @VoiceExpert

 

Then……..Enjoy!

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Published Date: 9th February 2018
Category: Recent
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18 
Jan

Your voice & its link to birdsong

I came across this interesting article recently.

Linguists studying languages around the world find they are quite diverse in structure, but there are also common features called ‘universal patterns’. It’s possible there are cultural influences that lead to this or could it be biological in origin?

The ideal experiment is to expose babies to patterns and see what they are producing, but that’s difficult to interpret in humans. Most animals are actually born with the ability to produce vocalisations, but songbirds – like humans – learn during development.

The process is similar to how humans learn to speak: a bird hears an adult sing, memorises it, then starts babbling. It sounds terrible initially, as if you were squeaking a rubber duck, but with time and practice their vocalisations become more species typical. Not unlike human languages, there are common features in acoustic patterns across different populations of birds, but we don’t know whether they are cultural or routed in biology.

So to find out more, scientists raised zebra finches without song. When the eggs hatched mum and dad were left in the nest for less than a week. Only the males produce complex songs, so the father was removed and just the mother took care of the offspring. When the youngsters were able to feed themselves they were housed individually. At that point the scientists took five syllables common in zebra finch songs and presented those to them in every sequence possible – 120 different permutations – in equal proportions and in random order. In fact, all the acoustic patterns you can produce with those five syllables.  This was done with about 50 birds.

It was found that there were consistent patterns that birds ended up producing as adults.  For example, there’s what’s called a ‘distance call’, a long syllable that has a downward sweep. If they produced those syllables, they put it at the end of the phrases.  These birds were bought from pet stores but, despite that, these were patterns also found in wild birds.  That suggested that at least some biological component was present to produce similarities in acoustic patterning.

So, what has been learnt so far?  Maybe the brain likes to hear particular patterns because that allows it to remember more clearly, or maybe there is something about the vocal apparatus that makes it easier to produce those patterns.  Humans have a larynx or voice box and birds have a syrinx, but the general properties of breathing through a pipe that has a membrane is the same. The brain pathways involved in vocal learning in birds are similar in humans.  What we can do in songbirds is probe those neural circuits, something that can’t yet be done humans. In the future this may help us develop further our understanding of the neuroscience of speech and language and how we might build mechanisms to aid humans with problems in this field.

Isn’t the voice fascinating!

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                Speak well
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Published Date: 18th January 2018
Category: Recent

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