The King of Pop. Pedophile. Talented. Wacko Jacko. Everyone has an opinion of Michael Jackson – some loved him, some hated him. Although I wasn’t a fan of his music and found some of the things he did a bit odd and creepy, I certainly can appreciate his talent as a performer and admire the way he touched his fans. I remember when he went to court in 1993, people who he had never personally met waited outside willing to stick by him regardless of the outcome. Whether you love him or hate him, you have to admit that it’s pretty impressive how his fans truly loved him.
You have a lot to say and are enthusiastic about what you have to say, yet you’re lacking one key ingredient – no one can understand you because you mumble. You may mumble and not even be aware of it – although a good indicator is when people are always asking you to repeat yourself because they didn’t hear or understand what you said.
Mumbling is caused by a number of things such as trying to talk too fast, not opening your mouth all the way while speaking, blocking your mouth, not speaking loud enough, or having a dry or sore mouth. Unless there is something physically wrong with your mouth, the key to dealing with mumbling is practice. Just like people can control their stuttering with practice, a little effort and awareness goes a long way with mumbling. Here are two easy ways to deal with mumbling.
Read out loud:
In 2002, I took an acting class. I had always wanted to be on TV or in a movie and I figured that this would be a good place to start. What I didn’t realize at the time is how acting and public speaking can work together – the skills that you learn in one can help you in the other.
To be a good actor, you need to memorize your lines and make the audience believe that you are the person you’re pretending to be. To be a good speaker, you need to speak clearly and effectively to get your point across. Can you see how one can help with the other?
Have you ever met anyone who is soft spoken? Are you soft spoken? One of the biggest challenges facing people who occasionally speak is the volume of their voices. Speak too loudly and you come across as too aggressive. Speak too softly, and you come across as too weak. Many executives (as well as regular folks) struggle with the latter – they’re soft spoken so when they address their teams, they appear weak.
Getting the right volume is tricky for a lot of folks. It depends on so many factors such as:
- The size and layout of the room.
Do as I say, not as I do. It seems like everyone is guru these days yet many of these folks don’t follow their own advice. For example: the Facebook guru that tells people to “always include a personal message when adding someone as a friend” yet rarely does that herself. One of my biggest frustrations which many so-called speaking experts is that they tell people that they should do things when giving a speech, yet they clearly don’t follow these rules themselves when they’re “teaching” this advice.
My recent post on whether Toastmasters should dump the Ah counter role has sparked an interesting discussion. A few folks have posted comments to this site, sent me email and messaged me on some of the online social networking services both for and against the counting of (and caring about) filler words.
Where I stand on the issue is that unless the speaker repeatedly uses filler words over and over again, I don’t find them to be a big deal. So if someone says “ah” or “um” three times throughout a fifteen minute talk, I wouldn’t hold it against them. Now, if they started every sentence off with “ummmmmmmm…” then it would drive me crazy.
I’ll never forget my first Toastmasters meeting back in 2002. There were three fantastic speeches followed by my favorite part of the meeting – Table Topics. If you’re not familiar with Table Topics, it’s the part of the meeting where folks are welcomed to come up and speak “off the cuff” about the topic of the day. I participated and lasted 47 seconds. And, thanks to the person in the “Ah Counter” role, I found out that I had some filler words. At first, I found that role to be very cool and useful, but there’s two reasons why I question whether or not it’s needed – or even helpful.