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Did you know there is science behind speaking slowly? Researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed the phone calls of telemarketers and found that people who paused frequently during their pitch were more persuasive than callers who spoke uninterrupted. The researchers say people typically pause about five times a minute. This speech pattern sounds more believable to listeners than when you spit out words without any breaks.
Nighat Dad’s speech above is a good example of the power of pausing. She gives a passionate, intelligent speech, with a very powerful premise. But occasionally she rushes, and when she does, her words come out in a nervous jumble, and she has trouble with syntax and grammar. Her speech is markedly better when she pauses at the end of each thought.
What do you think? Does pausing work for you?
A good percentage of my client’s presentations deal with technology and science. There are numerous hurdles to overcome when presenting technology; how to make data interesting, how to use metaphor to make complex concepts digestible, how to use wit and humor to engage the audience, etc. But the most difficult aspect of talking science for many presenters is the manner in which they speak.
I think Pranav Mistry gives a good speech here despite having imperfect English. There are moments when his excitement gets the best of him, and he talks too quickly, but the bulk of his presentation is done at a measured pace. When he takes the time to breathe in between thoughts, and slow down, he is much more clear. These “micro-pauses” allow his brain to process what his articulators (lips, tongue, lower jaw, and soft palate) are doing and gives him a moment to think about language. Most of Mr. Mistry’s pronunciation mistakes (some w-v confusion, syllable stress mistakes, problems with phrasing) occur when he is speaking quickly. His brain doesn’t have time to think about pacing, articulation and the like.
You can imagine the left frontal lobe to be a little like a busy highway. The more congested the neural pathways are that connect the brain together, the less likely they are to transmit information. If you speak fast, you clog your frontal lobe with information, and it cannot do what it does best, produce language. So take your time!
There are 44 different sounds in American English. All are important, but some sounds are more important than others. Which sounds should you tackle first?
Vowel sounds play a very important part in language. We lengthen and intone vowel sounds when we emphasize certain words in a sentence. We also lengthen vowel sounds to indicate syllable stress. Vowel sounds play an important part in making words, and sentences, knowable.
Practice these sounds:
1.) The “Cat” Vowel Sound – This is a very common vowel sound. To make this sound, bring your lips into a smile. Keep the tongue flat. The sound is short.
2) The “Fun” Vowel Sound – This sound often gets mispronounced. Many executives, especially Russian speakers of English, make it more complicated than it is. This sound is made by keeping the jaw and tongue very relaxed. The sound is short. It sounds like a small grunt.
3) The “High” Vowel Sound – This sound is long and your lips, tongue and lower jaw move while you make it. To start, round your lips as if you are holding a small ball in your mouth. As you make the sound, move your lips into a slight smile, and arch the middle of the tongue high toward the hard palette. Count to two as you make the sound.