The Power of a Single Sound

Let’s give Benedetta Berti her due.  Her TED talk is packed with fascinating information about the way that terrorist states operate, and how to effectively combat them.  I love her inventive Power Point slides, her creative use of statistics, and her rousing call to action.

But as is the case with many Ted-talkers, there is something to be desired in the way she is delivering her speech.  To begin with, she is speaking much too fast.  Keep in mind folks, the audience does not know nearly as much about your topic as you do.  It’s important to take your time, so your concepts can really land.  She also appears to be reading her speech, rather than coining her ideas in the moment.  Since she is so knowledgeable about her topic, it might have been a better idea to bullet point her speech, rather than write it all out, so she could keep things loose.

I’d like to call your attention to her articulation.  She is mispronouncing the “th” sound consistently throughout the speech, lending to some confusion.  Is that “den” or “then”?  “That” or “dat”?  This single mispronunciation is a major flaw in the speech.  Yes, native English speakers will probably be able to translate, and understand the mispronounced word, but what about non-native English speakers?  Will they be able to parse her speech, identify the mispronunciation, and figure out which word she is really getting at?  Maybe.  Maybe not.

If English is not your native language, and you have a speech coming up, run it by a friend, or a coach, or your spouse… anybody who has good speech.  This will allow you to identify where your articulation problem areas lie, and correct them before your big day.

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