Speaking in Public – Your first Steps

public speakingDo you enjoy speaking in front of an audience?

Does the thought of being on stage fill you with excitement or fear?

Maybe you have chosen to go through life avoiding public speaking. This is not the solution. There are many occasions when speaking to a group is going to benefit your career as well as your friends and family.

Public speaking is an essential life skill especially for being a leader. In your professional life you may be asked to give a presentation at a conference. You may be asked to be the best man at a wedding which requires giving a speech. Maybe you need to give a speech at a 21st birthday party.

There are many speaking opportunities for men and women, both young and old. So how can you overcome your fears and develop these skills?

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Crowd-funding Potato Salad and other Craziness

potato_saladThis is the text of  an editorial I presented at Toastmasters as my “Straight Talk” assignment from the Communicating on Video manual.  The objectives are to effectively present an opinion or viewpoint in a short time, and simulate giving a presentation as part of a video broadcast.

Here is my video recording and speech text. Please leave your comments at  the end of the article.

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30 annoying buzzwords


Click to view the image full size.

I read an article on LinkedIn by Bernard Marr where he lists 30 buzzwords / jargon/ management gobblydegook that annoys him the most. Many of these phrases are in use in my workplace, and probably in yours!

I formatted his list into a block of coloured text – maybe I should get it printed on a T-shirt to wear on casual Fridays?

Read Bernard’s article on LinkedIn.

Willoughby Council should enforce No Smoking in Victoria Mall


Passive smoking continues to be a problem in busy urban areas. State Laws are  in place to restrict smoking in outdoor areas like cafes and at  building entrances.  Local councils have installed signs saying NO SMOKING!

But smokers continue to pollute busy urban areas – pollution of the air,  pollution by dropping cigarette butts as well as pollution of their own bodies.

In 2011 Willoughby Council  implemented a smoke free policy  in the Chatswood pedestrian mall. Despite installing signs nearly two years ago, the policy has had minimal effect. I want to breathe clean air in this busy thoroughfare and I call upon the council to enforce this policy!

You can help by  lobbying  the council for action and calling out the hazards of passive smoking.
A two-pronged approach is needed – increasing smoker’s awareness of the dangers and annoyances of passive smoking and  strict enforcement of outside smoke free areas.

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How to improve your English pronunciation

SpeakEnglishIs English your second language and you have trouble with your accent? Do native English speakers ask you to repeat what you said because they didn’t understand you completely?  Maybe you need to practice accent reduction – also known as accent neutralization.

Everyone speaks with an accent –  native speakers as well. I think accents add colour and flavor to a person’s voice. It isn’t necessary to speak like a BBC newsreader – but it is important to be understood.

Learning English as a second language (ESL) is challenging – so people tell me. I grew up in Australia – a country that has English as its national language.  When I was young I didn’t think I had an Australian accent – I was just speaking English. I was aware of English, European and American accents in films and television programs. I didn’t think I had an accent!

So how can you soften your accent? Read on for some tips as well as watch a video recording of me presenting this information.

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Books and pens are the most powerful weapons – Malala Yousafzai

malala1 Malala Yousafzai is a 16 year old girl from the town of Mingora in Pakistan. On the 12th July this year, her 16th birhday, she gave a speech to the United Nations calling for the freedom of education for all children in the world.

When she was 12 years old, the Taliban had banned girls from attending school, which in turn forced ger father to close the all girls school he operated. Malala became an activist, wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC and was the subject of a documentary.

In October last year she was shot in the head and neck in an assassination attempt by Taliban gunmen while returning home on a school bus. She survived and was later sent to Birmingham in the UK for intensive rehabilitation.

Former British Prime Minister and current U.N. Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown launched a United Nations petition in Yousafzai’s name, using the slogan “I am Malala” and demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced on 10 November that 12 July, the birthday of Malala Yousafzai will be celebrated as Malala Day. It is fitting that Malala was able to speak to the United Nations on her birthday.

I watched the speech today on YouTube and was so moved I wanted to share her story in this article. Here is the speech, the text and the documentary and more links.

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Umms, Ahhs and other filler words

A common problem in spoken language is to use unnecessary words or sounds. Typical words are umm,  ah, so, like, you know and ok. We sometimes use these words instead of just pausing and thinking. Listening to a speaker constantly saying umm is very annoying and tiring.

The Umm habit can be hard to break!

At Toastmasters there is a meeting role of “Um-Ah Counter”. Its purpose is to keep a count of how many times each speaker says one of these filler words and to note which word they used. For example, one person may have a  habit of starting sentences with “so”.   When a speaker becomes aware of filler words and bad habits, then steps can be taken to eradicate the habit and become a better speaker.

Here is a description of how to perform the role of Um-Ah Counter at a Toastmasters meeting.

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