Have you ever reviewed a recording of yourself speaking, be it a simple video message to your family or for a serious job submission? Oftentimes, we find our flaws amplified on the screen, and may even end up detesting the sound of our voices!
With most of us using Zoom more regularly than our keys, we hope to help readers tackle the anxieties of presenting digitally, and communicate better in English.
To understand your needs when it comes to this, I conducted a short survey of my Instagram followers on the common challenges they face when speaking. Many predictably struggle with filler words and speed, while accent and body language are also concerning to others.
Top Tips for improvement
Slow down and use short sentences
Take time to enunciate each of your words while speaking will solve miscommunication issues resulting from poor pronunciation, fumbling and speaking too quickly.
Avoid “rushing” and do not fumble at the end of long sentences. We can opt for shorter sentences that can be better paced while preparing the script.
As a litmus test, try reading this aloud without rushing:
“Furthermore, studies have shown that ubiquitous adoption of social media correlates with the already declining mental health of teenagers in recent years.”
If you find yourself out of breath, you can break it down, pick certain words to emphasise and use pauses more liberally:
“Furthermore, studies have shown (pause) that ubiquitous adoption of social media correlates (pause) with the already declining mental health of teenagers (pause) in recent years.”
Of course, sentences can be shortened, or use less jargon so you won’t have to struggle as much, particularly if you know that you’re prone to rushing.
A lot of people start their sentences strong, but are unable to sustain and end on a powerful note. Slowing down, and simply ending on a firm tone will help.
Looking into the camera
Basic speech courses will teach you to look at the audience and maintain eye contact for four to five seconds before you move on, which is something that should be replicated on Zoom. In fact, a lot of conventional wisdom applies, including helpful hand gestures as a visual signal.
This is more of a PSA, but it’s fairly obvious and distracting when you’re looking at your screen or external monitors while presenting. You should instead look into the camera, which will give the illusion that you are looking directly at your audience on the other side of the screen. Some people I know (professionals!) include reminders to (smile), (gesture), (look) and (pause) in their scripts, which works well in official presentations.
Getting into the mindset of simulating a real presentation will also help guide your body to naturally stiffen or loosen as needed. Ideally, the camera should capture your upper torso while still focusing clearly on your face.
Finally, don’t forget to smile. 🙂
Practise your pronunciation conscientiously
Make good use of any and all opportunities to practise out loud, including real-life events such as the upcoming Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day (or Friendship Day).
You can even find opportunities to speak and connect with people from various backgrounds and cultures online too!
Friends that have your back will point out when you have something stuck between your teeth, or when you are absolutely butchering the pronunciation of facade, or use “like” between every other word. In the next conversation that you have with a friend, ask them if you tend to use too many filler words, or mumble a bit too much.
Listen to Podcasts
Some of us have picked up hobbies such as yoga or crocheting during the circuit breaker. Others have dedicated more time to learning relevant life skills such as cooking or web design. Personally, I have turned to listening to podcasts.
What do podcasts have in common with presentation? In a medium where one’s voice is the only thing that is used to communicate, podcasters have honed their voices to be as persuasive and engaging as possible. Therefore, they are often excellent role models when it comes to digital presentation.
Due to the recent trend in podcasting, there is almost every imaginable podcast out there, from casual conversational podcasts such as Joe Rogan’s Podcast to podcasts run by business entities — including Channel News Asia, The Economist and Vogue. For starters, just hop on to Spotify and you will find thousands of them to listen to your heart’s content!
If you have made it to the end of the article, congrats! Here are some anecdotal tips as your reward.
Let’s conduct an experiment: I’ll try to write the following paragraph using the in-built Speech-to-Text function.
I have found that using speech to text it’s a good thing to actually improve your pronunciation because it forces you to slow down. Although, it is not as good as you might think, actually it’s what what unfortunately. make sure that your mouth is not dry which in teeth repeat pronunciation. see how many What You Get Right what do you get from. initially, it may be difficult for you to read at your normal case. with more practice, you will, or should be able to Ama read at a pace that is comfortable what’s up stop. This method really forces you to look at what where you are correctly are what what more attention. I do not know how much the text speech to text method relies on artificial intelligence to predict what you are saying, nor do I know if it accounts for the regional slang what’s up in this case, I wonder if I am speaking English Singlish. baby in the future. about it fart pronunciation.
of course, good presentations juice is not only about your pronunciation. there is an element of persuasiveness and enthusiasm that you have to put in your sleep Busa many of pronunciation, struggle to hold people’s attention giving presentations or this, I suggest that you can listen and learn from that listening to what’s up.
In the previous paragraph I used Speech-to-Text to demonstrate a point. The function is more effectively used to replace typing for quick Google searches, but my point stands: giving yourself more opportunities to speak as accurately as possible will benefit your presentation overall. Feel free to try out the function for yourself too!
Not all of us aspire to be voice actors, but speaking better is underrated as a form of self-improvement. Speaking standard English in a comfortable manner exudes natural confidence, which can help you secure a promotion as much as impress a lady or gentleman. You never know, we may have to speak over Zoom more often moving forward, or even submit self-introduction clips while applying for a job – that’s quite a lot at stake!