To Improve at Speaking, Try Annotating Your Words With These 5 Symbols

Preparing in advance can help you practice where to put the stress in your voice or add dramatic pauses.

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By Arthur Joseph


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One of the truly transformative techniques of Vocal Awareness is learning how to "make voice visual" -- employing a technique called "visceral language." This technique enables us to both convey the emotion of words as well help us gain confidence in our ability to "tell the story" consistently and compellingly.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Become a Better Public Speaker -- Fast

With music, the art is in interpreting the visual symbols written into every bar. The musical page tells us everything we need to know in terms of speed and dynamic, yet how we interpret these symbols changes the experience entirely.

In Vocal Awareness, visceral language can be combined with the spontaneity of an unscripted performance using visual cues that we learn to see in our mind's eye or in scripted performances, such as PowerPoint presentations and keynotes, where they are notated into the document.

I recommend that you create a small three- to four-sentence paragraph, about 30 seconds when spoken -- and annotate your text with the symbols found below. When you are done, practice delivering your paragraph in front of a mirror with an audio recorder or video camera, striving to conscientiously interpret the symbols. The next step is to close your eyes, repeating your prepared sentences while "seeing" the annotated phrases.

Related: Shark Tank Star Barbara Corcoran's Top 2 Public Speaking Tips

The final step is to create two meaningful sentences without writing them down and attempt to deliver them again while seeing visceral language. This process could seem at first blush complicated or overwhelming, but it is not. It is sort of like riding a bike. Once we learn how to do it, we never forget.

  1. Everything begins with stature, so put an "S" at the top of your page. This symbol will enable you to always conscientiously embody who you are.
  2. CLB for conscious loving breath. This symbol goes at the beginning of paragraphs or before important thoughts. It is a slower, deeper breath than usual. It also enables us to create more "thinking time" as it slows our communication process down, which in turn helps us both become and appear more confident.
  3. / is a downbeat. This symbol goes over a syllable that you want to stress, as in the word extráordinary. When putting stress on that syllable, it helps impact the word with more meaning.
  4. See a period. Every time we stop, even if it is not a complete thought, literally -- not figuratively -- see a period! Each time we see a period, our pitch drops and we convey more authority and what we say becomes more definitive.
  5. Underline important phrases. "When I speak, I need to be aware." This technique helps us subliminally embed key thoughts in our narrative.

These tips are only a partial list, but they are fundamental to getting the right start. Once you have begun to master these, you can move on. When you have completed learning the entire visceral language regimen you will have added a critical tool to your communication tool kit and will have taken a major step in achieving communication mastery.

Related: 5 Presentation Tips From the World Champion of Public Speaking

Arthur Joseph

Author, Communication Strategist, Vocal Coach/Teacher, Executive Speech Coach

Arthur Samuel Joseph’s Vocal Awareness Method has been a game changer for thousands of celebrities, corporate executives and multinational corporations. His client list ranges from Michael Irvin to Angelina Jolie and Arnold Schwarzenegger, from ESPN to the NFL to Deloitte & Touche. Joseph’s newest book is Vocal Leadership: 7 Minutes a Day to Communication Mastery (McGraw-Hill).

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