Tag Archives: voice

Confidence Tricks – Presenter / Presentation Skills

product_thumbnailIt’s here! Everything you need to know about confident presentation and public speaking skills in one reasonably priced book. See table of contents at the bottom of this page!

For over thirty years, Alan Mars has coached individuals and groups of delegates from leading public and private businesses and organisations. He has also taught Alexander Technique and voice-work in leading performing arts schools. Alan has taken the best techniques from the world of the performing arts, Alexander Technique and NLP, and set them out in this book, with practical exercises, case studies and insights.

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Confidence Tricks – Presenter

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

– CHAPTER ONE –
WHAT IF I WERE A BETTER PRESENTER?
WHAT WOULD MAKE ME BETTER?
2500 Years of Theatre
Anchoring
THE WISDOM OF INSECURITY
TOOLS FOR YOUR JOURNEY
GETTING STARTED
Terminology
Working with the exercises
Materials
A positive attitude

CHAPTER TWO
WHAT DOES BETTER LOOK LIKE?
STYLE
Practical Exercise
The singer and the song
Alive relaxation
Practical Exercise – Observe
VITAL INGREDIENTS FOR THE COMMUNICATION CAKE
OBSERVATION AND FEEDBACK
Visual
Vocal
Verbal
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE PRESENTERS?
Practical Exercise – Your own radio report
Case Study – Maria
Practical Exercise – Mind’s Eye, Mind’s Ears
DELIVERY
Practical Exercise – The Grand Old Duke of York
LISTEN AND LEARN
The Home Ham-let
Case Study – Interview with Robin Prior

CHAPTER THREE
CREATING A COMPELLING GOAL
THROUGH POISE TO PURPOSE
THE VMBR STUDIES
AN INTRODUCTION TO ALIVE RELAXATION
YOUR CENTRE OF GRAVITY
Practical Exercise – Centring
Case Study – Robert
BALANCE AND GROUNDING
Practical Exercise – Footprints in the sand
Case Study – John
PERIPHERAL VISION AND PERSONAL SPACE
Peripheral vision
Practical Exercise – Walking with an expanded visual field
Practical Exercise – Personal space
Practical Exercise – Walk of Shame or Walk of Fame?
Case Study – John Bourke and his All Ireland golf medal
PERCEPTUAL POSITIONS & PERSONAL RELATIONS
PERCEPTUAL TOOLS
The radio reporter revisited
A little black book
Mental rehearsal ingredients
First perceptual position: your own viewpoint
Second perceptual position: the audience’s viewpoint
Third perceptual position: a detached vantage point
DEALING WITH DIFFICULTIES
Come Back Home!
Case Study – Paul Marwaha
STATE YOUR GOALS IN POSITIVE TERMS
Practical Exercise – State your goal

CHAPTER FOUR
HOW COMMITTED ARE YOU?
GO FOR IT!
Planning — Step One – Four
KISS – Keep it Simple and Straightforward
REDUCING FEAR & INCREASING CONFIDENCE
Keep your head
Posture, Impact and Confidence
How to ‘wear your head’ skilfully
How to keep your head
The Weight of your Head
Rocking Stones
Atlas Supports the Occiput
Delicate Levers
The Skull
The Spine
The ‘Through Line’
Practical Exercise – Your Puppet String/Through Line
Keeping it Simple – Centre, centre, centre
EMOTION, BREATHING AND YOUR VOICE
Exercise 1: Observing restriction
THE SIZE OF THE PERCEIVED TASK
Your emotional state
Practical Exercise – Hasten slowly and pleasantly
Chunking
SELF-BELIEF
Internal voices – talking your walk
Practical Exercise – No nagging
PERSON AND JOB — GETTING THE FIT RIGHT
Case Study – Phyllis

CHAPTER FIVE
BETTER THAN WHAT?
USING YOUR SKILLS
Confidence or Assurance?
HUMAN MIRRORS
Practical Exercise – Mirroring
EYE CONTACT
How long should eye contact last?
Eye contact starts at the feet
Sight lines
ENERGY APPROPRIATE TO THE VENUE
GET TO KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Your friends and allies in the audience
Case Study – James Lawley
FEEDBACK – ELECTRONIC AND PERSONAL
But I hate the sound of my voice when it’s recorded!

CHAPTER SIX
STRATEGIES AND TECHNIQUES
GENERATING YOUR CONTENT
Right brain: The Creative Generator
Left brain: the Editor/Organiser
Key words
Mind Maps
Index cards
Practical Exercise – Key Words
WILL ANYONE REMEMBER YOU?
STRUCTURING A PRESENTATION
Introductions: purpose, benefit and structure
The End: Summary, Conclusions and Next Steps
Case Study – Cheryl Winter
A Structure for Presentations – The 4MAT System
Bribery – without the corruption
Practical Exercise – BRIBE
QUESTION AND ANSWER STRATEGY
STYLE
Air Sculptures
Case Study – Dave
Going over the top
Practical Exercise – Air Sculptures
MOVING EFFECTIVELY ON STAGE
The stage walk
Practical Exercise – The stage walk
Practical Exercise – Walking backwards
Case Study – The stage walk and adrenaline control
SPATIAL MARKING AND ANCHORING
Timelines
Practical Exercise – Timeline
Spatial marking in business
THE POWER OF COMMUNICATION

CHAPTER SEVEN
PRACTICALITIES
DEVELOPING ‘NOUS’
PRESENTATION STYLES
Formal or informal?
Large or small?
Tell or sell?
Mixing sell and tell
Participative
Coaching and training
Internal or external?
USE OF VISUAL AIDS
Visibility and clarity
Visual aid or handout?
Non-verbal relationship to visual aids
Low-tech longevity – the perennial flipchart
Projectors
Popular programs – go easy
Preparing slides
The T-shirt theory (less is more)
MICROPHONES AND PA SYSTEMS
PREPARING THE ROOM

CHAPTER EIGHT –
FEEDBACK
HOW DID YOU DO?
Case Study – Dr Brent Young
Evolving your own feedback form

CHAPTER NINE
BALANCING WORK WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
Rhythm and the art of management maintenance
Rest and replenishment
Timing critical appointments
Case Study – Robin Prior

CHAPTER TEN
ALEXANDER TECHNIQUE HISTORY & BACKGROUND
What is the Alexander Technique?
The Alexander Story
Into the Looking Glass
The Principles
Direction
Sensory Appreciation
Pausing
Lesson Description
Application Technique

CHAPTER ELEVEN
SEMI-SUPINE POSITION BENEFITS
Preparation
Semi-Supine Position Equipment
Getting Into the Semi Supine Position
Bullet point Alexander directions

CHAPTER TWELVE
THE PRACTISED PAUSE
SILENCE, PAUSING AND PUNCTUATION
Who are you speaking to?
Practice Pausing
Practical exercise – The Sonnet Stepping Stone

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
A WORD ABOUT BREATHING
TAKE A DEEP BREATH?
Compressive forces
Expansive directions and managing the out-breath
The Diaphragm
Practical exercise – Breathing in the semi-supine position
Practical exercise – Breathing in the prone position
Summary

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
WILLING IT AND LOVING IT
CLOUD-WATCHING
The big picture
Planning your life

Resources

ALAN MARS

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Healthy Teacher – inset courses & individual coaching

Harriet Anderson and Alan Mars offer a range of “in school” / Inset courses, f or schools and individual coaching for teachers called Healthy Teacher:

Alan Mars & Harriet Anderson

* Vocal coaching
* Stress management
* Confident performance
* Alexander Technique

 

The courses are available in various lengths from 90 minute tasters to a full day. In September 2011 Healthy Teacher will also be offering modular courses from their studio in Brighton and Hove. Individual coaching sessions are available by appointment in Brighton and Hove, in-school or online via Skype. Please visit the site at this link Healthy Teacher.

scientists with boring speaking voices. quentin cooper material world

I was driving along the M25. For those of you who don’t know – the M25 is a motorway that encircles Greater London. It is essentially a huge, very busy and, in my humble opinion, extremely boring roundabout.
I’m quite keen, in the interests of self preservation, to stay awake. So I turn

quentin cooper material world
“I'm a passionate believer that science is a perspective rather than a subject and that with the right approach everyone can engage with it at some level.” Quentin Cooper

on the radio. Radio 4 is my usual choice. What’s on the radio? “Material World”, presented by Quentin Cooper. A science programme. I like to hear about developments and various controversies in the world of science – despite never being any good at science subjects in school. I enjoy buying science magazines occasionally – I like the colourful pictures and the colourful text. So, as far as Material World is concerned, I’m a keen customer.

Do I become increasingly alert and awake? Am I drawn, fascinated, into the colour and fascinating subject material? I am not! My eyelids are becoming heavier and my head is drooping toward the steering wheel.

Why? Well, the presenter, Quentin Cooper is always upbeat in his way of speaking. He gives the subject matter, whatever it may be, the verbal and vocal enthusiasm it truly deserves… Sadly most of the interviewees speak within a very narrow band of auditory frequencies. Monotone in common parlance. It sounds as if the scientists vocal “loudspeakers” are turned in toward their body, rather than outwards towards a public that is thirsty for the latest news. This is not true of all the interviewees of course – but one can’t help thinking that the exception tends to prove the rule.

So, regretfully, I turn off Material World, roll the window down a little more and put on some rousing music… Ah! that’s better… and safer.

About 20 minutes later I turn on Radio 4 again for some verbal, intellectual, stimulation again. It’s a general arts programme, Open Book, presented by Mariella Frostrup. Most of the interviewees come from the worlds oftheatre, film, literature and the visual arts. As a group they speak louder than the scientists. Crisper articulation. More musicality, ups and downs, in the spoken phrase. They vibrate the air around them with their speech. They give a good clear signal to the studio microphones. I can hear effortlessly. I wake up. I drive more safely.

The irony is – Mariella Frostrup’s guests were talking about book contracts. Not the most scintillating subject in the world – but I remembered it. What were Quentin Cooper’s guests discussing? Mmm. Nope… still can’t
recall. I’m sure it was intrinsically more interesting but it’s gone. In fact, I don’t even think it lodged in the first place.

Scientists! Your speaking voice is like a door. Use it well and you can open up that doorway so that people can step through it share your enchantment with the subject. Use it badly and you can slam that door shut in the face of a friendly visitor.

The human voice is, amongst other things, a muscular mechanism. And like other muscular mechanisms it is amenable to training that increases strength and flexibility. That increased muscularity and flexibility in your voice will translate into increased comprehension and understanding on the part of your listeners.

Make it easier on your listeners and don’t leave all the work to Quentin!

Killing the English language? Easyjet safety announcement. Voice & speech coach

I had an unusual experience today. I was flying by Easyjet and… I could clearly hear and understand every single word of the safety announcement! Well done Sarah!

I had just been coaching an executive, of eastern European origin, who worked for an American multi-national company. I said to him that native English speakers were frequently the worst culprits for massacring the language. He was extremely surprised and sceptical about this assertion.

“Ok” I said “have you ever listened to a Lufthansa safety in English?”

He nodded to indicate “Yes”.

“So,” I continued “what about an Easyjet safety announcement – in English?”

He conceded my point and went on to say that, as a non native speaker of English, he found them impossible to understand. As a native speaker I also find them virtually incomprehensible.

Why? Well I sympathise with the crew. I want to underline quite clearly here that I think Easyjet staff are extremely hard working and demonstrate great professionalism in a demanding work environment.  And, as a professional performer myself, I would also hate to be ignored completely by an audience of over 100 people.

So the crew member who delivers the safety announcement, more often than not, rushes through it at breakneck speed with all the under-articulated words and syllables melting into one another.

Only a really skilled native English speaker could make such a glorious mess of it! And I know that they can speak very clearly when they want to – which is most of the time. Announcements about food and drink, onwards travel, landing cards and charitable donations are all clear.

And what message do the passengers get? The safety check, at least by comparison, doesn’t really matter – let’s tick this item off the list as quick as possible.

Now, I sympathise because I’ve been there. As a musician and a public speaker I’ve spoken to inattentive or even hostile audiences. And through training and experience I honed that special combination of body language, vocal strength and verbal clarity and verbal clarity that, more often or not, turns the situation around.

The point that I’d like to make is this – learning doesn’t only happen consciously, it also happens unconsciously. If you speak clearly, reasonably slowly and with authority:

1. The passengers, maybe just a few, are more likely to listen to you.

2. Even if they don’t listen to you consciously the message is more likely to embed in the unconscious anyway – we’ve all had the experience, for example, of a tune or snatch of conversation that we just can get out of our mind… I believe the Germans call it an “earworm”.

Clearly the crew are under a great deal of time pressure during the period of embarkation and take off. Where does that pressure come from I wonder?

Easyjet management and training – are you listening? The safety announcement is more than just a list item. English, the language of Shakespeare, is a beautiful language.  Please give the words the vocal power and clarity they deserve – it’s called “stage presence” and “stage craft”.

Voice Training Vocal Coaching workshops London, Brighton and Hove

Voice Training Vocal Coaching workshops London, Brighton and Hove

The Alexander Technique - move through your life with greater ease Freeing your voice - The Alexander Technique applied to the speaking and singing voice Presentation Skills Training - Applied Alexander Technique with Alan Mars
Voice, confidence & presentation coaching with Alan Mars
Voice, confidence & presentation coaching with Alan Mars

Voice training London, Brighton, Hove presents…

Alan Mars has taught Alexander Technique, voice-work and singing both privately and at many top London drama and music schools , including the Arts Educational Drama School, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal College of Music, since 1982.

He has taught Alexander Technique and presentation skills within many top British and international companies (including: Abbey National, General Electric, Sainsbury’s, Lloyds of London and many other)since 1992.

After 22 years of teaching in London he now also teaches in Brighton & Hove and offers courses and personal coaching across the UK.

 

 

For more information please go to his website http://www.thetechnique.co.uk/index.htm
A list of workshops in London, Brighton and Hove is available here http://presentationskillslondon.wordpress.com/

 

http://alphainventions.com/

Voice Care for teachers, lecturers, trainers, coaches. Practical tips.

Voice Care UK      Vocal Care UK
Voice problems coaching London, Brighton, Hove

This article seeks to give you a basic understanding of your voice and how to warm-up your voice for classroom teaching. It is not a substitute for medical attention – if in doubt consult your GP.

 A SIMPLE ANATOMY LESSON

Imagine that the speaking, singing human being is constructed like a musical instrument. Your skeleton is a basically cylindrical shape- from your pelvis, through your ribs, shoulder girdle, larynx (voicebox) through to your skull and jaw all connected together by the column of your spine. This is the central, skeletal core of your vocal instrument onto which the bones of your arms & legs attach. Our skeleton is covered in sheets of muscle which wrap around it spiralically to create a perfectly tailored “elastic suit”…

The “elastic” of your muscles can either contract and shorten or it can release and lengthen. Together these two qualities, contraction and release, enable you to move around easily and efficiently. BUT.. because of habit and the lifestyles that we lead nowadays, most of us are using far too much muscular contraction. Medical authorities, alternative and mainstream, warn us about the dangerous effects of prolonged muscular tension. On a mechanical and postural level this mis-directed muscular tension has a distorting effect, causing, to a greater or lesser degree, a tendency to shorten, narrow and twist natural skeletal alignment.

The elastic suit, such a perfect and roomy fit when we were young children, becomes restrictive of our movement. This all has a correspondingly restrictive effect on the voice: inaudibility, shakiness,  harsh and grating tone.

Common Stresses of the “Elastic Suit”

Lack of Body Awareness

Perhaps the most common cause of vocal difficulty lies in a lack of awareness of how we use our body in daily life. We are experts at screening out sensory information that is not directly connected to achieving our goals. An activity as simple as making a cup of coffee would become unmanageably difficult without this ability.

As we focus more intensely on goal directed behaviour our body can become increasingly muted. Day by day we accumulate small, seemingly insignificant amounts of tension without even noticing it. Just as constantly dripping water can distort the hardest stone, these small accumulations of tension have a detrimental effect on both body structure and voice.

Anatomical Misconception

Most people have only the vaguest of ideas about how their body is put together. And many of us simply have wrong ideas about how the body is structured. How many of us, for example, can accurately locate the full length and circumference of the spine; where the head and spine join each other; where the larynx is; where the jaw joint is; and where the ribs and diaphragm join with the spine? All of these parts, to name but a few, are part and parcel of the professional speakers stock in trade. Misleading ideas have a direct bearing on how we use the voice. It is possible to get a sound out of a trumpet by blowing in the wrong end but the process is wasteful of effort and the sound produced is disappointing.

Fear and Anxiety

In situations of perceived threat a group of responses called the “fight/flight” syndrome comes into force. Adrenalin is released into the blood stream. Breathing and heart rate speed up. The muscles become more tense. The shoulder and neck muscles are among the first to contract, pulling the head down, tortoise fashion, towards the centre of the body.

For the primitive hunter/gatherer this whole pattern was discharged by actual fight or flight after which everything returned to normal. It is not appropriate, however, to “fight” with your class or to take “flight” and lock yourself in the lavatory, tempting as both options may seem at the time! Fortunately there are many ways of creatively channelling the energy of the fight/flight pattern to enhance vocal security and ease.

Preconception of Effort

Imagine someone lifting a heavy looking suitcase only to find it empty – or lifting a light looking case and finding it full of bricks. If the lifter does not pause momentarily to truly consider the weight of the case, they may sustain an injury. Speaking, like lifting the case, is equally a muscular activity. Taking time to pause and consider appropriate effort is one of the single most important elements in freeing the vocal and breathing mechanisms.

Force of Habit  

Our largely unconscious postural and vocal habits start to feel familiar by virtue of long practice. Better postural and vocal conditions can, paradoxically, feel unfamiliar and even wrong in the beginning. A willingness to tolerate unfamiliar conditions will lay the foundations of lasting vocal freedom and security.

TIME FOR A CHANGE !

Find a place where you will not be disturbed for fifteen minutes. Tapping into the full potential of your voice will require a quality of self acceptance. Any sound that you make is going to be unconditionally acceptable! This leads to a reduction in the fear reflexes that interfere with easy voice use.

In a series of experiments in the early nineteen forties, the surgeon William Faulkner established that when his patients thought of something unpleasant the movement of their diaphragm became restricted, shallow and irregular. These breathing changes were accompanied by a corresponding tightening of the oesophagus. And this in turn was accompanied by negative changes in the quality and characteristics of the patients voice.

When, on the other hand, his patients thought of something pleasant the movement of their diaphragm became expansive and regular and the levels of tension in the throat reduced. All of this was accompanied by positive changes in the characteristics of the patients voice. 1.

As a simple, practical, voice warm-up let’s try repeating Dr Faulkner’s experiment…

Vocalising and moving from restriction.

Take a couple of minutes to remember a time when you were feeling a bit pressured and restricted. Use all of your senses to recall and relive this memory as fully as possible… what you were seeing and hearing around you and what you were feeling.

Now look around the room. Does it look any less bright or friendly than before? Walk around the room now. Do you feel taller or shorter? Do you feel wider or narrower? Are you breathing freely or are you holding your breath? Is your walking lighter or heavier? Smoother or jerkier? Easier or tenser? Indicate with your hands how wide or narrow your “personal space” seem to be.

Vocalise an “aahh” sound. How easy or difficult was it to vocalise?

Vocalising and moving from ease.

Move around the room and stretch to dissipate the effects of the last experiment.

Stand or sit in a reasonably symmetrical, balanced way and…

remember a time when you felt on top of the world – use all of your senses, seeing, hearing and feeling to recall this experience. Stay fully in this place for a while longer and allow yourself to take two or three easy deep breaths with the emphasis on the outbreath. Let this feeling spread through your entire body.

Look around the room again. Is it any brighter or friendlier now? Walk around. Do you feel shorter or taller? Narrower or wider? Are you breathing freely? How large is your “personal space” now? Is your walking heavier or lighter?

Vocalise an “aahh” sound. Notice in what way your voice feels and sounds different from the first experiment.

Which state, cramped or expanded, would you prefer to be in when speaking?

Congratulations! You have just taken the first step in liberating your body and freeing your voice. “Embodying” a pleasant experience while vocalising a vowel sound, simple as it sounds, can make a real difference to your voice:

By vocalising vowel sounds in this positive spirit you will find yourself in good company:

“When I started serious study, I spent the first six months vocalizing only with the vowel sounds. Day after day I would be singing ay, eee, oh, eye, ooo… my teacher, Arrigo Pola, believed it was essential. And he convinced me. Over the years I have become even more convinced of the importance of this.”

Luciano Pavarotti- My World Page 282

MORE PRACTICE

Do some vocalised ahs. Play around with the volume – a bit softer, a bit louder. Play with the pitch – higher and lower.

Experiment with combinations of volume and pitch – high and soft; high and loud; low and loud; low and soft.

Slide from quiet to loud to quiet again on a single note. Repeat the same with a variety of vowel sounds.

Avoid straining your elastic suit as you do this. Continually return to a sense of ease in your vocalising. Allow your breath to return effortlessly and naturally between sounds avoiding any exxagerated sucking and sniffing of the air.

Vocalise an ah sound and then gently bring your lips, but not your teeth, together to make a humming sound. You may notice a subtle tingling or buzzing sensation spreading across your lips and face. This feeling may spread to other parts of your body – throat, chest, fingertips etc. This tingling is associated with muscular release and increased peripheral blood flow.

Now, if you’re feeling adventurous, sing a song! Sing several songs! Singing, even if it’s something you only do in private, is a great tonic for your speaking voice.

1. Faulkner, William B. Jnr., “The Effect of the Emotions Upon Diaphragmattic Function: Observations in Five Patients”, Psychosomatic Medicine, 3, No. 2 (April 1942).

What is the Alexander Technique?

“The Alexander Technique teacher uses their hands to lengthen your spine; they coax you into moving lightly and easily; this induces a sense of calm and well being; the teacher accompanies these wonderful experiences with careful verbal directions!”

Back in 1982, when I qualified as an Alexander Technique teacher, there was nothing I hated more than being asked “What is the Alexander Technique?”. Especially at a party or other social event. But I’d launch into my enthusiastic little rant regardless (see above). The hapless questioner would look longingly across the room for more mainstream company.

It’s much easier nowadays. People are more likely to have heard about the Alexander Technique. If they haven’t they are more likely to be open minded or curious than they were in 1982.

Nowadays when someone asks “What is the Alexander Technique?” I’m more likely to respond with something general like “People find it really useful for dealing with bad backs, stiff necks and assorted stresses and strains.” or “Actors and singers find that it frees their voice and reduces stage fright.”

Mostly this leads toquestions like “Have you worked with anyone famous?” At which point I look knowing and smug and reply “Oh I couldn’t possibly say. Confidentiality and all that!”

If the questioner is genuinely curious and asks “OK but how, specifically , does Alexander Technique help bad backs; free the voice; reduce stress?” I will then probably give them a potted history of F.M. Alexander and his discoveries.

So that’s exactly what I’ll do in my next posting. If you’d like to find out a bit more about what an Alexander Technique lesson looks like click the link below. Happy reading!

Alexander Technique photo album