Teaching Public Speaking Skills

I have been teaching public speaking skills since 2014. However, this year has been special because I am celebrating my 20th anniversary teaching a wide array of skills. I started my journey teaching pre-ballet classes, adult ballet, flamenco, modern dance, creative dance, dance fitness, ESL and now public speaking skills.

My Teaching Philosophy

My philosophy as a teacher, product of a background in performing arts, TESL, Toastmasters and Conference Interpreting, has evolved thanks to every student I’ve met along the away and can be summarized as follows:

  • I love to teach fundamental skills. I believe that if students have a strong foundation they can go on to developing their own learning.
  • I believe in positive and honest feedback. This approach takes a great deal of humility, respect and the ability to observe, diagnose and offer strategies based on different learning styles.
  • Hands-on learning. Why? Ask Confucius: I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
  • In order to keep teaching I have to keep learning. Based on the principle that I can only teach what I know, I study and stay open to comments from students and fellow trainers.

Teaching Highlights of 2017

I generally teach Public Speaking skills for non-native professionals, and this year, for the first time, I have a review in Spanish. If you would like to get an idea of what my classes look like, go ahead and have a look.

Fortunately for me, that has not been the only review this year. Conference interpreter Aida González del Álamo was kind enough to publish a review of one of the workshops I taught as part of the InterpretimeBank program to reward its supporters. These workshops are unique in their kind because they bring together conference interpreters and speakers, both as trainers and as students.

Bringing Conference Interpreters and Speakers Together

Brussels1Conference interpreters often complain about speakers’ poor performance, but there are very few opportunities to discuss this issue and see how communication could be improved.

During the public speaking workshops I taught in Madrid and Brussels, we all learned some valuable lessons that I would like to share with you.

  1. Speakers and interpreters are a team with a common goal: communicating a message perceived as important by the speaker. We often ignore what our “teammate” does and the pressure each side has to face.
  2. Oftentimes, speakers get to be in conferences as a result of their position in an organization, but this doesn’t mean that they have had proper (or any) training to improve public speaking skills. Therefore, they may not have the necessary strategies to cope with problems such as nerves and anxiety, voice projection, articulation, speed, rhythm, logic, structure and relevance of the content.
  3. Interpreters sometimes forget all the pressure that speakers face when delivering a speech or giving a presentation.

Quotes from Students in Brussels

Read and draw your own conclusions.

Speakers are not as used as interpreters to receive feedback from their peers, so it’s useful to practice public speaking in a group. We can learn from our own mistakes just as much as we learn from seeing how others cope with theirs.

It is easy to see what aspects a speaker should improve from the outside, but it’s not easy to put oneself in their shoes and stand the pressure that comes with speaking in public. Only by doing that can we provide constructive feedback and help the speaker improve.

Practicing in a relaxed environment helps us to improve so we can later face less friendly situations.

   Being aware of one’s own breathing at a time of tension is quite difficult. That is why it’s important to practice breathing exercises that improve voice projection separately.

This workshop has taught me that breathing correctly and having the right posture can help shape the speech and reduce anxiety.

 Pauses help with intonation, which in turn make it easier for the audience to understand what has been said.

 Much like an interpreter, a speaker can really improve by practicing and receiving feedback, but also by giving feedback to others.    

Brussels2

My conclusion

Both speakers and interpreters benefit from getting some public speaking training. Join a club, take some workshops, get a coach. Ultimately we both are “the voice” in charge of delivering the same message to a multilingual audience, therefore, the necessary skills should be up to par on both sides.

Credits:  Photos and art –Lia Giralt. Proofreading –Nuria Campoy Sánchez. Communication –Anna Svalova, Mónica Díaz.

 

 

 

Feliz verano

El caracol y el mar

Feliz verano

Para hacer una buena interpretación ya sea simultánea, consecutiva o de enlace, lo primero, es escuchar. Para ser un buen comunicador, también.

Cuando era pequeña, mis padres me llevaron un día a una playa de arena dorada en el Pacífico mexicano. Cuando empezaba a atardecer salimos a dar un paseo la playa. Un caracol me llamó la atención por su silueta redondeada y sus colores arena y coral.

Mi mamá me dijo que me lo acercara y que escuchara con atención porque dentro del caracol se oía el eco del mar.
Este verano aprovechemos para respirar y reaprender a escuchar. Quizás,al igual que el caracol nos revela el eco del mar, escucharnos a nosotros mismos y a los demás nos revele el misterio de nuestra propia profundidad.

Toastmasters Speech 8: Get Comfortable With Visual Aids

This project is designed to examine the use of slides, transparencies, flip charts, whiteboards, or props. In Madrid Toastmasters we don’t have a flip chart, whiteboard or an OHP, therefore, my visual aids were color printouts in A3 size that I showed during key moments of the speech. It is important to remember that your own body language is a very powerful visual aid because it makes your story three-dimensional and alive.

The steps I followed to craft this speech were the following:

  • I chose a topic which almost everybody knows about and that is very visual in itself.
  • I made several oral drafts that I recorded on my phone.
  • Then I listened to those recordings and started to write down the parts I liked.
  • Next, I worked on the written version. This process helped me clean out the structure and visualize the sections where a visual aid should be present.
  • The following step was to find simple and clear images that would illustrate the point, choose the most relevant ones and print them out in the most appropriate format.
  • I’m sure you guessed what the next step was: practice, practice, practice.

Since this time I first crafted the spoken version of the speech, when I delivered it I felt more comfortable improvising and taking some twists and turns based on the reaction I was getting from the audience. I felt I was actually involved in an amplified, collective dialogue. Some techniques I used to achieve this were:

  • asking questions to get the audience thinking and then provide my answer.
  • using actual dialogues with characters instead of telling them what happened.
  • showing the visual aid and pausing for a few seconds, explain and point when necessary and go on with the story.

I got a very positive feedback from my evaluator and from the audience, but the best thing was to see that people were coming to me and asking me more questions about the speech after the meeting was over!

Speech transcript:

To be or not to be… on Facebook

no_facebook

Please raise your hand if you have a Facebook account. Congratulations. You belong to the one billion users worldwide of this platform.

Mr. Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Today it is a special day for me because I’m celebrating my second anniversary of a life without Facebook.

You might be thinking that I’m a black sheep and that I don’t belong to the 21st century, but that is not true. I am on Twitter, Linkedin, G+, WhatsApp and I have a blog. I just don’t have Facebook and I think my life is better because of it.

A few weeks ago I was in Geneva taking an intensive French course. I met some nice people and made some new friends. Towards the end of my stay I asked them to go out for lunch to say goodbye to them. We went to a nice restaurant on a top floor with a view of the Alps covered in snow. We sat at the table and could smell wonderful Thai food and were eager to share this moment, but one of them, Marylene, kept looking at her phone every few minutes. After a while I asked her, “Marylene, are you waiting for something important?” And she said “No, I’m just looking at my FB wall. I started wearing glasses yesterday and I wanted to see what people think.”

Obviously that was immensely more important than having an actual conversation with us, and the problem was, that after a while even I started to look at her pictures, and her friends’ pictures of their pets, and trips, and food. Do you see the danger here? There are several studies that suggest this very simple fact:talking to peopleBesides affecting the quality of our relationships with people, there is another very important thing that I felt Facebook was taking away from me:

My time.

An average user spends 421 minutes on Facebook every month. This is the same as 7 hours and one minute. Can you imagine what you would do if you had 7 extra hours every month? I can think of a few things I would do: sleep more, take a yoga class, and go have coffee with friends. In fact that’s what I have been doing ever since I quit Facebook.

A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing with a member of Madrid Toastmasters, and with some other friends, the benefits of having a Facebook account. It is true that there are some nice features: you can centralize your photos and contacts, you can inform people of what you are up to, or you can follow interesting articles on fan pages. However I see two problems here.

The first one is privacy. Are you aware of who is looking at your content and do you really want them to know all those details?

If something is private or it affects your loved ones, don’t be narcissistic, and don’t put in on Facebook, you could be hurting someone without realizing it or you could be posting something you might regret later.

The second problem is information overload which is again related to time. My fellow Toastmaster was telling me that she is a musician and she uses FB to promote her gigs. There was a time when I was a performing artist as well and used FB to promote my gigs. I have to say that although it gave me visibility, the hundreds of likes didn’t actually transform into ticket sales, while actually talking to people or sending them personalized messages, did. In terms of following fan pages or groups, I would like you to think honestly if you have time to do all that, and read books, the press and your reports from work.

Although I don’t think that Facebook in itself is inherently bad, I think it is very addictive and it can have a clear negative impact on your time and the quality of your personal relationships. Don’t you agree it’s worth looking into the use you make of it and see if you can make any changes for the better?

I would like to propose to you a 21-Facebook detox plan. For the next 7 days track the time you spend on Facebook. Start your stopwatch when you log on and stop it when you log off, even if you are multitasking. Write down your times and take note of the kind of things you do on Facebook without judging yourself. Just observe and note. If after those 7 days you decide that being of Facebook is still worth your time, set yourself a maximum daily use of Facebook and stick to it for two weeks. Be disciplined and honest with yourself. I promise you that after these 21 days you will notice small changes in your use of time and in the quality of your interaction with the people you love the most. The rewards will be worth it. I guarantee it.

Taller para hablar en público

El pasado 11 de junio tuve la oportunidad de impartir un tallera las consultoras de belleza de Mary Kay en Madrid. En dos horas nos pusimos manos a la obra para analizar por qué nos da tanta ansiedad hablar en público y qué podemos hacer para usar el estrés a nuestro favor sin que nos bloquee.YOGA

Es maravilloso ver cómo, con un poco de dirección, las participantes mejoraban in situ. Esto no quiere decir que con dos horas todos sus problemas de oratoria hayan quedado resueltos. Simplemente quiere decir que ahora cuentan con nuevas herramientas que han conseguido asimilar y que serán capaces de aplicar en su día a día.

Enseñar lo que me gustaría aprender

Cuando estudiaba danza en la Universidad de Nuevo México tenía un profesor de danza contemporánea con una fuerte vocación pedagógica y que escribió un artículo llamado a partir de una conferencia que dio y que se titula Teaching what I want to learn. Además de la historia personal de Bill Evans, lo que me impactó del artículo y de su filosofía como profesor era que lo más importante del proceso de enseñanza no era dar una técnica muy difícil para que los alumnos la repitieran y lograran dominarla. Lo más importante era encontrarle un sentido personal a lo que estabas enseñando y para ello era indispensable diseñar un entorno que favoreciera al proceso.

También en esos años universitarios aprendí que un entorno estimulante y amable fomenta el aprendizaje a través de todo el potencial de la inteligencia humana, con su dimensión cinética, visual, musical, intra e interpersonal. Es ecir, que hay que tomar en cuenta al alumno de la manera más integra posible y además hay que considerar el entrono. Es básicamente indispensable incorporar las dimensiones sociales, corporales, mentales, emocionales e intuitivas de la persona en el proceso de enseñanza-aprendizaje. Sabemos que de esta manera no solo se potencia el aprendizaje, sino que también se ejerce una influencia sobre uno de los factores más importantes para que la persona logre o no logre una tarea. Este factor es la imagen que tiene de sí mismo.

En Toastmasters encontré precisamente este tipo de entorno propicio y amigable. La estructura de las sesiones además permite tener una interacción más directa con tus compañeros y con tu mentor, con lo cual se atienden varias de las dimensiones que mencioné anteriormente.

Volviendo al título de la entrada, en mis años como formadora, siempre he intentado ponerme en los zapatos del alumno y pensar en lo que a mí me gustaría aprender y en cómo me gustaría que me lo enseñaran. Intento tomar en cuenta los diferentes estilos de aprendizaje que tiene cada alumno. Hay quienes tienen una preferencia por los estímulos visuales, otros prefieren las referencias verbales, espaciales o musicales.

Ahora bien, trabajar con un grupo reducido o con un grupo regular es una cosa. Intentar trasladar esta filosofía a un grupo de más de 100 personas y adaptar el contenido de tal forma que todos y todas sientan que se han llevado algo significativo (es lo menos que se merecen por darme su atención durante 45 minutos), es un reto con sus propias dimensiones.

La metodología que usé para preparar este taller fue la siguiente:

1) Conociendo el funcionamiento de Toastmasters y las competencias que ayuda a desarrollar, busqué un área que suele quedarse un poco relegada en el marco de las reuniones del club. Además de mi experiencia personal como miembro, lo que hice fue simplemente plantearle esta pregunta a todos los miembros que pude: ¿si asistieras a un taller de media hora, qué te gustaría aprender?.

2) Obviamente las respuestas fueron varias y tuve que priorizar y tomar una decisión, porque no olvidemos que solo tenía media hora de ponencia y 15 minutos de preguntas y respuestas.

3) Una vez elegido el tema pensé en la manera de hacerlo interactivo y de aprovechar el espíritu de ayuda y compañerismo que Toastmasters fomenta. Así, diseñé una serie de ejercicios muy sencillos para transmitir ideas muy claras y directas.

4) Ya una vez delante del público, decidí que no se trataba de ser una conferenciante con un atento público, sino que quería crear un entorno de co-aprendizaje. Para ello les pedí a los asistentes que tuvieran más conocimientos que trabajaran con alguien que neceseitara más ayuda para el primer ejercicio. En seguida pedí voluntarios para que pasaran al escenario y pudieran interactuar con el resto del grupo. Este aspecto me parece especialmente importante porque creo firmemente en que como más se aprende es haciendo. Dice un proverbio chino:

CONFUCIO

Por último, si te sobran 47 minutos y quieres ver el taller, puedes seguir este enlace.

The Secret Language of Your Voice.

Programa del curso para hablar en público en inglés

A continuación se detalla el programa del curso para hablar bien en público en inglés. 

Microphone-and-audience

Sesión 1, 10 de marzo:

INTRODUCCIÓN
Tormenta de ideas: Oratoria efectiva, principales obstáculos generales y cuando hablamos en una lengua extranjera.
Vencer el miedo a hablar en público. Ejercicios prácticos de relajación y concentración.
Pronunciación.
Asociación de ideas, reactivación de vocabulario.
Discurso improvisado.

Sesión 2, 12 de marzo:

LA VOZ COMO INSTRUMENTO
¿Qué es eso de proyectar la voz?
Respiración diafragmática.
Comunicación no verbal a través de la voz con ejercicios de entonación, ritmo, silencio y variedad vocal.
El cuidado de la voz.
Lectura de un texto preparado para aplicar las técnicas aprendidas.

Sesión 3, 17 de marzo:

LENGUAJE CORPORAL Y LÓGICA DEL DISCURSO
La mirada, la postura, las manos, los gestos.
Práctica con discurso improvisado.
La lógica del discurso. Cómo estructuro mi discurso: el público, el objetivo, el orden de las ideas.
Repaso y aplicación de todo lo aprendido con un discurso preparado.

Es posible elegir clases sueltas que tienen un precio de 30€. Para mayores informes puedes dejarme un comentario, escribirme un correo, o puedes contactar con Eva Rodriguez en el 915632148 o por email: eva.rodriguez@hexagone.es

Hexagone Language Solutions
C/ Meléndez Valdés, 14  28015 MADRID
(metros: Quevedo, San Bernardo, Argüelles)

CURSO PARA HABLAR BIEN EN PÚBLICO

Si necesitas mejorar tus habilidades para hablar en público en inglés, ¡este curso es para ti!

  • Adquiere confianza en tus propias habilidades en un ambiente distendido y amigable.
  • Aprende técnicas básicas de respiración y de relajación.
  • Mejora el contacto visual y el lenguaje corporal para hablar con más naturalidad.
  • Técnicas del uso de la voz (proyectar la voz, volumen, tono, ritmo, etc.)
  • Mejorar tu pronunciación para que el mensaje pase con más claridad.
  • Improvisación y discursos preparados.
  • Escucha activa, retroalimentación constructiva.

Si quieres leer las opiniones y comentarios de antiguos alumnos haz clic aquí.

Para participar es necesario tener un nivel intermedio alto o avanzado de inglés.

Fechas y horarios:

Martes 10 de marzo 19:30-21:30
Jueves 12 de marzo 19:30-21:30
Martes 17 de marzo 19:30-21:30

Coach: Aline Casanova es intérprete de conferencias, Toasmaster y profesora de inglés. Ha realizado estudios de danza, técnicas de voz (canto, declamación) y oratoria en EE.UU. y en España.

LUGAR:
Hexagone Language Solutions
C/ Meléndez Valdés, 14  28015 MADRID
(metros: Quevedo, San Bernardo, Argüelles)

Matrícula: 85 €

Curso bonificable a través de la Fundación Tripartita Hexagone se encarga de todos los trámites por un coste adicional de 10 €.
Si estás interesado en participar, puedes inscribirte antes viernes 6 de marzo en el siguiente link: Inscripción

Si tienes cualquier pregunta puedes contactar con Eva Rodriguez en el 915632148 o por email: eva.rodriguez@hexagone.esunnamed

Sigue leyendo

Ideas for Table Topics

Being Table Topics Master can be great fun. You are basically acting as a facilitator for your fellow club members by igniting the spark of creativity. As a believer in Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory and long time trainer, I remembered one of the key premises from my years in college: stimulate multiple intelligences at once.
According to Gardner, humans have several  significant intellectual capacities or intelligences:

If you only stimulate one, you are going to get one result. If you stimulate two or more simultaneously, be prepared to be surprised.
So how does this applies to Table Topics?
This link is full if great Table Topic ideas, so basically what I did was combine two of the ideas I found here. I gave a scenario, posed a question (linguistic intelligence) and added the unknown variable of having to use your sense of touch (bodily-kinesthetic intelligence) to get an object out of the bag without looking. This object became the core of the impromptu speeches.

The result was great fun (especially form me!) and we got to hear some really creative responses from our club members.Club president

Here are some of the questions I used for this exercise including an introduction and the objects that people pulled out of my magical bag.

When I received the email to participate in this meeting I was thinking a lot about creativity and how to be more creative for myself, to branch out my business and to make better food. Then when Teresa sent me a message asking me what was my favorite toy when I was a child, it really got me thinking about the following questions. In your opinion, who are more creative, children or adults? I think usually children because they are not afraid to say what they think, or to use their imagination to create scenarios where the impossible could be real. Today I’m going to ask you to be like a child. Free up your imagination and let yourself be creative, even if what you say is totally crazy, because believe me, you’ll have no choice.

TableTopics are design to teach how to improvise, to be a quick thinker, and whenever possible to provide an answer of at least 1 minute with a structure, that is, with a beginning, middle and end.

The rules are the following. First I’m going to read the question. Then you’re going to reach into the bag without looking. And then I’m going to repeat the question again.

 

Imagine that you are the object you have just pulled out of the bag. Describe your life to us and tell us why it is great to be you. tennis ball

The object you just pulled out comes from very far away and despite its humble appearance, it is very special because it has magical powers. What are those magical powers? What awesome things can it do?

marker

Imagine that you are a powerful genie, like the one in Aladdin and king asks you for the most amazing object in the known world. When you make the object appear, the king looks confused and disappointed. Explain to him why this is the most amazing object in the known world.

paraguas

The object you have in your hands used to be a politician. But he/she did something very shameful and a powerful sorcerer punished him/her by turning him into what you see right now. Please tell us what happened.

tijeras

 

You have just won a Nobel Prize because of the object you got from the bag. You are in a press conference surrounded by journalists from around the world and they want to know how you won.

manzana

 

Happy Table Topics!

Speech 7, Research Your Topic.

The Toastmasters International Competent Communication Manual states the following objectives  for project 7:

Your speech will be more effective if you can support your main points with statistics, testimony, stories, anecdotes, examples, visual aids and facts.You can find this material on the Internet, at the library and in other places.

Use information collected from numerous sources and carefully support points with specific facts, examples and illustrations, rather than with just your own opinions.

Objectives:

  • Collect information about your topic from numerous sources.
  • Carefully support your points and opinions with specific facts, examples and illustrations gathered through research.

Time: Five to seven minutes

In  my personal opinion, the biggest challenge for this speech is not so much to research and get lots of support but to make the right choice of the things you can say in 5-7 minutes.

When I first started preparing for this speech, I decided to researcha  topic that fascinated me but didn’t know much about. However as time went by, I saw myself with a collection of fascinating information that would allow me to speak for at least an hour.

When the deadline was coming up I decided that this approach was not getting me anywhere and I took a radical turn. Instead of talking about something I didn’t know much about (although by now, I sure did!) I decided to talk about something that I do know a lot about (I’ve even made a speech in Spanish about it before).

The result was mostly positive. I felt very comfortable with the information and since I had saved my sources I just had to go back and re-work with existing material. This in turn allowed me add an extra objective to my speech, which was how to add lightness and humor to a topic that can be difficult to talk about. During the meeting I felt very much at ease, my memory worked better than usual, and according to my evaluator, I fulfilled the objectives.

However, there was one very important lesson I learned that I could have done better. According to my evaluator and to several feedback forms, I gave too much information for the audience to retain. This reminded my that really, when you are preparing a speech, you have to think of your audience, and on how your message will carry to them. This is a point I will definitely keep in mind for next time.

 

Día de los Muertos

SkullOnce upon a time there was a little green skull that was lost. It was trying to find a Day of the Dead altar, but it didn’t know what that was. It was so scared and confused with all the mummies and witches and vampires that it started to feel that perhaps this altar was part of a Halloween party, Mexican style, with mariachis and tequila. So the little guy wandered about and about until it stopped and asked the question:

What is the Day of the Dead?

Dear Toastmaster, fellow TM and friends, the Day of the Dead is not Halloween Mexican-style. In fact in 2003 it was proclaimed Master Piece of UNESCO’s  list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Why? Because this heritage is alive today, it is very widespread among indigenous communities; it is one of the oldest cultural manifestations in Mexico. And people gather regularly to express this tradition through literature, music, dance, rituals, and art crafts.

The little green skull was now curious about the history of this festivity. After all it had  to be very, very old like itself  (or it wouldn’t be a skull). This festivity already existed before the Spanish Conquest. Back then the ritual calendar dedicated two months out of every year to the cult of the dead (yes, two entire months!). One month was devoted to children and the other month to adults that had passed away. Later on with the arrival of Catholicism, these two months of celebration were condensed in two days, November 1st and 2nd, coinciding with All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

From a philosophical point of view, the Day of the Dead a point of encounter between the inhabitants of this earth and their ancestors, but it is also a meeting space for families or even entire communities both rural and urban. And it has a very relevant role: it is a party that marks the transition between scarcity and abundance.  The first harvest of corn and squash happens precisely at the end of October and beginning of November, and those two were some of the main food crops of those civilizations. So it is therefore perfect time to remember the ancestors and thank them for having helped to get a plentiful harvest.

A key element of this festivity is precisely the famous altar, which is what the little green skull was looking for. It is common to find altars at home but also in public spaces. For an altar to be complete, it has to include 10 elements.

1)      A picture of the deceased. This can be a photo or a painting of the person you are paying homage to.

2)      You need candles. They are a religious symbol as well as a representation of the element of fire.

3)      Flowers. There is a type of yellow-orange marigold that grows in Mexico this time of the year called “cempazuchitl”. It is believed that the smell and the color of these flowers help guide the souls so they can find their former home and get to the altar.

4)      Salt. Salt represents purification.

5)      Incense or copal. Copal is a resin that has been used in ceremonies and rituals  in Mexico since very ancient times because it is a symbol of prayer.

6)      The sixth element is called papel picado. You take some brightly colored tissue paper and cut it out in geometrical and artistic shapes. These paper banners represent the element of AIR, because they are so light, that they can wave with the wind.

7)      Next on the list we have fruit. Fruit is important because it represents EARTH, and next to earth water has to be represented. You can simply place a glass of water on your altar and thus you would have the four elements.

8)      Moving down the list, we have the traditional “Calaveras” or skulls, so that’s where you come in my little green friend. Normally, they are made out of sugar or chocolate and it has a person’s name on the forehead. People give it to each other as a sweet reminder that we are all going to end up the same way. It is considered a nice gift and not a bad omen by any means.

9)      Food and drink. Normally people prepare the favorite dishes of their loved ones because it is believed that this food will give the soul the strength it needs to reach the altar and to make its way back to “the other side”.

10)   The last item present on an altar is usually a religious object, such as a crucifix, a rosary or the image of a virgin or saint.

If you want to see a Day of the Dead altar in Madrid you can visit the Museo de América, the Mexican Embassy or in some Mexican restaurants like the one on Calle Libertad or on Calle Fuencarral. For now I’m taking my little green skull to my personal altar at home.

 

 

 

 

Toastmasters Competent Communicator Speech 6

Speech number 6

This project teaches you how to widen your range of vocal variety. The goal is to  use volume, pitch, rate, add meaning and interest, pauses. Personally the biggest challenge was that I already tend to get good feedback in terms of vocal variety but I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and try things that would normally make me feel a bit self-conscious.

Sprouting seeds
Sprouting seeds

Useful Tips:

  1. Choose a topic for your speech that you are passionate about. If you have strong emotions you will find it easier to play with volume, rate or pitch.
  2. Meet with your mentor or a friend to practice your speech. Even if you haven’t memorized it completely, a second opinion will be very useful in terms of the words or phrases you should lengthen, shorten, or play with. My mentor’s feedback was invaluable in this sense. He gave specific advice on HOW to say certain sections and when to add silence for dramatic purposes.
  3. If you have trouble memorizing your speech, divide and you shall conquer. I found that even though I lived this experience, reflected upon it for a while and wrote the speech myself, it was still hard to memorize (and thus to practice it afterwards) because I chose the words very carefully and I didn’t want to deliver my speech haphazardly (it makes me waste precious time). My strategy then was to divide the speech in sections and give them a short heading. But it had to be something specific (avoid intro, body, conclusion) such as farmer with accent, or woman and seeds, or my science experiment. I memorized this short mental map with its key words first. then I went section by section, and then I tried to link it up. When i noticed that some sections were still weak, thanks to this structure I was able to review specific segments without losing details or connectors.
  4. Record yourself. Whether you prefer video or just audio, the feedback you’ll get from hearing and seeing yourself will help you point out the things you like and can enhance and the things that need work. For example, I once got several feedback forms saying that sometimes I looked up too much. It wasn’t until I saw myself in a recorded practice that I realized how that looked to the audience and I managed to change it. You will also see if you sound monotonous or too fast. If you are feeling brave you could even listen to your recordings with somebody else and write down their comments.

 

I hope you enjoy project number 6 as much as I did and that you get some valuable tools to enhance your public speaking skills. Below you will find the speech I wrote for this project.

Seeds

Mr/Madam TM, fellow TM’s and guests,

A few weeks ago I went to Norway to work as a volunteer interpreter for an international movement called La Via Campesina. They fight for food sovereignty and for the right of peasant farmers  to produce, multiply and exchange their own seeds for free.

As part of the activities, we went to visit an ecological goat farm. Let me show you a picture of the baby goats I saw. They were so cute! You may be wondering what seeds have to do with goats, and this is what the farmer told us in a very think Norwegian accent:

“We produce about 40,000 liters of goat milk a year. If the milk is good quality, we sell it at 8 KR a liter and we set some aside to make excellent quality cheese. If the milk is not so good, we can only sell it for 4 KR a liter and we don’t even bother trying to make cheese.” As you can see, if the quality of the milk is not right, they only get half their income for the same amount of work in an entire year.

The farmer then said that in order to produce good milk the goats needed to be healthy. He said that if they feed them mostly grass organically produced by them their goats almost never get sick and they get good milk.

As a long-time city dweller, my knowledge of goats and seeds, I must confess, is very limited. However, this whole experience reminded me of a science experiment I did in the 2nd grade. Our teacher asked us to take a couple of beans and put them in a small jar on top of some wet cotton balls. She told us to water them every third day to keep them moist, to place them next to a window and to wait.

I remember first checking on my beans and seeing that nothing was happening day after day. But then one day I saw a tiny white sprout sticking out of one of the seeds. I was so excited I went around showing it to everyone in the house. A few days later the bud grew and it became the root. Shortly after, the seed opened in half and two tiny leaves started to unfold. After a couple more days, the seedling developed and into a tiny plant and the seed disappeared. It was time to transplant it into a pot with good dirt. From then on I watered my plant every third day and just watched it grow in amazement. It got taller and greener every day. Shortly after it needed a stick so it could wrap around and keep developing. Then one day, it started to grow flowers. The flowers transformed into a pod, the pod grew and finally the plant gave way to new seeds.

 

My visit to the goat farms in Norway reminded me of some very valuable lessons connected with seeds, with all seeds, but especially with my metaphorical seeds. Many great philosophers and poets have used seeds to teach us about the emergence of great potential over time. A humble kernel can grow into a huge tree that can even populate an entire forest if the conditions are right.

In one of the talks I interpreted (about food sovereignty) I heard a woman from La Via Campesina explain how peasant farmers had selected their plants for centuries, choosing those which had larger fruits or more grains, and adapting them to different soils, climates and tastes.

I really liked this idea because in life when we want to make something happen, we have to start by planting a seed. This seed can be a dream or a thought that you have to select and perhaps adapt to whatever cards life might have dealt you. Another important element, you have to make sure the conditions are right: the soil where you plant has to be full of nutrients (perhaps finding the right people to help you develop your idea, or the right partner to start a family).Then, it has to get plenty of light and air (productive thoughts, ventilation). Remember you have to water it every so often. This means that you have to write your to-do lists and get to work. And finally you have to do what my second grade teacher said with the authority of an elementary school teacher: be patient and wait.

The waiting part may sometimes be the hardest part. Sometimes we want or need things to happen quickly, and when we go and check on our seeds, we see that the soil is just there. It looks like nothing is happening underground. At this point it is tempting to get impatient and to spray your soil with chemical fertilizers to try to help things a little bit. It might even be tempting to say, oh forget about this seed, it is taking too long, and go get a “genetically improved” seed that will perhaps grow faster, but… beware. The fruit produced by a seed that was modified may not be as tasty, it may just taste like foam. It might grow faster and yield a couple more apples, but then you may not be able to use those seeds again. If you added a ton of fertilizers, your fruit may not be as safe to eat.

The most valuable lesson that I learned from the farm in the frozen mountains of Norway, is not only that baby goats are really cute and they’ll produce great milk if you feed them right, but also I learned that your own ideas, your projects, your seeds, are valuable. Be convinced of their potential.

Plant the right seeds and you can populate a forest, feed a community or even start a revolution. You have to do your job: select your seeds, sow them, wait and harvest, but it is worth it. As the American Poet Henry David Thoreau said:

“I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”