So I did it. I gave my first speech yesterday at the Madrid Toastmasters Club. I join this public speaking club for two reasons:
- I needed an effective way to keep my English sharp
- I wanted to develop this skill in a specific and focused manner, because interpreters, after all, are public speakers too.
From preparing my icebreaker (this is the name given in the club to your fisrt project) and from the feedback I got from my mentor, evaluator and fellow club members I learned the following lessons:
- Preparation: In order to sound natural and fluid you have to rehearse a lot. Interpreters, preparing the terminology is not enough. Making sure you can deliver the sentences that use the terminology that you have so diligently prepared in a pleasant voice and with proper pronunciation and inflection is important too.
- Vocal variety: if you get monotonous, you are going to put your audience to sleep, especially if they are listening to you through headphones and can’t see you.
- Fillers: there is nothing more annoying than the constant use of uhm, erm, ahm. Dear interpreters and public speakers, if you don’t know what to say it is much better to wait in silence than to take up time and mental space with an utterance that doesn’t mean anything. Your audience will appreciate it and you’ll save your vocal chords to say what you really need to say.
- Speed: Less is more. I know from experience that when you have to stay close to the speaker, you feel you have to speak fast so you don’t fall behind. Be careful, though. If your delivery gets too brisk no one is going to know what you are saying, and that would defeat the point of your interpretation. The best thing to do, as usual is to practice, record yourself and then listen. Be honest and objective. Have someone else listen to your recording and get their feedback. If you have chosen this profession, chances are you already have a naturally quick mind, but the lighning speed with which an interpreter can absorb, analyze and transform, is not the natural speed in which an audience processes auditory stimuli.