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Chris LoCurto

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April 7, 2011

How To Speak Gooder

Many people struggle with public speaking. For years I’ve helped other people improve their speaking, and there is one issue that always pops up – the inability to think while speaking to a group. What I mean by that is, you get so focused on what you’re saying, or what your script is, that when you mess up, you have nowhere to go. This also has a tendency to create the um’s, and uh’s that so many speakers insert into their talks.

When I started public speaking 16 years ago, I had to deal with this issue as well. It frustrated the daylights out of me mainly because I didn’t want to look stupid standing in front of a group, frozen, not knowing what I was supposed to say next. So I did what I always do, I figured out a way to not do that.

I started asking myself what I could do to train my brain to think in that situation. So I came up with a little brain exercise I now teach to every speaker, or future speaker, I work with. I start by looking around the room to find an object to speak about. Once I pick an object, I start talking nonstop. I quickly find that I am unable to consistently speak about that one object. So I don’t. I change the object quickly in my mind and start talking about it, and then another object, and then another.

As I continued this exercise, I was able to train my brain to think of where I was going, instead of where I am. This also gave me the ability to continue “filling space” with words while I was trying to figure out where I was in my script. Once I remembered it, I would find a place to get back on track. Sounds crazy, but it worked. The more I practiced, the more I was able to think on the fly while speaking. (It’s also helped me debate better. :-o)

As the years have gone on, I’ve used this simple technique with a lot of speakers, and it has helped them become better, more comfortable speakers. They always think it’s goofy at first, but you can tell when they’ve been practicing. For that matter, you can also tell when they haven’t.

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  • Dav

    Hi, I know it’s been a VERY long time since you’ve posted this. I just happened to stumble upon this today and I’ve been wondering.

    When you think, do you think of full sentences word for word and say it out word for word? Or just the main points? Or something else? ‘Cause whenever I try to think while I’m speaking, I slowly drift away from thinking, gradually start to lose my thoughts. And only some time later during the speech, I realize that I’ve stopped thinking.

    Is there a way to maintain and keep the thoughts going as well??

  • Mike

    Chris, I know it has been some time since you posted this, and I maybe I am a little obtuse, but I don’t quite understand what you are trying to convey with your “exercise.” You say to pick out an object and talk nonstop. Are you talking about the object nonstop, or about anything nonstop? You can’t maintain this is what you are saying, and eventually wander off topic. Once you do that, you then look at another object, and begin the process anew. Is that what you are saying?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      That’s it Mike. it will cause you to think of what to say next. You will probably change items many times.

  • http://twistedbade.wordpress.com twistedbade

    thanks..hahaha funny i have no voice today..have this sorethroat thing, grabe!i cant even speak a word…but thanks for the advice:)

  • http://twistedbade.wordpress.com twistedbade

    wow.. how i wish i could do that too, my problem is the when i speak in public, i always think about, does it sound good?or did i say it correctly?,is it grammatically correct??i guess my main problem is i always focus on how will i sound interesting to them than telling them, what i really want to say..

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      That’s what most people think about. We get worried that people are judging us, so we freak out. The truth is, unless you just absolutely suck, people aren’t thinking about you. What you have to do is realize that your talk is supposed to help their lives. When you focus on what they hear, and not if they’re judging you, you can deliver a message without freaking out.

  • http://www.levittcoaching.com Josh Levitt

    Cool exercise. Thank you for sharing!

    Next, I’ll just need a trick to get over my wife making fun of me for talking to myself about lamps, blinds and carpet.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Hahaha…I guess I should have mentioned that might happen. :-)

  • http://bridgesburning.wordpress.com bridgesburning

    Well I’ll try it…..pick an object..any object…oh my..I may not get to the rest…Great Post!

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      HAHAHA….we may have to work on that a little more!!!