Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Speaking Lesson from Gabrielle Giffords

I find Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' recovery process inspirational, particularly as a speech trainer.

How does a person begin to recover from such traumatic brain damage? How does a person relearn the ability to speak?

According to a recent NYT piece by Marc Lacey and James C. McKinley Jr., one way is through singing:

With a group of friends and family members acting as a backup chorus, Ms. Giffords has been mouthing the lyrics to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love, Baby.” And as a surprise for her husband, who is celebrating his birthday this month, a longtime friend who has been helping her through her rehabilitation videotaped her mouthing the words to “Happy Birthday to You...”

According to Dr. David Langer, an associate professor of neurosurgery, the use of singing... is a standard technique to help restore speech in people with brain injuries.

This reminds me of an earlier post, in which I quoted speaking advice from Roger Love, one of the foremost vocal coaches in the world:

Try practicing singing your speech.

Love explains:

"When you do (sing your speech), you'll find yourself discovering interesting ways to emphasize words, you'll hear them a different way, and you'll begin to hear the real message shining through...Singing gives you new perspective on your material because it's one of the only times both sides of your brain -- the creative, imaginative side and the orderly, logical side -- operate together. When you practice by singing a few phrases, then going back to speak them, you tap into the power of your whole brain...and you can't help but express yourself in a way that feels whole. You might even surprise yourself. Your delivery feels fresh and people can't help but listen to you."

(Roger Love, Set Your Voice Free, p178-9)

From the Green Room: Practice singing your speech. Singing opens up your voice and helps you tap into the essence of what you are trying to communicate.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Lessons from a Ukulele

Part of what makes Jake Shimabukuro's ukulele performance so remarkable is the element of surprise. We think of the ukulele as a simple, happy instrument - perfect for jamming a three- chord song on the beaches of Maui.

By choosing to play the multifaceted and complex Bohemian Rhapsody, we see this instrument in a new and unexpected light.

The same is true for your voice.

The human voice is an amazing instrument that has unlimited potential. The problem is that we tend to put our voices into a box. We speak with limited variation - in "three chords" - rather than push ourselves into new and unexpected vocal terrain.

I help my clients to exercise their voices in new ways so that they are capable of much more nuanced and complex ways of speaking.

A theater director once said to me, "Your voice is gift." How true. Challenge yourself to make the most of your voice, just as Jake Shimabukuro makes this most out of his ukulele.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lessons from a Ukulele

According to musician Jake Shimabukuro from his bio on this week's Ted.com:

"...The ukulele means more (to Jake) than grass skirts and loud shirts. He's on a mission to revolutionize our perception of the four-string, two-octave instrument."

In what is a very obvious example of "show, don't tell," Jake expresses his love for the ukulele not by talking about it, but by playing a stirring rendition of "Bohemian Rhapsody:"

From the Green Room: Most of us don't something as clear as a musical instrument to show, rather than describe a message.

But we all can learn from Jake's TED presentation.

If you're trying to tell a group of employees how much they matter to the company, focused eye contact says more than words.

If you're trying to sell a new product, a physical demonstration is so much more memorable than a description.

And if you're delivering bad news, the tone of your voice can soften the blow the way no words can.

In whatever way you can, show, don't tell.