Listen to yourself

21 01 2011

Periodically I will take my battered dictaphone out of my laptop bag and set it on my prop table. At some point in a show I’ll reach over to it, set it recording in the background and forget about it. Sometime later, when I have some time to do some evaluation I’ll plug my headphones in and listen back to what I was saying.

Every time I’ve done this I’ve come up with at least one or two points that I can use to improve my presentations and I’d recommend doing it to anyone.

I run training courses for science communicators and for teachers. I am amazed by the number of participants who say, I hate hearing my own voice. Are you one of these people? If you are then think of this. Whilst you might hate listening to your own voice every time you perform everyone else has to.

There are only two reasons to not want to hear your own voice. The first is that our voices sound funny coming through a small speaker and very different to what we hear in our own heads when we are talking. Trust me it sounds less strange the more times you do it.

The second reason to not want to hear what we are saying is more of a problem and it is that, deep down, we don’t think we’ll like what we’ll hear. Again the more times you do this the easier it will become. For the first five minutes you might sit there and cringe but after that you’ll begin to hear things that you like and more importantly things you can change.

I come from London and in London we don’t pronounce all our letters, as a rule, we are incredibly lazy in the way we speak. I listened to a show I was doing and heard myself say “four fifths of the air we breathe is nychragen“. What? Obviously I mean nitrogen and that is what it sounds like I’m saying in my own head but the more I listened back on the tape the clearer it got. What I was actually saying was nychragen.

Was this a disaster? No. Did I spend a fortune on elocution lessons? Of course, not. But I now make sure that I put up a slide with the word nitrogen behind me every time I say the word.

It might make you squirm the first time you do it but it is such an easy way to become a better performer. Get a dictaphone, or use your mobile phone, and periodically listen to yourself.




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