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Putting the FUN back in to your Speaking FUNdamentals


By Claudia W. Brogan

Whether you are new to public speaking or have plenty of practice under your belt, it never ever hurts to keep learning and polishing your speaking habits.

Speaker and coach Ryan McLean offers enjoyable tips for improving our speaking techniques; even the clever title of this piece on his website, Public Speaking Power, will get you curious: “15 Fun Public Speaking Activities.”

One of the aspects I enjoy most about this positive, encouraging set of ideas in his post is that he clearly believes that the more we practice creative options, the better we’ll be as speakers. As he moves through his list of simple, useful speaking activities, he demonstrates a speaker’s love of words and stories and engaging with audience members.

It’s never simply enough for a public speaker to reach the point where speeches can be delivered without undue perspiration and nervous stammering. Maintaining strong speaking skills and volunteering for practice speaking opportunities will help keep a presenter fresh and vibrant. Musician Tommy Bolin said, “If you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing.” Speakers might do well to heed those words. As dedicated as we might be to stretching our skills and practicing often, if we let public speaking habits become even a little bit lackluster, we are likely to lose our spirit.

Here are three ideas for ways to “insert fun” into speaking, whether it’s your own practice sessions at home, or speaking up in staff meetings to assert yourself, or participating in a local Toastmasters Club in order to stay fresh. Being intentional about injecting creative techniques can turn pedantic speeches into fun, relatable delivery—an exchange when both the speaker and the audience enjoy the time well spent together.

Funny Homemade Stories

It’s not necessary to learn to be a stand-up comedian in order to deliver amusing presentations. Inserting funny phrases or simple anecdotes about one’s recent travels or early morning antics are enough to lighten the mood. Brief stories about one’s pets or children not only yield appreciative chuckles from audience members who can relate to the experiences, they also help humanize the speaker and break the ice. The next time you find yourself preparing a presentation, stop to reflect on a way to humanize the speech with a short personal story that relates to the topic at hand and the audience that’s present.

A Speaker’s “Vamp” with Various Surprise Objects

A second way to challenge your speaking skills is to engage in an exercise of offering spontaneous remarks and tall tales based on being handled a random object or two, and speaking about it. I actually learned this technique years ago when on staff at a Girl Scout Camp in southern Indiana. To help the campers practice creativity skills and even some public speaking skills, we would pass around the “Gypsy’s Magic Bag” while seated together at the fire circle. One at a time, each camper would reach into the bag, remove a simple everyday object, and speak for 15 seconds to a minute, making up whatever tall tale came to mind, or quasi-useful tip about how one might use the item. (Examples of items in the bag included such things as pine cones, whistles, measuring spoons, keys, pens, tubes of toothpaste, acorns.) Learning the ability to speak briefly with panache about even the simplest objects was great practice for each participant, and certainly kept the audience on their toes for what surprises were coming next.

The Power of Pictures

Third, an intriguing article in the Harvard Business Review addressed the potent way that people connect to photos and images. There are excellent resources available to help this happen for individuals or families or speaker-practice groups as a way to provide connecting and discussion boosts. Responding to images with either one’s own recollections, one’s suggestions for improving group relations, or speaking about one’s current projects: each of those activities would benefit from the boost referred to in this article.

Speakers who are dedicated to practicing their abilities and to celebrating the spoken word can benefit from any of the three ideas listed above. As a bonus, the gift of listening to each of these speaking cues will bring a bounty of intriguing lessons, discoveries and possibilities. Being a participant in any form or fashion will help us to put the “fun” back into practicing the fundamentals.

Claudia Brogan is a speaker, trainer and facilitator who helps organizations by coaching presenters, leading collaborative meetings and problem-solving with groups and teams. Reach out to see how she can help you. Contact Claudia via email at claudiabrogan @ gmail.com, through LinkedIn, or by phone at 404-849-5182.