Friday, September 23, 2016

Day 2 - Building a bridge

I met Dana with a week delay; although unintentional, I believe more gaps between our sessions can be helpful for me to apply what I learn. Dana is becoming a friend and we started talking about personal matters like my parents visiting me. We reviewed the recorded video of the first session. My feedback on the video was close to what he wanted to tell. I had written:

“ My body movement is not natural. My hand moves seem a bit fake and do not sync with what I am saying. Too often I looked at the sky and this might make audience feel that I am stressed. I often put my weight on one leg which is also a signal for discomfort. I should have walked a bit, which I did not and it affected my other movements.. Basically, I was restricted to two stones :).
My speech lacked enough energy. Some sentences were monotone, and the stress were not on the right words, e.g., at 1:00, I say 'it was very quite' and there was no stress on any word. There should be some emotion in saying sentences; in the above example, when I say 'quiet', I should convey that I was surprised and yet happy (I am practicing how to say it). “
He had replied:

I LOVED your video self-feedback. I completely agree with everything you wrote.
Your eyes definitely looked up and around at times. I didn't necessarily think it was because you were nervous, maybe just that you were talking to just me and not a real audience.
Your hands seemed to lack purpose and your weight shifted from foot to foot without purpose / perpendicular to your intention / emotion.
You could have been more energetic and excited about what you were saying - we'll work on these things this week.“

Today we discussed a few topics related to connecting to audience. Dana mentioned that if he wants to read a book, the first chapter would be about ‘making a bridge’. Connecting to the audience helps in having them more engaged as well as the speaker being more confident. When giving a talk, don’t be far from your audience; this makes them feel you are protecting yourself and conveys a message of weakness. Eyes are windows of the soul; eye contact with the audience is very important (it sees I have no big issue in that sense). Sometimes having more eye contact with people who are engaged is better (e.g., stand-up-comedies in bars and restaurants) while sometimes focusing on less engaged members of audience is helpful to involve them (e.g., in a classroom where some students don’t pay attention). Sense of humour can be helpful to be ‘closer’ to the audience as well as being more confident. Think of including a joke at the beginning of a talk. When talking to an audience, it helps to say something particularly about that audience, i.e., make them a part of the story (e.g., when there is a couple, a joke about relationship helps in comedies). Also, talking about stereotypes (or contrasting them) can help, e.g., as a computer scientist, I can joke about computer nerds, or clarify them I am not one them (to connect to another audience). We played a game that we looked at someone and tried to come up with guesses about him.

To improve the low range of my intonations, we note that not only more stress on adjectives, adverbs, and important parts of sentences helps, but also stressing on certain phrases that convey emotions can help (e.g,. When some method was tried and worked, a sense of excitement can be conveyed). To fix a monotone voice, it is good to occasional talk softer to grab attention. Pauses are a great tool to convey confidence and let audience to think.  Dana also mentioned situations that monotone voice can be avoided by imitating other people in a story with a different peach (occasions like when he mimics his sister in a comedy show or when I can imitate a manager who wants a new software product).

Finally, having the audience in mind, I gave a short talk (about my parents visiting). I tried to have eye-contact with Dana, his phone, and my bag, who were audience in three corners of an open area in the campus. I tried to be funny, passionate, and ‘close to audience’; think it went well. However, connecting a real audience should be easier and more natural. This makes me think of professors teaching online courses in a room filled with cameras and no student.

Dana has sent me a few TED talks as well as my video to review for the next week. TED talks are great for public speaking practices. I also have an exercise for my body movements (getting a bit closer to the member of audience which I have eye-contact and backing off after the eye-contact). I am sending Dana a lecture by Erik Demaine. I am curious to know his opinion about his hand movements. These sessions are going very well.

The video of my talk is here.

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