Let’s start with the back story: Russ Henneberry is a good friend and mentor. I have learned a great deal from him about building websites and Internet marketing, among other things. Regularly, I would go to his site to read his latest article. On one occasion, I noticed an audio icon near the top of the latest post. Not knowing what to expect, I clicked on it. To my delight, Russ was reading his post, with inflections and pauses that made the article easy to understand.
As I listened, I read the text. Wait a minute, I said to myself. Why am I reading this? Here is the writer of the information, reading it the way he intended his audience to ‘hear’ it. If I want to double-check on something I heard, I can refer to the text. This is the best of both worlds: reading and listening to gain information.
People have several learning styles. Some enjoy reading text, while some are more auditory learners (the popularity of audiobooks is evidence of this).
I thought having an audio recording of a written post was a great idea, and made up my mind to emulate what Russ was doing. I won’t get into all the technicalities of setting this up. I’m not a techie, but it was fairly easy to do.
I did get a FREE iTunes podcast channel and an audio player widget, something that allows audio to be played on a website.
I’m a Mac user. Garageband, an Apple application, made it easy to record and export the audio file of my post. When it was time to record my first post, I wrote the article, checked it several times for errors and set up my equipment to record.
It was a very humbling experience! I stopped—more than several times—to correct spelling mistakes and punctuation. I also realized some re-writing was needed. It would have been embarrassing if I would have published this post. Had it not been for making the audio recording, I would not have found the blunders.
After all the editing, it was time to use Garageband and record the entire post. I opened Garageband, positioned my microphone and started reading my article. I finished and figured I was ready to export to iTunes and upload to my website. Before doing those activities, I decided to listen to the recording. Yikes! More embarrassment! I’m a professional speaker. I know my audio doesn't have to be perfect, but it should be better than most. If it’s not, I lose credibility. (You wouldn't want health advice from an overweight doctor who smokes and never exercises, would you?) As I listened, I heard my voice trail off several times and couldn't clearly hear what I had said. I also found a few instances where I spoke too quickly and realized it might be hard for someone to understand.
I evaluated my performance and realized it was a lot tougher than I thought it would be to speak to an audience of zero! There is no feedback when you are talking to no one but yourself. The nonverbal communication I get from live audiences didn't exist. If I had seen expressions indicating, I don’t understand, or I’m having a hard time hearing you, I would have immediately corrected my delivery. Talking to no one, and wanting it to be a great delivery, is difficult! However, like most skills in life, The learning is in the doing, and I’m a better speaker because of this lesson.
• Being your own editor is tough. We are too close to our own ‘stuff’ and mistakes are sometimes invisible.
• Take a break from it, and come back an hour or so later to find things that may need improvement.
• Less is more. Don’t say in 20 words what you can say in 10.
• The bottom line in all communication: verbal, written, or visual is the same. We want the recipient(s), to get it as quickly as possible.
• Recording your writing, listening as you’re speaking and making corrections is an important activity for writing. This is appropriate even if you’re not going to have an audio of your writing. You do want to publish ‘good stuff,’ don’t you?
• To improve your speaking, record yourself!
• To summarize:
Written Post + Audio Post = Better Writing and Better Speaking!
I’ll close this column with a challenge and a prediction. Here’s my challenge: If you want to improve your public speaking and presentation skills, write, record and listen to your next presentation. Do that, my prediction is this: That next presentation will be absolutely, positively NO SWEAT!