Thursday, December 24, 2009

Twas the Reading Before Christmas

Each Christmas Eve, my children all settle in around me as I sit to read Clement Moore's 'Twas the Night Before Christmas'. It's a Public Speaking moment I look forward to every year.

Reading the written word aloud is a special part of the fear of Public Speaking that doesn't get a lot of attention. In fact, it may be a core aspect of the fear, dating back to the days we were asked to read sentences from the board, or religious passages in church classes, or give the dreaded oral book report.

The brain must multi-task in this situation - first comprehending the visual information for pronunciation, intent, and emotion, then simultaneously moving translating it verbally with vocal variety and the occasional gesture and confirming eye contact. I spoke about this a few weeks ago - How to Read With Style.

A couple additional tips to consider when reading aloud:

1) Posture - Sit or stand straight, and your material at an angle that doesn't create lung or larynx compression. Heavy breathing doesn't add credibility to most types of reading.

2) Room Temperature Water or Hot Tea - good for any type of speaking, really. Cola's coat your throat, and generate phlegm that interferes with clear vocals, or constant throat clearing.

3) Practice, when possible. And I admit, I read "Twas the Night Before Christmas a couple of times out loud to myself beforehand. After all, I've got a reputation to protect.

One of today's practices (my second) is below.

Remember, the most important aspect of reading to an audience is getting them to comprehend the material, and often, the emotion that the author, or you as the speaker, want to convey. It doesn't have to be perfect, just authentic.

If you're celebrating Christmas, enjoy your Christmas Eve night. Read with your kids, be it Clement C. Moore's classic, the biblical reading Linus gave in yesterday's post, or even this Dr. Suess classic.

See you tomorrow, after seeing what Santa chooses to Speak...and Deliver (under the tree).

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