Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Is Our Food for Thought Fast Food?

Ken Burns’ recent documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” had my ears perked up, the eloquence of Teddy, FDR and Eleanor’s words washing over me. They spoke with such fluency and sophistication that I wondered: Has the very nature of our communications transformed, degraded and become overtly casual and conversational?  And with that, do we all still value a refined and eloquently delivered speech?  Or, is it just not our style any more?

The 21st century has brought with it new verbal fashion trends and our Kardashian-infested culture and social media channels are no doubt influencing the way we communicate.  Although our abbreviated text talk (BTW, OMG, GR8) and the 140-character limited tweet are convenient and quick (like fast food) these new forms have surely contributed to reducing the attention span of most Americans – and perhaps even the desire to dedicate time to a carefully composed oratory. But do we still value a great communicator?

At my recent “Say it Like You Mean it” panel presentation similar questions were put to me by both a reporter and an audience member. I thought I would dig deeper and sought out New York Times author of “On Language” and presidential speech writer William Safire’s tome “Lend Me YourEars: Great Speeches in History,” for inspiration and explanation.

 Although Safire’s book offers great commentary and speeches by everyone from George Washington to Mark Twain to FDR, I found a great commencement speech from the author himself.  In 1978 Safire spoke at Syracuse University, his alma mater, on “The Decline of the Written Word.” 

Safire begins by talking about how he has not heard a great speech come out of the White House in a long time. He says that the speechwriters claim concern about flowery speeches and that “high-flown rhetoric is not their man’s style.”  Safire believes there must be a more profound reason and that the reluctance is more about taking the time to write out a set speech. He says that we have become a “short-take society” (this observation made way before the advent of texting, hash tagging and Twitter!). 

Safire goes on to predict “phonevision” and to lament the fact that we are “relying more and more on commercial poets and cartoonists to express our thoughts.” He is keenly concerned that we seem to be talking more and writing less and he offers four steps to “The Salvation of the Written Language.”   

Ultimately, Safire does come away hopeful for the future of the written word – and the great speech. He says, “If a speaker will take the time to prepare, we are prepared to pay in the coin of our attention."    

We don’t need to go back to the personal, thoughtful letter delivered via snail mail to know intuitively that people are writing less. But in our new world of smartphones and digital communications, we need not degenerate from articulate prose to verbal slang, the “like, ya know syndrome,” and to talking in text.  

I do see hope that we all - including our digital natives – still value the eloquent speech – and it lies in a three-letter acronym…

Fast-forward 36 years from Safire’s commencement speech and consider the speaking phenomenon known as TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) – the non-profit devoted to “Ideas worth spreading.”  TED Talks are all about compelling storytelling – no sales pitches or power point slides allowed.  Available to all, TED Talks are bringing back the eloquent speech, teaching us about great composition and compelling us all to be better listeners.  Tune in and you can hear top researchers, deep thinkers, authors and experts in their field regale you with new insights on an assortment of topics, from Dan Gilbert’s TheSurprising Science of Happiness to David Gallo’s Underwater Astonishments. 

As a family, we love listening to the TED Radio Hour on long car rides.  And, my 15-year-old daughter – an enthusiastic digital native with two blogs of her own as well as a Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account - listens to TED Talks on the school bus and while doing homework. 

Safire said, “I believe we can arrest the decline of the written word, thereby achieving a renaissance of clarity.”  I believe too!  And, I know if he were still alive, he would see the genius in TED Talks and find plenty of fodder to pump his fist, particularly in this constantly changing world of digital communications with its Internet slang, text talk, emojis and hashtags.  

And I know we would all be thrilled to lend him our ears.

Speech Modification Program – 3-Step Screening

At my recent "Say it Like You Mean it" panel event, Speech-Language Pathologist and Accent Modification Expert Marci Macaluso and I presented a speech modification program and a 3-Step Screening for your own personal audit.  Here it is below along with an option to get in touch regarding setting up an individual or group training.

Let us know how you do!

Speech Modification Program – 3-Step Screening

  1. What are the verbal tics, fillers and crutches that you want to train against?  (Please circle.)

ü  Like
ü  Ya Know
ü  Whatever
ü  Totally
ü  Literally
ü  Basically
ü  I mean
ü  I can’t
ü  Um
ü  Uhh
ü  So
ü  (Other?)

  1. Record yourself using your cell phone or video camera in conversation with a friend.  What are you noticing?

ü  Verbal tics (discourse markers, e.g. “like, ya know, whatever”)
ü  Filler words (um, uhh)
ü  Vocal fry (a.k.a. creaky voice - the low, staccato vibration during speech that arises at the end of sentences)
ü  Uptalk (upward glide that ends statements or proclamations in a question mark?)
ü  Baby talk (higher pitched voice then your usual tone)
ü  Apologizing (starting a sentence with “I’m sorry, etc.”)
ü  Speaking in text/social media terms (using acronyms and abbreviations – e.g. OMG, LOL, BRB)

  1. Are you speaking articulately, with confidence and presenting your best self?

If not, are you interested in exploring our speech modification program? Email at audrey@manncroninpr.com)
ü  Group setting

ü  One-on-one training

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Top 10 Tips to Say it Like You Mean it!

Speaking articulately and with confidence is paramount to our success!  

I know you have heard me say that before:-).  But, at my recent panel presentation, I offered a top 10 list to Say it Like You Mean it.  I hope my audience found the list helpful and I wanted to share it here with my wonderful blog community.  

So here it is...And, if you'd like, please sign up to receive my blog via email...

10 Tips to:
Say it Like You Mean it!

1.     Be aware of your own verbal tics:  Do you say “like,” “ya know,” “whatever,” “totally,” etc.?  Hone in on what unnecessary words pepper your speech with mindless repetition and work on getting rid of them.

2.     Learn to brave the pause:  Instead of filling what should be empty spaces in our speech with “ummms” and “ahhs,” take a breath and allow yourself and your colleagues to absorb your thoughts and ideas.

3.     Speak with conviction and avoid “uptalk.”  The upward glide or “uptalk” that ends would-be statements in a question mark is often used by women to gain consensus and likeability, however, it does not inspire confidence.

4.     What happens in rehearsal ends up on stage:  Before an important interview or presentation, rehearse in front of a video camera.  You may be surprised at your own verbal crutches, and the videotape doesn’t lie.

5.     Find a great speech from an eloquent speaker (e.g. Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, FDR) and read it aloud.  Hearing what good writing sounds like will reinforce good communication habits and help you develop your own voice.

6.     Avoid the baby voice trap:  To feign innocence, illicit sympathy and seem appealing to men, some women raise the pitch of their voices.  Don’t.

7.     Stop apologizing: Don’t be afraid to say what you want.  It is not necessary to start sentences with, “If you don’t mind,” or “I’m sorry, but…”

8.     Leave vocal fry to the Kardashians. Inspired by our celebrity stars, a new study finds that this pop-culture “creaky voice” that has found its way into our speech patterns may affect women’s chances of getting and keeping a job.  

9.     Enlist your own personal verbal coach: Yes, it will be irritating for both parties, but find someone you trust who is willing to call out your verbal tics, correct and refine them. 

10.  Keep your social media feeds clean: What you write on social media channels translates into how you are perceived.  Make sure your competence shines through in the written word as well.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Like, Hire Me?" - A Parody of How NOT to Write a Job Cover Letter

Girls and young women are watching, listening, and parroting back the way young pop culture icons are communicating. And our social media channels are enabling the easy and instant sharing of these new verbal fashion trends.  But what happens when our personal written communication manifests itself in our professional communication?

To illustrate how ridiculous our speech patterns have become, I thought it would be fun to collaborate with my 15-year-old daughter Amanda and craft a professional correspondence, maybe a job cover letter, written by a young women who is unknowingly but fully entrenched in what I have been calling, the “Like, Ya Know” syndrome - replete with hashtags, text messaging slang, selfies and words written in vocal fry for emphasis.

Amanda and I had a great time both writing and filming this Youtube video parody, “Bethenny’s Cover Letter: Like, Hire Me?”  And, thank you to our talented videographer, Peg Cashman!

Like, enjoy!

50 Gurrl Street, Totally, TX 75211

Human Resources Manager
My Fav Shoe Company
7 Perf Place
Fashionista, CA 90210

Dear Human Resources Manager,

So, like I am applying for the, ya know, bitchin job you posted on your website?  The ad caught my eye because it was #totesswaggyyy and I need a job to support my #loveofshoes and other shopping habits.  Btw, the candy apple red nail polish in your ad is like totally awesome.  I loveee!  Already, you can see we would make a perfect match. 

As you will see on my attached resume, Instagram (@kittenlover245) and selfie, I am superrr gorg and popular (826 Besties) and have worked at Shoe Heaven, Forever22 and stacked nail polishes at Posh Nails.  With all of my experience, I am sure I can help My Fav Shoe Company achieve like whatever it is it wants to achieve??? #doesthatmakeanysense #2amlogic #brbmybrainisexploding. So, ya know, why should you hire me?  Well, umm, ahh, like, I’m not a fake model, can walk in 6” heels, and am good with people, and whatever… 

I mean, I can’t, I can’t, I literally can’t even imagine how awesome it would be to work for such a damnnn hottieee company.  I will text you to discuss the possibility of setting up a meeting to ummm, discuss ways I can work on behalf of your company (OMGGG, did I just say that? Awkward!)  

TBH, I would make a great employee!

Thank uuu!

Peace Out,

Bethenny Taylor