Planned by the NUS Knowledge Management Club, a public speaking class with veteran broadcaster Rebecca Low had our MBA students spouting “crispy consonants!”
We kicked off our activities for this semester with a session on public speaking conducted by Rebecca Low. Rebecca is a 25-year veteran of the broadcasting industry, and is the founder of Vocal Charisma (www.vocalcharisma.com), conducting workshops on Voice and Business Presentations. Not only did Rebecca graciously agree to conduct the session, but she also brought along a suitcase full of chips and fruits (Taiwanese oranges no less!). Her expectation of the session was for it to be an informal, participative event – and that’s exactly what we got, with just under 20 participants huddled up as Rebecca took us through her repertoire of exercises to make all of us sound better.
The session started with the participants introducing themselves and their voices (!!), by sharing what each of us like and dislike about our own voice. She then took us through the different types of vocal issues, and then laid the groundwork in terms of the building blocks of effective vocal presentation (fyi: breathing from the diaphragm, finding your middle pitch, pronounciation & articulation, pace & phrase, projection & presence, power & influence, posture & poise). After having explained the basics, we got down to the more fun (and slightly gross) part of the workshop: the exercises – of which the pictures say a thousand words! We started off by chewing and talking, thus loosening our jaws, not to mention looking half-human, half-cow in the process. Then things got more interesting, when sheets of paper towels were handed out. One was aimed at ‘fronting’ our voice – starting with putting two fingers under the tongue and speaking slowly. The result was a much more clear and enunciated speech. For the next one, we had to speak while holding our tongues. Ignoring the few minutes of incoherent babble that came out, at the end of it our consonants were actually sounding crisp. There were a few more exercises that Rebecca demonstrated, such as, talking while keeping your index finger between your teeth and making fire engine noises keeping your mouth open (good for when you have to present but have a blocked nose).
Voice, Body and Mind
From the voice we moved on to the body (yes, sounding good requires an all-round focus). After a few rounds of letting ourselves loose, literally, as well as playing king-kong and massaging our neighbours (or punching – depends on how good the experience was), we moved things to a more spiritual plane with some yoga exercises. The guys got on the floor for these ones, along with Rebecca, as she demonstrated ‘kapalabhati’ (breathing exercises) from the lighter to the more vigorous versions. The focus was on calming the mind, and feeling the breath flow through. The shift in the mood of the participants was almost palpable, as everyone closed their eyes and enjoyed the peace. The mood shifted once again when Rebecca remarked to us Indians in the group how strange it was that a Singaporean was teaching us about Yoga. The interest of the female participants went up two-fold (if not more), when Rebecca informed them of the anti-ageing effects of these yogic exercises. Rebecca also explained the elements of being a proficient communicator (and not just speaker) to us – the ABC’s, i.e. Attitude, Body Language and Congruence. Finally, the most important aspect of all: integrity, to be able to connect with people to allow them to reciprocatively communicate with you.
Having sat through the session and the multitude of things that were covered in that short time, I’m sure I have missed out on mentioning many things. Rebecca kept us entertained and engrossed througout with her vocal imitations of different accents and mannerisms. During one point, while showing us how to give more impact to certain words while presenting, she took on her news broadcaster avatar. It was as if you were watching a live news broadcast – she was THAT good!
The session ended on a serene note with Rebecca displaying a greeting by Mahatma Gandhi in her last slide – a perfect send-off to the participants.
On behalf of the KM Club, I would like to thank all participants for taking time out to attend and making this event a success. Hopefully we get to interact and learn from Rebecca again in the near future. In the mean time, remember to keep it ‘crisp’!!