The world loves emojis, and we can’t seem to get enough of them. What started in Japan in the 1990s, got picked up by Apple and since then, Emojis went viral. New emojis get so much press, and emoji becomes the first universal language. You can speak emojis in Spanish, and it’s the same with speaking emojis in the Philippines, how useful! These little faces are so trendy that famous people race to have their faces immortalised as emojis.
So if you have an impromptu or table topic session coming up, ask the participants to tell a story about these emoji combinations below.
Tell a story about…
The list of emojis below has been handcrafted by yours truly. Every single line should conjure up some ideas!
Can you think a story for all ten of them? Have fun!
She’s been in many good movies lately but what I didn’t know was that she used to get panic attacks and suffered from debilitating shyness. At the age of seven, her parents put her through therapy to reduce it. Despite this, she persisted through—who can forget the best lip sync session of all time with 78 million views on Youtube and counting.
In that clip, shy is the last word you can describe her performance with. What makes the lip sync looks so real is that she knows where the cameras are. She works the cameras, she knows how it’ll look to the audience.
Knowing how you look on camera is essential for any stage performer, including public speakers! It does not lie, and it’s the end result that the audience see. It gives real-time feedback, and feedback is very important in deliberate practice to improve public speaking.
Watching yourself is a form of deliberate practice
In the book, Ericsson describes an unusual type of practice usually done by world-class athletes as deliberate practice. It has a well-defined, specific goals. It is focused and involves feedback. One of the easiest ways to determine whether something is deliberate practice is whether it requires getting out of one’s comfort zone.
Getting out of one’s comfort zone.
I imagine you’re cringing while reading this, which also happens to be a common reaction when you watch yourself on camera for the first time! It’s uncomfortable because we see our flaws much more clearly as an audience. And yet, watching yourself on video is a critical component in deliberate practice because it gives you feedback on how you speak and how you move. The way you act on the video is the way people see you in real life, and therefore this is the version everyone sees, and the version you want to improve.
Why people cringe: a primer
When you watch your own video for the first time, the discomfort will be caused by a cognitive dissonance between the predetermined ideal you have of yourself and the reality. The reality of how you look and sound is made up of many versions, many angles. But nevertheless, the version you have in your mind is most likely different to what was captured by the camera. To illustrate this, let’s look at the photos below:
Paris Hilton’s face is asymmetric, her left eye is much smaller than her right, so when you flip the photo, it looks weird. It’s a different version than the one we are used to. Flip your own selfie, and you will also find yourself cringing.
What can we do to reduce it?
Olympic athletes watch their own performance all the time because this is one of the fastest ways to improve using material they already have. The technique I would suggest involves recording yourself, and watching it multiple times until you don’t dread it as much anymore.
First, you should read this sentence and record yourself using a mobile phone:
Hi, my name is <name>. Today, I am fearless. Words and thoughts come easily to me and I enjoy hearing the sound of my own voice. I’m confident and comfortable. My words will have a positive effect on other people. I have so much to say and I can’t wait to practice this new skill of public speaking!2
If you don’t like the sentence above, just record your own script for about 30 seconds. You don’t need to look at the camera, no need for it to be perfect. Mine looks and sounds horrible too.
Expect it to be weird
Now, we just need to watch it. Urgh, expect it to be weird. That’s right. Like Gollum below.
(Video via [WingNut Films / justlotsofgifs.tumblr.com])
Compare yourself with Gollum. Aren’t you less weird than him? Good.
Download the video you’ve just recorded to your computer, and make sure you watch it with a good set of speakers. Watching and hearing it directly on your phone is not a good idea. The phone speaker tends to not have enough bass to do justice to your real voice – everyone, even Stevie Wonder, sounds quite pitchy when bad speakers are involved.
Having a glass of wine before this exercise would help too . Bring some cookies or popcorn if it still does not feel festive enough. To deal with your inner critic, you can go through Buzzfeed’s list of 51 Thoughts You Have When You See Yourself on Video. You are not alone in thinking those self-sabotaging thoughts. Everyone goes through the same thing.
It takes persistence
Doing this once is great, but to reduce it more, you will need to set a schedule to listen to your video repeatedly. Use this as a tool to analyse what you would like to focus on next in your public speaking. All it takes is a little time, and persistence.
Imagine a different universe where Emma Stone didn’t solve her problem. She wouldn’t have improved much as an actor, and there wouldn’t be a La La Land. Scott Berkun in Confessions of a Public Speaker says:
If you are too scared to watch yourself speak, how can you expect your audience to watch you?
Our memory is selective. I was recently asked if there was a speaker I aspired to for delivery style, and I answered with Andrew Solomon—I’d watched his TED talk countless times, although I hadn’t done so for a while when I got the question. I told him that Andrew’s delivery was fantastic, impactful, and memorable. I couldn’t remember what technique he used, but I assured my friend that it was worth watching the TED talk.
But when I came home and watched the same talk for the umpteenth time, I was surprised to see that his delivery was not particularly exceptional. In fact, he tended to raise his chin up a little too much that if you were sitting in the audience in front of him, you might feel left out. The content of his speech was such a pleasure to watch that I hardly paid attention to how he performed on stage.
On other speeches, it was the opposite. Quite often, I don’t know what was it exactly that made me so bored, but I know I would rather watch the next McDonald’s ads on TV rather than listen until the end. I wondered if I could recall the opposite of what actually happened when I watched other people, then what about my own speech? It’s possible that my recollection was affected more by whether I’ve had a bad day rather than my performance.
I’m afraid that if my speeches weren’t what I thought they were, then how can I use my memory to improve my skill? Besides, I know when the stakes are higher, such as in a speaking competition, I tend to be a harsher critic of my own work. Even if I do well, I will more likely to remember all the little blunders I should not have made.
Dale Carnegie wrote in Public Speaking for Success:
Good speakers usually find when they finish that there have been four versions of the speech: the one they delivered, the one they prepared, the one the newspapers say was delivered, and the one on the way home they wish they had delivered.
He is referring to the four distinct memories of speeches. Bad, fading memories and multiple testimonies contradict each other. Because of this, many people don’t get better after they present publicly. How do you know if the butterfly on your stomach was caused by the speech you did and not your hungry belly? Imagine if you can do what I did with Andrew Solomon’s TED talk earlier. Like in a conference where everything is recorded, you don’t have to rely on your memory or other people’s as the only witnesses anymore.
We have new shiny tools now
A decade ago, we just got smart phones, and video recording was something you needed specialised equipment for. A decade ago, we didn’t have Youtube, but now we are spoilt for choice when deciding what to watch. Recording and sharing videos are no longer activities limited to professional videographers. Today, the technology is literally in the palm of our hands, and we can certainly make good use of it. If you have a bad memory, then we have a device that will make it irrelevant—just like being short-sighted was not a thing anymore after glasses were made accessible.
In 2010, a group of 16 graduate students at Buffalo State College were divided into two groups and asked to deliver two 10 minute presentations each, one month apart.1 The control group was asked to do self-assessments after every session, while the treatment group did the same but with the help of video recording. The students in the treatment group found it easy to plan what to improve on the second presentation whereas the students in the control group were not so sure about how their presentation went. The researcher noted that not having the video deprived the students of being able to see any errors.
You’re your own worst critic
In the same study, the students were also asked to do peer-assessments on others. The study also found that the self-assessment scores were lower than the peer-assessments scores in general, regardless of whether they were in the control or treatment group. With or without video recordings, the students were their own worst critics.
It is important, therefore, to keep an objective leash on how you think about your own delivery. Having a video would allow you to look at yourself as an impartial observer would. See yourself with fresh eyes. How you thought you moved on stage could be very different to how you actually moved! Rewind as many times as you like to find phrases that are hard to pronounce, dips in energy levels, opportunities for tone variations and much more. Pick one that frustrates you the most, then set a goal to improve it for the next speech.
Once you become used to recording your speech, you will be able to measure your current skill level, set a goal on what to improve next, then assess your progress accordingly. Keep a firm plan and make smaller circles,2 that’s how you will improve.
Every little thing matters
Every single time you rewatch your speech, you’re bound to form a second opinion about it. Why does this matter? It matters because public speaking is a highly personal skill. Michelle Obama’s passionate gestures may not be for you, but Nelson Mandela’s slow pace in speaking may work for you. If it does, steal it like an artist.3
It takes five minutes to record, an hour to analyse and a lifetime to benefit from. A video that can be replayed over and over again is a source of inspiration when you ask that same question ever so often: what can I improve on now?
GUO, Ruth Xiaoqing. “The use of video recordings as an effective tool to improve presentation skills.” (2013).
Josh Waitzkin states the notion of learning as “making smaller circles” where the learner uses the new knowledge she just learned and push it into her unconscious mind. Once that happen, she can progress to add more depth to her learning.
Austin Kleon in his book, Steal Like an Artist advocates for seeing any creative work as a collection of great ideas stolen from other artists.
After a successful campaign to get people to join Get Sandwich for our alpha program, we are opening the platform for the first time on 15 Feb. The sandwich shop will be open for business and we are grateful we have 20 fantastic people who have supported us throughout and have made the platform possible. Thank you 😀
This launch represents a big milestone for Min’an and I. We’ve started working on the idea from August 2016, and after five months of hard work and about 35 customer interviews, this is what we have produced:
Home page of the platform at present, running on test data.
As to what we want Get Sandwich to stand for, we felt that it should help people find their voices, whether that be in face-to-face public speaking sessions or online videos. Everyone has a story to tell, and it’s important to have the skill to be able to tell it best, for each and everyone involved.
Our journey starts here and now.
PS. Get Sandwich registration is currently closed, but if you’d like to join us in the future, email me on martha at getsandwich.net or join our weekly newsletter to get future announcements.