Public Speaking – Be Heard. Be Understood. Be Remembered.

Seinfeld once said, “The number one fear in America today is Public Speaking.  The number two fear is death.  Therefore, most people who were at a funeral would rather be in the coffin than giving the eulogy.”  The thing is, Ladies and Gentlemen, ALL speaking is public.  The moment the words come out of your mouth, they are in the world.  But how many of you have said something this week that you know has not been heard?  You may have even repeated yourself many times.  And yet, you feel unheard.  Right?  Why is that?  And how do you manage to actually be heard?

Public Speaking - being heard
Speaking to an audience is always about speaking to be Heard.

All public speaking is for the ear.  Too few of us have any idea how the ear works, or indeed, what it wants.  Did you know that the ear is fully formed by four and a half months in utero?  The unborn baby is housed within the sound of its mother’s voice.  The sound of its own mother is a deeply held part of every baby’s destiny.  The outer ear is closely known to every mother who nurses her baby, as she looks into that ear while her precious child is feeding.  Many cultures saw much in the shapes and forms of this ear and lots can be said about that.  But the inner ear – is not visible – and remains a mystery to many of us.  In fact, the tiny bones of the inner ear were only discovered late in the history of medical research.  Deep inside  the ear is the cochlea – an amazing spiral tubing which contains tiny hairs and the finest oil the body produces.  There is only one other place in the human body where the same substance as this tubing is found.  Do you know where?  It is the gut!  What does that tell you about listening?  To me it is so remarkably clear – that we need to be able to DIGEST what we hear.  How on earth do we do that?  First of all, we must be given time.  Time to hear and time to digest.

The only way that can happen is if the speaker is using their heart and lungs as well as their brain to speak with.  The only reason any of us hear anything is because we live in the air.  Without it, we would hear nothing.  And it is the air of our own breath which carries our word well to the ear of the listener.  If we breathe out as we speak, our words are given not only momentum, but actual form which carries them fully into the ear of the audience.  (Isn’t it interesting that we still call a group of people attending a spoken session an AUDIENCE!)  This tells us again that the number one issue with our speaking is that it must be audible.

When the speaker fills his voice with  breath –  that carries the words into the ear of the listener.  Then – if he actually gives himself time to breathe in fully for his next group of words, this gives the listener the opportunity to digest the words already spoken.  How does this happen?  As in all digestion – the substance is taken in by the body takes a long journey of selection and elimination.  With our food, our body, quite without our own permission chooses what it needs and what it will discard.  Our listening has to go through a similar process but seems to engage our more conscious choice.  We relate what we have heard to earlier memories or thoughts, or allow it to connect to other thoughts or concepts.  Thus we connect to some of what we have heard and incorporate it into our own world of thought, or discard it and eliminate it.

Without the time to do this – the listener may not even have heard what is said, as they are too busy thinking their own thoughts.  They need the words to be well-spoken and delivered in a lively way to their ear and their consciousness.  And they need time to relate to what is said.

So – if you want to be heard – – – – speak well on your outward breath, and then breathe in deeply.  In the time it takes you to breathe in, say nothing.  Your audience will not even notice the gaps, as this is when they are busiest – taking what you have said and making their own inner response to it.

Whether you are a teacher, or a salesman, an actor or a parent – this is the number one skill in being heard.

If you want to BE UNDERSTOOD  you need to know how to use the verbs in your sentence.  No matter what your message is – you need to be able to explain clearly to people what is going to happen, what you do, how it works, how much it costs, how it will affect you.  People who are in a play are called ACTORS.  But aren’t we all ACTORS?  We all are trying to do something in the world.  Getting others to understand what we are trying to do and getting them to come on board is a number one skill in all fields of enterprise.   I will tell you more about this on my next blog.  I look forward to hearing from you too.

Storytelling for Kindergartens in Chengdu

StudentsIf you are going to help teachers learn storytelling in China, you better have an excellent translator!  When I was invited to help trainee kindergarten teachers in Chengdu learn better classroom speaking, storytelling and poetry, I was given Ray Li to translate for me.  She had learned her English by going to Cleveland, Ohio to get her degree. She was gifted with a lively sense of humour and huge enthusiasm for the task.  We formed a wonderful team for this work.  When I began to introduce a principle, Li Ray would then say it in Chinese to the group of 60 Adult Students.  I would have the chance to see what I said, changed into another language in a highly animated form and watch it race across the room and impact the students.  I would see the smiles, the little gasps, the acknowledgement that it interested them.  Then they would turn right back to me in eager anticipation for the next piece.  Meantime, I would have had the chance to think about what I had said, watching it more slowly have its effect on the listening students.  Hearing the stories I knew so well – and chosen for their form, their rhythm and their healing impulse on children changed into another language was astounding.   I could hear how differently it sounded, but notice the form was still there – albeit changed.  The students loved the stories and all of them learned them both in English and in Chinese.


This is a small portion of the 240 students who worked with me on Creative Speaking.  It was amazing to get to know them all despite not speaking the same language.  Getting to know their smiles, their voices, their body language was utterly enriching.  Hearing them tell the stories I knew so well in Chinese was liberating in ways I did not know  were possible.  Seeing and hearing those stories come to life in small groups and demonstrated to the large group was wonderful.  I found I could even laugh at the right places, knowing just what was happening.  All the students quickly learned how the way they stand changes the quality of their voice.  All learned to use the consonants more fully and to breathe out while they were speaking.  Verbs became more animated and the sound of all their voices clarified and became more gentle and easier to listen to.  Discovering that the laws of being ‘WellSpoken’ are the same in a language so different to my own was wonderful.



The kindergarten in Chengdu is lovely.  There are seven of them.  The inside shines with love and beauty. . .IMG_4214

Every space is clean.  All the children change shoes to go inside.  Colour and beauty are everywhere.  The sun pours in gently from outside and spaces for them to play, to work and to cook are all clear.

It is hard for us to imagine a school having 7 kindergartens.  But these schools are so popular, many families seek to enroll their children.


Every classroom has cared for areas for work and play.

Storytelling for Kindergarten in Chengdu

The outside is ready for lots of work.  Everywhere there were cleverly made buildings for the children to make huts in, gardening tools their size to work with and lovely overgrown areas and different playing spaces.  These little wheelbarrows were not still for long on the day I was there.


Shakespeare in Chengdu

Reciting Shakespeare at the Bookworm in Chengdu

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments” – At The Bookworm in Chengdu

Imagine being asked to perform Shakespeare in Chengdu!  It had to be fate!  I was taken to The Bookworm late on Sunday night during my trip to Chengdu.  This is an expats’ Bookstore where some English food is served.  Our whole group mobbed the shelves and sat to rest and eat and read.  The manager came over to us and politely introduced herself saying, “I just want you to know we are having a performance here tonight of Shakespeare.”  I gasped, “What?  In which language?”

“Chinese and English.” she replied.

I could not believe it, I had only just arrived in China and wandered into this bookshop and they were having an evening of Shakespeare.  I told her I was there teaching some speech and drama and that I was a great lover of Shakespeare.  She immediately asked if I would make a contribution.  I was shocked and politely refused.  Then she looked at me, and smiled and said;

“Madam, you just arrived in my bookshop in Chengdu when we are about to have a shared evening of Shakespeare and you tell me you are a student of Shakespeare.  Surely this is fate.”

OK.  I will.  I asked if I would need to be interpreted and as the crowd arrived she asked them.  They said they did not need it.  Then she asked if I would open the evening.  So – there I was in a bookshop where famous authors from round the world have given talks – giving the opening address on Shakespeare and reciting some of his sonnets.  I got huge applause and went and sat down.  Little did I know about WeChat in China!  By the time I got home all the others knew what I had done because people had posted videos of me on this site reciting Shakespeare.  Fate is alive and well in Chengdu.  What a welcome!

 Shakespeare Festival at The Bookwork in Chengdu
My group at the Shakespeare Festival at The Bookworm