Tag Archives: speaking

Foreign Accents Make Statements Less Trustworthy

Due to the principles of processing fluency (also known as cognitive fluency, discussed here many times before), we know that information that is easier to process is perceived to be–among other features–more familiar, pleasant, truthful and less risky.

A recent study has shown that this is also true for foreign accents: statements spoken by non-native speakers are perceived to be less trustworthy, even if their accent is mild:

Non-native speech is harder to understand than native speech. We demonstrate that this “processing difficulty” causes non-native speakers to sound less credible. People judged trivia statements such as “Ants don’t sleep” as less true when spoken by a non-native than a native speaker. When people were made aware of the source of their difficulty they were able to correct when the accent was mild but not when it was heavy. This effect was not due to stereotypes of prejudice against foreigners because it occurred even though speakers were merely reciting statements provided by a native speaker. Such reduction of credibility may have an insidious impact on millions of people, who routinely communicate in a language which is not their native tongue.

via Mind Hacks

Six Principles of ‘Sticky’ Ideas

In an excerpt from Made to Stick, brothers Dan and Chip Heath provide an outline of the six principles of creating ‘sticky’ ideas:

  • Simplicity: “We must be masters of exclusion. We must relentlessly prioritize. […] Proverbs are the ideal. We must create ideas that are both simple and profound. The Golden Rule is the ultimate model of simplicity: a one-sentence statement so profound that an individual could spend a lifetime learning to follow it.”
  • Unexpectedness: “We need to violate people’s expectations. We need to be counterintuitive. […] For our idea to endure, we must generate interest and curiosity. […] We can engage people’s curiosity over a long period of time by systematically “opening gaps” in their knowledge — and then filling those gaps.”
  • Concreteness: “We must explain our ideas in terms of human actions, in terms of sensory information.”
  • Credibility: “Sticky ideas have to carry their own credentials. We need ways to help people test our ideas for themselves — a ‘try before you buy’ philosophy for the world of ideas.”
  • Emotions: “How do we get people to care about our ideas? We make them feel something. […] We are wired to feel things for people, not for abstractions.”
  • Stories: “How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. […] Research shows that mentally rehearsing a situation helps us perform better when we encounter that situation in the physical environment. Similarly, hearing stories acts as a kind of mental flight simulator, preparing us to respond more quickly and effectively.”

via @contentini

Malcolm Gladwell’s Public Speaking Secrets

After discovering that he was to share a double bill with the “famously good” public speaker Malcolm Gladwell, Gideon Rachman decided to use the experience to learn how to improve his own speaking abilities.

In his write-up of the experience, Rachman discusses the lessons he learnt from Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘public speaking secrets’:

The first lesson came from simply looking at the programme. The photo of me was unexceptional […] Gladwell’s photo was very different. It was taken from a distance and showed off his magnificent Einstein-like Afro – it said, here is a mad genius. […] But there are other things he does that might be easier to emulate.

First, he is a master of the “look no hands” style of speaking. He just stands up there, with a button mike and talks – and it all sounds very spontaneous, with little asides and jokes, and messages tailored to his […] audience. Second, he tells stories – there are theories attached to the stories – but the bulk of the talk is made up of charming anecdotes to illustrate rather simple themes. […]

So how does Gladwell do it? […] He answered – “I know it may not look like this. But it’s all scripted. I write down every word and then I learn it off by heart. I do that with all my talks and I’ve got lots of them”.

It occurred to me afterwards that Gladwell’s success as a speaker illustrates one of his homespun themes – hard work pays off. But he has also made an important realisation. He is not giving a speech or a lecture – he is giving a performance. And like any good actor, he knows that you have to learn your lines.

Reliable Lie Detection Cues

We mistakenly attribute fidgeting, stuttering and avoidance of eye contact as outward signals of mendacity, suggests recent research into lie detection, showing that these are some of the least accurate ways to predict whether or not someone is lying.

Instead, the most reliable way to tell if someone is lying is by listening carefully:

Professor Richard Wiseman […] says that common sense is the lie-buster’s best weapon, and affirms that it is aural rather than visual clues that are key.

Wiseman’s 1994 experiment […] had 30,000 participants watching or listening to two interviews he conducted with Robin Day. In one, Day told the truth; in the other he lied. Viewers could not spot the lie: there was a near-50/50 vote. Radio listeners, however, achieved over 70 per cent accuracy.

“Lying taxes the mind,” Wiseman explains. “It involves thinking about what is plausible. People tend to repeat phrases, give shorter answers, and hesitate more. They will try to distance themselves from the lie, so use far more impersonal language. Liars often reduce the number of times that they say words like ‘I’, ‘me’, and ‘mine’. To detect deception, look for aural signs associated with having to think hard.”

According to the Canadian Journal of Police and Security Services, another side-effect of lying that forensic interrogators will look for is the avoidance of verbal contractions – using “I am” instead of “I’m” and so on.

Writing and Preparing for a Speech (Tim Ferriss’ System)

The Tim Ferris technique for preparing a speech. For those aware of the concept, you may spot a resemblance to the snowflake method (previously), as typically used for writing novels.

There are also some non-structural tips in the article (i.e. “No one should misunderstand you. Everything you say should be clear”.)

  • Organise the speech using the “rule of thirds” (no content at this stage, tailor the timings to your desired speech length):
    • 2-minute introduction.
    • Three 10-minute segments.
    • 2-minute close.
  • Create the content for the three central segments. For each 10-minute segment:
    • Decide what the main takeaway or usable action is for the audience.
    • Explain this using the PEP or EPE format (E = Example or case study. P = Point, illustrating the concept, offering actionable next steps).
    • Use 2-3 of these per 10-minute segment.
  • Create the introduction:
    • Preferably start with a story.
    • Explain that you’ll introduce three concepts that will help the audience do “X”, where “X” is whatever the overarching theme of the presentation is.
  • Rehearse:
    • Rehearse the sections separately.
    • Time yourself.
    • After each rehearsal write down any one-liners or wording that you like.
    • Do not memorise the speech verbatim.
    • Do remember the starting and closing 2-3 sentences for each portion (introduction, the three central segments).
  • Create and rehearse the conclusion.
  • Rehearse the entire speech:
    • Rehearse until you recite the speech perfectly at least once.
    • Accept that you’ll forget at least 10% of your memorised lines.
    • Continue to review notes to ensure you are hitting the important points.
  • Sleep.

So, the final speech will be structured like this:

  • Introduction
  • Segment 1
    • EPE/PEP
    • EPE/PEP
    • EPE/PEP
  • Segment 2
    • EPE/PEP
    • EPE/PEP
    • EPE/PEP
  • Segment 3
    • EPE/PEP
    • EPE/PEP
    • EPE/PEP
  • Conclusion