Can wearing a mask help you improve your public speaking abilities?
If you were to look at the advice that coaches and public speaking trainers give those who are learning to be better public speakers or to improve their skills, that advice that's given to them is the same advice that someone would give to establish rapport and connection from behind a mask. The tips that they give to both of those groups are the same. So let's go over those.
My name is Dr. Tori with Influence Everywhere. I'm an expert and influence, persuasion, body language and rapport for improving your relationships and improving behavior change.
First of all, we're wearing masks all the time, right? (Well, at least, you should be.) When you're wearing a mask, it's an opportunity to practice. Let’s go over three quick things that you can practice every time you wear a mask. These are three tools in your speaking tool belt that you can improve upon while wearing a mask. Do that and you will improve your public speaking skills.
3 - Use the Qualities of Your Voice
Your voice is an incredible tool. It is an asset. Your voice has many qualities that can be altered, adjusted and changed in such a way that it improves your ability to establish rapport and to convey ideas.
Sometimes, our communication falters due to the qualities of voice. For example, we might be speaking at a normal volume, then trail off at the end. That portion of what we said isn't heard well and gets misunderstood. Either it's not heard at all or it's misheard. The other person may think you said something else entirely..
You may have heard of “voice coaches”. They help people who are either improving their voice for singing or actors and actresses as they imitate a singer or imitate another person.
Your voice is not something that is static. You can change it and voice coaches can help to adjust the many components of your voice - not just volume. Volume is extremely important, by the way, especially when speaking from behind a mask, because you don't have the benefit of reading lips. So your volume is important, but there are other important voice qualities - There's pitch, there's tone, there's melody, there's pace / cadence, etc.
Your voice is an incredible tool. How you use it has deep impact on your ability to establish rapport and engage others.
When you are speaking to someone from behind your mask, try adjusting your voice. This is especially the case if they ever say “I'm sorry?” and lean forward as if they're trying to listen a little more. You're just not loud enough. So change your volume.
If they're not engaged, perhaps you need to change the pace. Maybe it would help to speak faster or, even better, to vary the pace. Or maybe you need to slow down and have some pauses. Or maybe you need to use silence after making an important point.
In real-time, you can vary the pitch and the melody and all these things as you speak. This helps you maintain engagement. And this is something that public speakers are being taught all the time - not just for video, but also for the stage. Meetings too. Your voice matters.
Go ahead and look up voice coaches. Try to find more information on the top tips from voice coaches and things like that. Look for videos and podcasts, especially. There's a person I absolutely recommend, Roger Love. He has a whole host of materials, courses, and coaching out there. There's enough free stuff out there, by him alone, that is enough to completely change how you communicate from behind a mask.
Keep this in mind: Every time you communicate from behind a mask, you have an opportunity to improve your voice for public speaking.
2 - Squeeze the Meaning Out of Your Words
I used to have a hypnotherapy teacher who would say, “You have to squeeeeeeze the meaning out of the words.” Squeeze the meaning out of the words.
And move your body in ways that are consistent with it.
Convey the meaning of the word with all of your means of expression - your body, with your facial expressions, and with your voice. Remember… they will not be able to read your lips from behind a mask. Using all of your means of expression is also what you should do when public speaking.
Another example: “That meeting was sooooo loooooong.” Say the word “long” in a way that conveys its very meaning..
It's a long duration. Right? “It went on for...eveeeeerrrrrr.”
The expression itself conveys the meaning. The manner in which you say it. HOW you say it, NOT just WHAT you say. How you say it conveys the meaning of the word.
It’s not limited to single words. It could also be a phrase or an entire paragraph. If you're talking about life during COVID-19, for example, “Oh gosh. March just felt like it went on for sooooo looooong. But then everything after that was so quick-paced. One thing after another, after another after another.” (with the italicized part being spoken at a super-quick pace)
The words have meaning. And the way you say it conveys that meaning.
1 - Exaggerate Your Emotion
Now, the most important of these three tips would be to over emphasize emotion.
When you are behind the mask, if you exaggerate emotion, it will show more in your eyes, your eyebrows, your neck, your body.
When you are on stage speaking, the same thing goes. There's a saying among public speaking trainers, “The larger the stage, the larger the emotion.” The larger the stage, the larger the emotion, the more exaggerated the emotion.
If you’re on a stage speaking to 15,000 people, that requires a lot more energy, enthusiasm, and vibrancy than a stage in front of 15.
So, too, with using a mask. If you want to establish deep connection and rapport while keeping people engaged from behind your mask, you have to bring a different kind of energy of expression. When you are conveying an emotion,
This is the case whether you are expressing concern or excitement, elation or disgust, anger or joy. Doesn’t matter. Behind a mask, it has to be a little larger than life.
One good place learn from others is through superhero movies. Spider-Man, Deadpool, and these sort of things where they have a complete facial covering. Pay close attention. When they're wearing that full mask, how do they convey emotions? You'll see, especially in those movies that have all the full range of emotions. Like fear and and sort of jokes and sarcasm and deep concern and empathy. Those sort of characters that are wearing a full mask and express the full range of emotions are the best to learn from. You can learn a lot from their acting., especially Deadpool, Spider-Man, and even some of the Star Wars movies. You can look at their body language and look at how they exaggerate things.
Exaggerate the emotion from behind a mask. Exaggerate the emotion when you're on stage.
If you want to improve a skill, you need to have deliberate practice. If you complain about the mask along with everyone else, you will miss this opportunity. The fact is, you are wearing it and you should wear it. While you're wearing it, you have an opportunity to improve your public speaking skills by simply focusing on these three things.
Anytime you want to improve a skill, you need to practice.
Effective practice is not just about doing it over and over again. Many people have this misconception that the more you do something, the better you are at it. That's not necessarily the case. The more you do something, the more you do it that way.
To improve, though, you need to practice very deliberately. The former basketball star, Shaquille O'Neal, is sort of known for not being great at free throws or foul shots. Right? Spectacular basketball player, no question. Gifted athlete, gifted at the sport, but couldn't make foul shots. Why? He shot more foul shots than anyone that will ever read this post, and even more than all of those who read it combined. He shot more foul shots than all of us combined.
Just by shooting more foul shots doesn't make you better at them. It's the technique. It's how.
So what I'm suggesting to you is to have deliberate practice, deliberate practice of those three things. Voice volume, pitch tone, cadence, the words you use so that the words express the emotion, and exaggerating your emotions.
Now… every time you wear a mask, say, “I'm going to practice these three things” or pick one and say, “I'm just going to try to say the words in a way that expresses the meaning of the word.” Then do that the whole time you're wearing it. Instead of focusing on the fact that you're uncomfortable or that it looks silly or that you should have worn the other one... Instead of doing that, focus on how can I use this to improve? How can I use this to improve my skills of rapport and engagement and in turn, public speaking?
Pick one of these 3 tools. Deliberately practice it for the next week.