I don’t know if you know much about our family, but Ethan, my son, has special needs. When he was young, he couldn’t speak. For 3 or 4 years, he was completely non-verbal. It was really hard to parent a kid when you don’t know how they’re thinking and feeling.
Ethan cried a lot when he was little. It was hard, especially on Kiri-Maree. We tried lots of different things. One of the things we did was we went to a course called Hanen, and it taught us a bunch of skills specifically designed to help you communicate with a non-verbal child.
There were lots of things from it. Two of them stuck.
Imagine you’re a small kid, you’re not non-verbal, and all of the people who are trying to talk at you are gigantic just because of height differences.
The first thing that they said was to get down to their level. Get a knee so you’re at eye-level. You’re not some towering giants.
Don’t be so imposing.
Lesson number two was really useful. What they taught us to do was to start a sentence and leave the last word off, and wait for Ethan to fill it in or try. Like, any sound; it didn’t have to be the right word, but to attempt to fill it in.
You might point at the people in the family and you might say, “Dad, Jotham, Zacharia,” and then he’d point at Kiri-Maree and he’d wait; and he’d wait, and he’d wait, and he’d wait for what seemed like an eternity.
Sometimes, like, 30 or 40 seconds hoping to get a grunt or some effort. You know what I mean?
Anyway, it’s really interesting. I’ve never done any speaker training. I’m not a professional public speaker but I’m decent at speaking. And there are two things that I do that have been really good and people comment on my speaking skills.
I’m certainly not polished or anything, but there are two things I do.
Get down on their level
The first thing is to get down on their level. If you’re a speaker on stage whether it’s a huge audience or a small workshop, get down on their level.
That could be physically getting off the stage and walking around and connecting with people which is extraordinary.
I remember Brent Williams, one of my friends, used to run seminars for teenagers. And he used to get off the stage and walk and literally sit in the audience and chat with the person next to him.
He’s got a microphone so everyone could hear, but it was fascinating —captivating. It could be a physical get off, but it could also just be a lower your level so that you’re not so intimidating. A little drop in status —lower your status to one millimeter below them for one second is a nice thing to do from an approachability point. That’s first.
Leave the end off of a sentence
The second thing that I also learned, I think, that Brent models really well and a bunch of good presenters do is to leave the end off of a sentence.
In fact, I think Brent was the first person I saw who teaches this and he’d say, “There’s going to be times where I leave the end off of a sentence. And when I do, I’d love it if you call out the answer. Let’s just practice that. There’s going to be times when I leave the end of a….” and the audience would go, “Sentence.” Great. I’d love it if you call out the…” and the audience would say, “Answer.”
He was amazing for engagement, for learning, for activation.
Those are two little tricks that I’ve learned that have helped me speak that I actually learned from helping Ethan to learn to talk.
Anyway, I hope that little bit useful for you. The last thing I wanted to say is Ethan didn’t talk till he was 4. I don’t know what your first word was, whether it was mum or dad, or if you’ve got kids, what their first words are, but Ethan didn’t speak till he was 4. And when he did finally speak, his first word was “supermarket”.
It’s hilarious. Fun fact.
I hope you’re well. I’m going to sign off for now.
I’ll talk to you soon.
Taki Moore, out.
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