How to get the most out of your speech training


Last year I had the immense pleasure of working with Suranga Nanayakkara of the Augmented Human Lab as he refined his speech for presentation purposes. Suranga is one of those impressive people who seems to be able to achieve more in a week than most of us can do in a year, and his speech training was no exception. In one particular meeting, he introduced me to a TED talk and its simple but empowering message really resonated with me. Being the start of a new year, I thought it was the perfect time to share this with you all!

In this talk, Eduardo Briceno raises some great points regarding the challenges associated with personal and professional development and gives us practical tips on how we can better achieve our goals.

The first thing that stood out to me about Eduardo (apart from the awesome message of course) was that despite having a non-native English accent, his speech is extremely clear, consistent, and professional. In my opinion, he has struck that perfect balance between clarity and authenticity. I love how he has maintained a core part of his cultural identity while speaking so well and with such confidence.


Eduardo points out that many of us can get pretty stuck when trying to develop skills that are important to us. We often fail to make substantial progress despite our continued efforts and attempts. Frustrating, right?! To be honest, I’m glad to hear it’s not just me! Have you ever felt like this about your own English pronunciation, presentation or speech skills?


He believes that the best way to beat this problem is to purposefully alternate between two zones – the Learning Zone and the Performance Zone. In the Learning Zone the goal is to improve; we expect to make mistakes, we concentrate on what we haven’t yet mastered, and do targeted activities for improving these skills. In the Performance Zone the goal is to do the best we can; we try to minimise mistakes, we concentrate on the skills we have mastered and focus on their execution. Makes sense to me! If we are clear about when we are in each zone and what our specific intentions are, then we should be able to make progress.


The issue is that many of us have to spend the majority of our work lives in the Performance Zone. Commonly, that’s what our jobs demand from us. So, here are some tips for when you don’t have time for dedicated practice:

  1. Create learning cycles from your Performance Zones. Record yourself for a minute in a meeting or presentation and reflect on it later during your commute home. This adds no extra time to your day!

  2. Seek out low-stakes situations in your daily routine. Morning greetings at work, bedtime stories with your children or lunchtime chat in the office are all great opportunities for practice. In these situations, you can try out new techniques without fear.

  3. Be open about your training and ask for regular feedback from your trusted colleagues and friends. People who make the most progress with their speech are those who involve others in their learning. This helps them to maintain a positive attitude towards practice!


As it’s the start of a new year, it's a great time to re-examine the methods in which you are using to improve the clarity of your speech. Are you being as effective as you possibly can? Are you allocating time to dedicated practice? Are you reflecting on your performance regularly? I hope watching this talk will give you some inspiration and motivation for the coming year!

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Sitting at the back of an English class in a high school in Japan, I distinctly remember being shocked that the teacher had such poor English pronunciation - I struggled to understand half of what she was saying! This made me wonder how she could possibly teach others to communicate effectively in English when she herself could not do so..