Make Your Message Heard Clearly: 3 Vocal Techniques from an Expert

How do you use your voice to its full potential?

For this week’s Show-N-Tell, I interviewed a special guest — Graig Russell from Yokohama Theatre Group — my voice coach! I had so much fun doing this interview.

We are lucky to have Graig Russell share 3 vocal techniques with us, so our audience can clearly understand the message that we are trying to get across. What’s the point of coming up with brilliant words when your audience couldn’t hear or understand them anyway?

The interview had so much valuable content in it — we had to split it into two parts. Watch out for Part 2 next week!

AND you just might encounter more special guests in the near future! So stay tuned and be sure to subscribe to our blog posts so you don’t miss anything!

In the meantime, without further ado, here’s my interview with Graig about the 3 Vocal Techniques to make sure everyone is clearly hearing your message.

Great and easy tips, aren’t they? Here are the three techniques again, outlined simply:

1. Breathe properly. (More on how to do this next week!)

2. Relax, stretch and yawn away.

3. Speak up — imagine throwing your voice into an arc across the room — and speak slowly.

Now, evaluate your voice and the way you sound during presentations. The best way to do this is to watch a video or listen to an audio recording of yourself. If you don’t have a recording yet, it’s a great idea to make one! That way, you could immediately see and hear what you need to improve on for your next speaking gig.

Does your voice sound too soft? Does it sound like you’re straining?

How about the speed of your speech? Do you think your audience could make out the words you say?

Which of the three techniques do you think would benefit you the most?

Never Talk to Strangers! 3 Simple Tips to Connect with Your Audience

If you’re speaking at an event, it’s probably because you have an expertise you could share that your audience will benefit from. Wahoo! Congrats and be proud of yourself!

But then the organizers set you apart from everyone else — they probably seat you at the back or on a separate table at an elevated platform. Although this might make you feel “special”, this actually unknowingly creates a little bit of disconnect between you and your audience. And you wouldn’t want that at all! One of the keys to any great talk is to create rapport and be able to jive with your listeners!

I’ll share with you some secret tips on how to create rapport that works for me whenever I speak at an event. This could also work for any presentation you’re going to make.


Having Second Thoughts? Think in Your Second Language!

Having difficulty deciding how to streamline your talk?

Do you make decisions quickly and easily? Or do you go back and forth over which direction to go?

Want to give a TED talk about a subject that you usually do a full-day seminar on? How do you simplify those points? How do you decide what is important to you?

When you are having second thoughts about those decisions, let this easy process simplify your life.


Make Your Presentations More Memorable with 5 Elements that Give a Story P.O.W.E.R.

Have you ever sat through a presentation full of numbers, data and statistics? You may remember falling asleep, but we rarely remember the specific numbers from a presentation.

From cavemen writing on walls, to Steve Jobs selling iPhones, stories have helped  audiences remember a message long after the presentation.

Watch this Show-N-Tell to learn the 5 elements that create simple, powerful stories, and how they will make your presentations more memorable.

Remember to leave a comment below after you watch!

Find Your Gift

Trying to find a theme to talk about or start a blog on, but can’t quite grasp what your gift is?

Some of you may already know exactly what you’d want to talk about. Others may not be so sure what their message would be.

We all have a unique story to share, whether you know it or not! In this Show-N-Tell, I’ll give you 3 simple steps to finding YOUR unique gift to share with the world.

The P.O.W.E.R. of Story

How can the Power of Story bring your online videos to life? What is it about a story that engages your audience, and how do you use that power in your presentations? This Show-N-Tell will help you harness the Power of Story to make your content more memorable and your delivery more effective. Now, we’re not talking about becoming a professional screenwriter. But having a basic understanding of the Power of Story will have a huge effect on how your deliver your content.


You’ve been using the power of story your entire life and may not have even realized it. As children we were great story tellers. Our imaginations ran wild and we rarely censored ourselves. We laughed a lot, and even cried a little. As adults we see the world differently. We tend to focus on just the facts. Yes, the facts are important, and without any facts or statistics there would probably be no need for a presentation. But the delivery of those facts must be emotional. Anyone can read the facts off a print-out, or from a computer screen. An effective presentation, or online video, must engage the audience and connect with them emotionally.

Stories have been used across every culture in order to entertain, educate, and socialize. From Cavemen drawing on walls, to Marketers pitching a new product — how and why we tell stories has grown and evolved over centuries, but the basic elements of a good story remain the same and conveniently fit into an acronym:

P eople.

O bjective.

W ild Card.

E ffort.

R esult.

As we work through this acronym, take a minute to write down how each element relates to your project, whether it’s a new online video post or a seminar in front of 2000 people.

The most important element is People. As human beings we love stories. We connect to the human aspect, or the humanity of the story. We don’t connect to data or bullet-points. In order to make your data mean something, make it human. Your audience doesn’t want to know just facts and figures, but how those facts and figures will affect them. If you’re selling baby-care products, don’t just point out the new wings on the diaper, tell the parents how much more comfortable their baby will be, thanks to those new wings. This video isn’t just a lecture, explaining the basic elements of story, it’s teaching you how you can use this knowledge to achieve a goal.

Which brings us to the second element: Objective. Now that we have a personal element, we need to figure out what that person wants. What is the final goal? Is your goal to increase sales? Is your objective to teach someone how to upload a video? It may seem obviously simple, but by stating it clearly and directly, it provides a destination and purpose to your presentation.

If all we had were People and Objective, the world would be a pretty boring place. What makes a story interesting is the conflict, the struggle, or the Wild Card. The Wild Card is the obstacle standing between the person and the objective. If your goal is to increase traffic to your website, what is it that’s preventing you from achieving that? Is poor content driving people away? Is it poor delivery of that content, putting your audience to sleep? More likely it’s a lack of knowledge on how to attract more viewers.

Not to fear. Dreams do come true! Not without some Effort, though. The Effort is the action taken to overcome the Wild Card. How do you remove that obstacle standing in the way between you and your goal? Do you take a course on how to increase traffic and apply what you learn? Or, you may offer something for free in order to increase value for your viewers. Maybe it’s simply looking at a situation from a different perspective, producing a different result.

The Result may not always be what we expect, but there’s always a conclusion. Once you’ve recognized the result, you can choose to accept it and move on, or repeat the process and try again. In movies and TV shows, this cycle repeats over and over again, with the protagonist making an effort, but not getting the result hoped for, or reaching the objective. He has to keep trying different tactics to reach the objective, which is the hoped for result.

By incorporating these basic elements into your online video, your audience will remain engaged in what you have to say. They’ll remember the message of your story long after they forget the numbers in your bullet-points.

So, now you know the basic elements of a good story, but when do you use it? Always. Every presentation you give, every video you upload should include these 5 elements. Give your audience something to connect to, rather than boring them with bullet-points. Before you know it they will be staying on your website longer, asking more questions, getting more involved.

Ira Glass, famed host of NPR’s This American Life, talks about the power of story in Garr Reynold’s The Naked Presenter:

“No matter how boring the material is, if it is in story form…there is suspense in it, it feels like something’s going to happen. The reason why is because literally, it’s a sequence of events…you can feel through its form [that it’s] inherently like being on a train that has a destination…and that you’re going to find something…”

Now we encourage you to go find something. Take the lesson above and apply it to your next video or presentation. After you’ve done that, be sure to Show-N-Tell.us all about it in the comments below!

The Process to Become a TED Speaker

Great connections start with lunch. At least how I make lunch. In Japan, there are many varieties of rice.

“Soness, you can’t eat this rice with a stir fry! It’s sushi rice.” Another cultural faux pas. I’ve made more than a few in my 15 years in Japan. I’m beginning to realize they’ll never end.

Rice is rice, right? I mean, maybe I can see not wanting to eat jasmine rice with miso soup. I recognize the consistency issue. When so many people are starving around the world, including obese American literally nutritionally starving themselves fat, what’s the big deal about one type of Japanese rice versus another?

Everything has a specific purpose here. The wonderful thing about Japan is they create tailored goods. It’s very niche. But I’ve got a problem: No time to cook. Apparently people all across Japan have this problem. Metabolic Syndrome (Metabo) is literally a crime. Companies get fined if their employees’ waistlines are too big. What is big? Males over 33 inches or females over 35 inches. Hardly big compared to most countries.

Over the years, I’ve noticed stores carrying my size. I’m not big compared to American standards. I’m proportionately balanced with a small waist. When I first came to Japan, I was told to go on a diet first when I asked to try on a dress. Now, I can buy an American size 6, 8 or 10, thanks to American retailers demonstrating the growing, no pun intended, need for larger clothes.

After discovering a health issue, I found the solution. I cook meals with 3 minutes prep in my rice cooker. Different than a slow cooker, I can cook some meals by leaving it in for 20 minutes, overnight, or up to all day.

“Looks delicious!” my Japanese friends say.
“Thanks, try a bite, I made it in my rice cooker.” I grin.
“What?! Can you do that?” they are puzzled while asking for recipes.

Patrick Newell asked about my cooking methods over lunch at the TEDx NHK Super Presentations Event in March. I had tried to pitch another TED talk idea. He loved my food. My heart raced.

What if you had the chance to sit down with people who could grace you with an opportunity? Would you shy away, or would take up on it?

It’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book from here on. Before continuing on, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Stay tuned for how the selection process works!

What’s TED Worldwide Talent Search like?

Soness Stevens getting feedback from Chris Anderson, TED Curator

What’s TED Worldwide Talent Search like?

American Idol for smart people. That’s the simplest way I can describe it.

I love that there is no real winner because even those who do not get chosen to go to Longbeach, California wins both onstage and off through the exchange of Ideas Worth Spreading. Everybody wins. From what I understand, just like a talent search, even those who get up to the final rounds get amazing opportunities.

Looking at the brilliant minds surrounding me, I feel like a kid who accidentally got put in the honors class due to a typo. No, wait, I am meant to be here. I may not be a neuroscientist, but I know how to spell it…or at least spell check it. Oh, I was in the honors class. Might have been a mistake, but I rose to the occasion.

I’m thankful for my community and TEDxTokyo who believe in me knowing the passion that burns inside. Thank you for the opportunity to share a simple idea.

I hope to spread two simple things:
1. A solution to time and healthy cooking that the audience can apply the moment they get home.

Time is valuable. I had no time, and frankly no skills, to cook healthy meals. It was more than just expensive to eat out, I was getting sick. So, I needed to change ASAP. I looked around my kitchen at the only device I never used and had an Ah-ha moment.

Now, I cook 3 meals a day in a piece of Japanese technology most people already have. It takes 3 minutes to prepare meals. Just mix simple ingredients in it. Push a button and go. I have time to do what I want to do: sleeping, running, working, surfing, etc. I make 3 meals a day in a rice cooker. I’m healthy again and have cut my food bill by 2/3.

2. The solution to problems might be right in front our face. 
The solution may have one name, one limiting purpose (It is called a rice cooker for a reason) but I say, “In life, go against the grain.”

What solutions are you seeking that might be staring at you in the face?
Have you ever felt out of your element but chose to go for it?

Please share and let’s discuss in the comments below.