If English is not your native language, are you still struggling finding the right word?

In the San Francisco Bay area, I have many clients whose first language is not English. When I work with them on enhancing their presentation skills, a common fear is either mispronouncing a word, or using the wrong word when explaining a concept.

I know there are some positions where one has to carefully select words, and that being precise is essential.

But, for many of us, I would ask … that really what your audiences want from you….to always say the right thing at the right time? To never mispronounce word?

Even if English is our first language, how many of us can achieve that?

Here is my advice.

First –  be kind to yourself; mastering a language is difficult and public speaking can be scary.

Second – try this. When the right word is not coming to you, call it out. Say, “I am searching for a certain word, but it is escaping me.” You might discover that the audience is willing to help you find that word. Or, you can say, “I am not thinking of it, so let’s move on.”

Third – prepare. When practicing, make sure you select words you are comfortable saying.






I cautioned several clients recently about timing; their presentations went on way too long.

When I asked why they hadn’t edited out extraneous information, they said they packed their talk with tons of information, in order to ward off questions at the conclusion of their presentation.

If this is strategy you are thinking of employing, don’t.

Questions are the most dynamic part of the presentation.

They allow you to further connect to the audience.  That connection comes when you listen to their issues, empathize with them, acknowledge a different point-of-view, or solve a problem.

If you fear being ambushed by a hostile question, or even being thrown an inquiry you can’t answer, you can prepare for those possibilities in advance.

Keep this in mind.   When you lengthen your presentation, the audience retention plummets; you risk losing, boring or annoying your audience.

Don’t give them an excuse to tune out and turn to their phones for entertainment.

Plus…you may get that bothersome question anyway.

Monotone voice? Use your hands.

If you talk in a monotone, and you want to add more modulation to your vocal delivery, try using hand gestures that draw a picture of the word.

In my years of training and coaching, I have discovered an interesting outcome when people use hand gestures…the voice naturally expands and becomes more expressive.

There is one important key to this: the hand gesture MUST match, describe, or illustrate the word you are saying.

Try this experiment. Say the following sentence and use your hands to illustrate an “expansive bay window.”

“In my living room, I have an EXPANSIVE BAY WINDOW overlooking the bridge.”

Did you hear your voice amplify?

I suggest you practice this skill first, before you incorporate them into a presentation. Here’s how. Look for words that describe an object, a motion, or an action. Example words are: stack of papers, balance, moving forward, no way, rising, lowering, spending more than we’re taking in.”

A safe place to practice this is when you are talking on the phone. Exaggerate the hand gestures and see how this affects the energy in your voice.

Once you have practiced and feel confident that your gestures are becoming more natural, set a goal for yourself. When you are preparing your talking points for a meeting or presentation, look for 3 or 4 words where you can add a gesture. Make a conscious effort to do so.

It is truly an authentic way to add expression to your voice.






I know you have heard this before…the Lectern is a barrier. It is so true.

This was exemplified in a training I did in Anaheim this past month.

My clients have to present before their Board several times a year. It has been protocol that they stand behind the lectern to deliver their information.

During rehearsals, I had them move out from behind the lectern and get closer to the audience. What a difference.

To a person, they exhibited more energy, an ability to be more expressive, and the audience felt more connected to the presenter.

Lesson learned: the lectern hamstrings a presenter from being fully engaged.

I understand there are situations when protocol dictates that you have to stand behind the lectern, for example, when you are presenting to a political body, or if the microphone is the only way you can be heard.

However, whenever possible, free yourself from that obstruction.

You will find you can elevate and enhance your engagement and connection with the audience, by ditching the lectern.





During Question-and-Answer sessions, I have seen speakers acknowledge the questioner by saying, “That’s a good question.”

If you must say it at all, only say it once.

The reason is, if you say that after each question, it can sound disingenuous. Or, it sounds like a stalling technique. Or, it becomes an annoying filler.

However, you may genuinely want to add a statement before you answer the question, so you might consider these:

  • “That is an interesting perspective.”
  • “You are bringing up another good point with that question.”
  • “I haven’t considered that before.”

Of course, there is nothing wrong with just answering the question.

My guiding principle is authenticity. If it is a good question, say it. If it is an interesting question, say it. If it is not, just answer the question directly.





Have you ever really listened to Wolf Blitzer and how he speaks? To me, he sounds slightly frantic. Plus…it is oftentimes hard to follow his conversation and line of questioning.

WHY?  I contribute this to his breathing and pausing … in all the wrong places.

WHERE SHOULD YOU BREATHE AND PAUSE?   Where the punctuation lies within a sentence. Or, in the TV world…when setting up the meaningful information.

Because he is not breathing at the end of each phrase, he is forced to take a quick breath, mid-sentence, which makes him sound slightly frantic and out-of-control.

This also disrupts the logic or flow of the sentence, thus causing confusion with the audience, or having them work harder to follow the question.

Here is an example I took from a recent interview with Reince Priebus, the Chairperson of the Republican National Convention.

(When you don’t see the punctuation, that means his sentences were colliding; there was no pause to separate the content.)

“You’ve seen our new poll numbers Secretary Clinton (breath) saw this convention bounce uh after both conventions The CNN/RNC poll (breath) shows that the number of voters who believe Secretary Clinton’s (gulp) policies (breath) will move the country in the right direction That actually jumped from 43 percent before to 48 percent now The number of voters (breath) who said the same about Trump’s policies actually went down from 40 percent before the conventions to 38 percent now Did the Republican (breath) Convention achieve what was needed?”

Here are my suggestions on how to improve his pacing/phrasing.

“You’ve seen our new poll numbers. (PAUSE) Secretary Clinton saw this convention bounce after both conventions. (PAUSE) The CNN/RNC poll shows that (catch breath) the number of voters who believe Secretary Clinton’s policies (catch breath) will move the country in the right direction… (PAUSE) Those numbers actually jumped from 43 percent before (catch breath) to 48 percent now. (PAUSE) The number of voters (hesitate) who said the same about Trump’s policies, (catch breath) actually went down (catch breath) from 40 percent before the convention, (catch breath) to 38 percent now. (PAUSE) Did the Republican Convention achieve what was needed?

Here’s the link to the interview: