Bless his heart.
My sentiments as I watched this poor father, herd his two little blond girls into the priority security line at the airport, alone. Standing behind them, the shorter and younger of the two girls turned around, looked up and smiled at me. Melted my heart. I smiled and asked her, “Do you know where you're flying to?”
“No way. Me too! Do you know what city?”
I had stumped her. She looked at her Dad for help. I followed her lead and glanced up to see a father who was smiling apologetically for his daughter’s newfound interest in me.
“Dallas.” He answered for her.
“No way. Me too!” I responded, shifting my gaze back to her.
By this point, it was ID and boarding pass check time. Then quickly over to a moving belt, grab a bin or two or three, unload your liquids, remove your laptop, remove your shoes, step into the peeping tom machine, step out the other side, better grab your things before they get crushed, and be on your oh so TSA merry way.
I grabbed my obligatory Starbucks on my way to the gate, and boarded into seat 3A. Head down; phone out: check Instagram, check Facebook, iMessage my peeps. Look up: FATE!
Walking down the aisle and stopping at my row, was none other than Mr. Dad and his two blonde daughters. He laughed, I said hello. He situated his daughters across the aisle and then sat down beside me. Someone had decided that our journey together wasn't over.
I find out the girls, Alex, age five and Ashley, age three were traveling with Dad to visit their Aunt and cousins in Dallas.
And off we went, soaring to 30,000 feet for the next two and a half hours. All was quiet for the first two hours. Then Ashley came over and climbed into her dad’s lap with a book, Grace for President. He happily read it to her. She got down, went and grabbed another book and returned to his lap.
“The Ugly Duckling!” I announced when I saw the book. Ashley smiled and said, “You read it.” The apologetic look came across her father’s face again.
“Of course.” I replied, delighted. Ashley dismounted her dad’s lap and climbed into mine, The Ugly Duckling in hand, and we embarked on our literary journey together.
As we finished the book it was time to make our final descent. Ashley returned to her seat leaving me to reflect. I was on my way to a speaking engagement and reading The Ugly Duckling was the best presentation preparation I could have had.
How reading to a child can help improve your speaking skills:
1. Enunciation. When you read aloud to a child, you are forced to speak and pronounce each and every word. And because you are in teaching mode, you will speak slowly and more clearly, therefore your enunciation is naturally enforced. Yes, you will flub over words, even in children’s books, mostly because you aren’t used to speaking when you read. How often do you glaze over words when you read silently? You can’t do that when you are reading a story to a child.
2. Emphasis. Children’s books give you great words to practice your emphasis. CRACK! Animal sounds, action words, and animated exclamations allow the practice of varying your inflection, your reading speed, and your overall performance. Embrace the story and use it to practice your emphasis.
3. Empathy. I felt for the little Ugly Duckling. When the Ugly Duckling was sad, I read in a sad voice. When the Ugly Duckling found out it was really a beautiful swan it was elated, I read in a happy and excited voice. The biggest power you must own when you are speaking is your ability to transfer emotion. Practice your empathy out loud.
4. Enthusiasm. It’s simple. Children do not like boring. They need stimulation. If you are going to read a book to a child, be prepared to use your full tank of energy and enthusiasm. Go all out! The same is true for any presentation you give. Save the audience from a painfully boring and monotone presentation and please, go all out!
Reading aloud is about effectively transferring the message to the audience. The same is true for your speaking skills. Whether you are a teacher, a coach, a parent, a leader, a salesperson, a waiter, or a human, when you apply the same enunciation, emphasis, empathy and enthusiasm used as reading to a child, your presentation will win and your audience will be entranced.
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