Good diction is about the art of speaking clearly so that you are understood to the fullest. Good diction is more about the tone of voice, the distinctiveness of speech and the pronunciation as opposed to choice of words or sentences.
Many problems can contribute to poor diction such as low level of voice, repeating words and phrases, using filler phrases such as “you know what I mean” and strong accents.
However, research shows that one of the most common causes of having poor diction is the use of filling words such as “um”, “uh”, “so” and similar. English speakers are particularly keen users of these filler words and the equivalents in other languages are also used regularly.
This exercise helps delegates practice reducing the frequency of saying “um” and thereby helps them to improve their diction.
Aim to avoid saying “um” while telling a story to avoid the penalty.
What You Need
- Newspapers or magazines cut outs. You need a collection of short stories or news articles. Pick those that are easy and quick to read and to talk about. Stories with open views are best. Over time, as you come across stories, you can collect them and use them for this exercise during your future training sessions.
- Ask the delegates to sit in a circle.
- Explain that the objective of this exercise is to avoid saying “um” to improve diction.
- Pick a newspaper story at random and pass it to a volunteer.
- Ask this person to read the story for everyone. People must pay attention to the story because they are going to talk about it.
- Now ask the person who read it to start talking about the story, express his own opinion and expand on the topic.
- While talking he must pay attention to his diction. Use of “um” is not allowed. As soon as the person who is talking says “um”, his turn is over and the talking should pass on to the person on his left. The turn is also over if he pauses for more than 5 seconds.
- The next person should start talking to express his own take on the story and share any specific opinion. As before, the use of “um” will terminate his turn and talking will move on to the next person on this left.
- Continue until there is a noticeable reduction in the use of “um”. This must be run as a fast paced exercise, so make sure everyone is focused and highly engaged.
- If the subject is exhausted, pass on another news or story and start the exercise from the beginning.
- If a person has really clear diction and constantly talks without “um”, after 3 minutes, state that he has done a fantastic job and ask the next person to take the turn.
- Continue until you think delegates have improved enough for this exercise
- Follow with a discussion.
Explaining the Exercise: 2 minutes
Activity: 10 to 15 minutes
Group Feedback: 5 minutes
How easy was it to avoid saying “um”? Did practicing in this way help you avoid saying “um”? Who was good at it and why? Do you think talking slower will help you avoid saying “um” or pause unnecessarily? What techniques worked best in improving your diction?