Using a webcam to learn to speak or teach better in 30 minutes

Prof Andrew Ng of Stanford University, and a co-founder of Coursera, has an interesting article on how you can Learn to Speak or Teach Better in 30 Minutes with the help of a video camera or a webcam.

He points out that athletes and musicians improve by picking challenging/difficult tasks and practicing those until they improve. Why don’t we do that with teaching / public speaking?

Deliberate practice is common in music and in sports, but is rarely used in the context of speaking or teaching. In fact, knowledge workers in most disciplines rarely engage in deliberate practice. This limits how rapidly we get better at our jobs; it also means that deliberate practice might help you progress faster than your peers.Key elements of deliberate practice include:

  • Rapid iteration.
  • Immediate feedback.
  • Focus on a small part of the task that can be done in a short time.

Here’s a 30 minute deliberate practice exercise for improving your presentations:

  • Select a ~60 second portion of a presentation that you made recently, or that you plan to make.
  • Record yourself making that 60 second presentation. Use a webcam, camcorder, or your cellphone video camera to capture video and audio.
  • Watch your presentation. If you haven’t seen yourself on video much, you’ll be appalled at how you look or sound. This is a good sign; it means that your speaking ability is about to improve dramatically.
  • Decide what you’d like to adjust about your presentation. Then go back to Step 2, try again, making any changes you think will improve your speaking.
  • Repeat the cycle of recording, watching, and adjusting 8 – 10 times.

Read the full article for more details, including a FAQ at the end.

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