Utter Nonsense

Want to get better at speaking? I have a fun exercise for you. I call it “Utter Nonsense.” Because that’s what you have to do: utter nonsense.

This isn’t just about public speaking – this is about speaking in any context, whether it’s a sales pitch, an interview, a speech, etc. Practicing this exercise gets you better at talking, that’s all.

All you need is the ability to record yourself on video and the ability to mark time in 60-second increments. Here’s how it works: You start the recording on your own smiling mug, and you set that one-minute timer. Then, you start talking. The rules are that you only lose if you:

  • Pause for more than a breath
  • Use a filler such as “um,” “like,” or “you know,” etc.
  • Break your flow by laughing, losing it, etc.

You specifically don’t lose if you just ramble about complete balderdash. You don’t even have to use real sentences. You can pull a Keyser Söze and just start talking about objects in your line of sight. You can just start spouting off random words, as long as you keep the flow. Someone who doesn’t speak a word of English should look at the recording and think it was probably a great speech.

When it’s done, you watch the recording, and then you’re allowed to laugh all you want. But then do it again. Rinse, repeat.

Why the focus on everything BUT the words? Aren’t the words… kind of important?

Sure, but you never get to the part where the other party listens to your words if you can’t pitch them accurately across the gap from your lips to their ears. You need to get good at cadence, confidence, posture, pitch, and all that stuff. And that stuff is hard to focus on if you’re trying to get the words right.

So skip the words for this exercise. Watch some YouTube videos of great speeches given by foreign leaders in a language you don’t speak. Since you can’t understand the words, you’ll observe everything else – body language, tone, etc. Do the same for talk shows or news in foreign languages (and turn the subtitles off) – watch how people listen and answer questions, look at their eye contact, etc. Then compare those to the videos you made, and see where you can improve.

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