“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first,” Ralph Waldo Emerson, American 19th century essayist
Living in Switzerland, I’m lucky to have access to, in my opinion, the best chocolate in the world. Imagine, you’ve just taken a bite of your favourite, creamy chocolate. How does it taste? How does it feel in your mouth?
I like to compare the unique, comfortable ‘mouthfeel’ of my favourite chocolate with how it feels to speak rehearsed words with comfort and familiarity.
Mouthfeel is a fundamental sensory attribute which, along with taste and smell, determines the overall flavour of a food item. It refers to the physical sensations in the mouth caused by food or drink. With chocolate, the mouthfeel depends on cocoa butter content. Some chocolate connoisseurs use intense, mellow, buttery and clean to describe the mouthfeel.
Your favourite chocolate just ‘feels’ right in your mouth. Your brain anticipates the mouthfeel, taste and flavour before you’ve even put it in your mouth – and if it’s not the chocolate you expect, its feels wrong, it’s not ‘yours’.
With words and phrases, the mouthfeel depends on which ones are used. Do they belong to you and what you’re saying? Are they familiar? Do they ‘feel’ right? Do they express your passion, and the tone or style that fits your message, audience and chosen channel?
Rehearsing is an important part of your preparation to speak. It helps with both your vocal and physical preparation as it also has the beneﬁt of reinforcing your vocal muscle memory so you remember your words, strengthening your brain-to-voice connection. The rehearsed words with smooth delivery give you that perfect word ‘mouthfeel’.
You may have observed a presenter that you admire and thought that they have ‘natural’ ability and skills to be able to speak so eloquently and appear so ‘slick’. Don’t be fooled – they’ve honed their skills and messages through many many hours of practice and rehearsal. When the words ‘feel’ natural to the speaker, they appear comfortable and natural to the listener.
The more you sense the phrases orally, the better you deliver them and the tighter your communication becomes. That’s how good speakers come across as natural presenters; they’re comfortable with their words, so they’re comfortable with speaking them in any situation. They’ve found their perfect ‘mouthfeel’.
In my book Scientifically Speaking, I go into more detail about choosing your words and refining your messages, together with the importance of practice and rehearsal and also cover several other aspects of how to speak about science with confidence and clarity.