Personal Speech Coaching Speech Coaching

Touch Time for Speaking Skills

When learning to play a sport, the most valuable component is touch time. Touch time can be defined as the amount of time practising the sport, being on the pitch or playing field/surface, and/or getting time with the sport’s object (ball, racket, puck, oars, gymnastic rings, horse). By having increased touch time a novice can improve their skills and thus their performance. Not only are skills increased but there is also a general improvement in outlook, engagement, concentration and overall confidence in ability.

Touch time is well known in sport psychology, sport coaching and for sports professionals. Touch time is less well known or associated with general speaking, be it social speaking, public speaking, speaking in the work place or relational speaking. Could this be because speaking is seen as a given faculty of being human and ‘just happens’? In many cases, however, ‘just happens’ isn’t good enough. And here’s why speaking touch time is important.

Speaking ability shares various learning continuums associated with learning a sport, chief among these being ‘time on the ball’, or time spent speaking. This doesn’t mean the so-called loud mouth has better speaking skills because they speak all the time! However, it can be that a shy or quiet person, who doesn’t speak much, has less ‘touch time’ in speaking and therefore less confidence in their speaking skills or in certain speaking environments.

Less touch time speaking can have consequences in the perceptual domain – both inner perception and perceived outer perception, in perpetuating the practise of speaking less frequently, in the workplace, in career advancement, and in overall self-confidence. It can further damage social and familial relationships and a person’s self-image. However, by increasing touch time that which is asleep awakens and inner confidence grows.

Touch time means exactly that in speech skill acquisition: speaking is a touch-oriented activity. When we speak many parts in the mouth touch in order to make sounds. Lips and tongue move and touch, either each other (lips) or other parts of the mouth (tongue). The tongue strikes the alveolar ridge to articulate certain sounds, approximates against other structures or presses against the soft palate. The jaw moves up and down while the cheeks and lips form the interior of the mouth into complex inner space shapes that sculpt the vowel sounds the moving larynx makes. All of this is happening in real time and, for the most part, unconsciously. So how can we go from unconsciously speaking to mastering the skill?

As with any skill, refining speaking skills requires a path of development. The novice, or beginner, employs greater cognitive effort. They are inconsistent and make many mistakes. They rely on the coach’s support and feedback through demonstration and repetition and benefit from the learning approach of ‘whole-part-whole’, giving context before skills are broken down. At the associative stage the person is developing an understanding of the requirements of the skills. They make fewer mistakes and can concentrate for longer. They can begin relying on internal feedback and can process more complex information. Practise on the part element supports motivation and develops specific skills. A person who has reached the autonomous, or expert, stage consistently and effectively perform skills with accuracy and without effort. They are able to adapt to varying environments, concentrate on complex tasks and information, pace themselves and nearly always make the right decisions. The coach can provide detailed feedback with analysis to refine performance, while whole-part awareness brings attention to skills that cannot be broken down.

This path of development can be undertaken by anyone. Success can be measured by having a goal, which in turn acts as a motivation and enhances engagement. Further, the process itself is fun and engaging. At Confidence to Speak we mix our speech coaching with executive coaching to bring greater awareness to what may be holding you back. Many people have trod this speaking skills development path with us and achieved their goals.

You too can do it, and gain more confidence to speak!

For personal speech coaching to build your confidence to speak, click here to be taken to the contact page on our main site

Donald Phillips is a highly successful and experienced Speech Coach, Executive Coach and Therapeutic Speech Practitioner. Donald is based in Aberdeen but works across Scotland and the rest of the UK.