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5 Steps to Becoming a Better Public Speaker

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For many, the thought of talking coherently in front of a group is nerve-racking, be it accepting an award, giving a toast, or presenting to your team at work. And with a litany of “how to” tips from experts available, narrowing down best practices can be just as difficult. Lucky for you, we've done the legwork. Here are five foolproof tips for wowing a crowd from Toastmasters International and other public speaking experts.

1. MAKE YOUR SPEECH CONVERSATIONAL.

As tempting as it may be to type up a speech and read it word for word, refrain from doing so. Audiences listen better when the speaker talks to them instead of reads to them.

Public speaking coach Tammy Miller, a Pennsylvania-based international speaker and auctioneer with Tammy Speaks, recommends building your speech around a structure of key points you want the audience to come away with. “Structuring a speech can boost confidence,” she said. It will also prevent you from sounding robotic.

She uses an organizational “speech cookie” she calls OREO: Give your opinion, then reasons behind that opinion, offer an example that correlates with that opinion, and wrap it up reiterating the opinion again.

Matt McGarrity, principal lecturer in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, says writing a conversational speech should not be too difficult. “We as humans have evolved to where we have the ability to spontaneously speak” in ways that help get our point across easily, he says. “It is bad for us to deviate from what we’re used to doing.”

In other words, if you change your natural speech patterns to give a speech that's written like an essay you're setting yourself up to fail. He suggests using short phrases and smaller, simple words—avoid superfluous big words the audience would have to look up.

2. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. 

A great way to ensure your speech goes smoothly is to rehearse what you’re going to say. Miller recommends using a timer to make sure your speech isn’t too long and drawn-out or too short and missing key points. Also, memorize those key points so you’re ready to move into the next topic smoothly.

Another method used in the path to perfection is to videotape yourself giving the speech; this allows you to critique your mannerisms and plan out your pace. Practice should help ease the jitters and make sure your speech is a hit.

3. CONNECT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE.

In addition to using an outline to guide your speech, Miller recommends making eye contact with people in the crowd to encourage engagement and gauge audience interest. If they’re yawning, you need to infuse a spark in the conversation, perhaps by asking the audience a question that leads into your next bullet point. If they’re taking notes and nodding their heads, you’re on the right track.

4. DELIVER YOUR SPEECH WITH PASSION.

The best way to get your audience to care about what you're saying is to show how much you care about the topic. The content of that toast for a best friend getting married or loved one who has passed away is most likely near and dear to you; use that emotion to drive your speech home.

“The best presentations are those that come from the heart,” Miller says. But be careful how much you practice a passionate speech. “If it is so powerful, like a speech about your son passing, and you practice it 50 or 60 times, it could lose the passion,” Miller says.

On the flip side, be careful not to get overly emotional. Keep out tears, anger, and overblown elation or you might be taken less seriously.

For those speeches where you don’t care about the topic but you have to talk about it anyway—and you know there will be times like this—McGarrity suggests going with your gut. Your natural pitch, tone, gestures, and timing will give your speech the semblance of passion. If you tend to freeze up in front of a crowd, McGarrity has a couple tips for feigning confidence: “One way to control pitch and tone is to write the speech for the ear instead of the eye,” he says. As for timing? “The most vibrant speakers pause at the right time, like before making a valid point.”

5. TAKE YOUR TIME.

Your presentation is not a race. Take your time as you interact with the audience and slow down if you make a mistake. Many tend to speed up when they slip up in order to get past the blunder as soon as possible, but that could disrupt your ability to get your message across and often causes more mistakes. Instead, breathe evenly and ease back into your speech with calm confidence.

If you've been pacing while lecturing, Miller recommends you "pause and walk casually to the podium and look at your notes," rather than scrambling back to your script. "Know that the audience doesn’t know what you’re about to say,” she says.

More than likely, the audience has no idea you even made a mistake. “Speakers often think the audience has a high expectation for a flawless performance,” McGarrity says. “But if you mess up and they notice, just move on.”

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job secrets
11 Behind-the-Counter Secrets of Baristas
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Being a barista is no easy task, and it’s not just the early hours and the don’t-talk-to-me-unless-I’ve-had-my-coffee customers. While people often think working at a cafe is a part-time, temporary gig, it takes extensive training to learn your way around an espresso machine, and most baristas are in it for the love of coffee, not just to pay the bills. Mental Floss spoke to a few baristas working at the New York Coffee Festival to learn what exactly goes on behind the counter, and why you should never, ever dump your extra coffee in the trash.

1. THEY REALLY LOVE COFFEE.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the profession, says New York City-based barista Kayla Bird, is “that it's not a real job.” But especially in specialty cafes, many baristas are in it for the long haul. Coffee is their career.

“It's a chosen field,” as barista Virgil San Miguel puts it. “It's not like you work in a coffee shop because it's a glamorous job,” he explains. “It's more like a passion.”

2. THEY GO THROUGH A LOT OF TRAINING.

“Being a really good barista takes a lot of studying,” explains Jake Griffin, a wholesale representative for Irving Farm Coffee Roasters who has worked in the coffee industry for almost a decade. “It can take a few years. You have to start to understand origins, production methods, where your coffee came from.” You have to go through an intensive education before you start pulling espresso shots for customers, so it's possible that the person taking your order and fetching your pastry isn't even allowed to make you a drink yet. “They have to be what we call 'bar certified' before they're even allowed on the machine,” he says. “Usually people start off in our cafes in various support roles, then start to go to classes and go through the training program.”

3. THEY’RE PROBABLY PRETTY WIRED.

Sure, baristas take full advantage of all that free coffee. And if they work in their company’s training programs, their whole job is to drink coffee. But it has its downsides. “I taste—at minimum—ten shots of espresso a day,” John Hrabe, who trains baristas at Birch Coffee in New York City, says. On his busier days, it might be as many as 20. You get used to all the caffeine, he claims—at least until you take a few days off. “Then when you go on vacation and you're not working ... everyone's like, 'Why's John so tired?’”

Other baristas who have worked in the field for a long time say the same. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years, and I used to have five or six coffees a day,” Michael Sadler, who helped develop the barista education program at Toby’s Coffee, says. “Now I do two,” he says, both because of the caffeine-induced anxiety and the withdrawal headaches he would get on his days off.

4. OR THEY’RE DRINKING … SOMETHING ELSE.

Like any job, there are things that go on in coffee shops that the boss would definitely not approve of. According to one barista who has worked at both a corporate coffee chain and specialty cafes in Delaware and New York, coffee shops can get pretty rowdy behind-the-scenes. “If you see a barista with a lidded cup behind the bar, there's probably a 50/50 chance: It's either coffee or beer,” he says. “You never know.” And it’s not just the booze, either. “I’ve been a part of secret menus that have cannabis-infused coconut milk,” he explains. “I had a pretty good cappuccino.”

5. THEY GET ANNOYED WHEN YOU SKIP THE PLEASANTRIES.

You don’t want to hold up the line telling a barista your life story at 7 a.m., but even if you’re in a hurry, don’t forget to say hi before you jump into demanding that large coffee. “Walking up to somebody and saying 'Almond latte,' when they just said 'How are you today?' is probably the biggest thing you can do to get on a barista's bad side,” Toby's Coffee's Sadler says. “It's like, exchange pleasantries, then get to business.”

6. IF YOU’RE NOT NICE TO THEM, THEY WON’T BE NICE TO YOU.

Not everyone is super perky in the morning, but if you can’t be civil, you’re better off making your own coffee at home. At some places, if you get snippy with the employees, you’re going to get worse than furtive eye rolls between baristas (though you’ll get that, too).

“Be nice to your baristas, or you get decaf,” warns one barista. While it varies from cafe to cafe, multiple baristas told Mental Floss that it happens. Rude customers might get three letters written on their cup: “They call it DTB—‘decaf that bitch.’”

There’s a less potent way a barista can get back at you, too. If the hole in your coffee lid lines up with the seam of your paper cup, you’re going to get dripped on. And sometimes, it’s not an accident. “When a barista puts the mouth on the seam, they want it to leak on you,” a New York City-based barista explains.

Others are a little more forgiving of rude patrons. “I like making them the best drink that they've ever had, just to kill them with kindness,” one coffee shop employee says. “I don't want them to be like, ‘She’s a bad barista.’” Just to be safe, though, it's better to be nice.

7. THEY PROBABLY KNOW WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU DO.

“The longer you work in coffee, the more when someone walks in the door you read their personality type and say, I know exactly what you're going to drink,” Jared Hamilton, a self-described “espresso wizard” at the Brooklyn-based chain Cafe Grumpy, says. When I ask him to predict my drink, he proves his skills. “What you're going to drink is like, an alternative milk, flat white or cappuccino. So maybe soy, probably almond. Nonstandard. You don't want a lot of milk, just enough.” He’s not too far off—my go-to is, in fact, a non-standard, some-milk-but-not-too-much drink, a decaf cappuccino, though I drink regular milk in it. He points to another festival visitor who is dressed in business attire. "That guy right there, he drinks espresso all day," he guesses.

Depending on the coffee shop, the barista might know what customers want more than they do. Dominique Richards, who started her first barista job in Brooklyn three months ago, says she has to order for her customers around a third of the time. “Usually if someone's looking at the menu for more than 30 seconds, I jump in and say, ‘Hey, what would you like?’” She then asks them a few questions, like whether they want hot or cold coffee, and goes from there, often recommending lattes for people who are just getting into specialty coffee. “It's kind of a learning experience for the majority” of her customers, she says.

8. CUSTOMERS CAN BE REALLY PARTICULAR.

“People treat cafes like they're [their own] kitchen,” according to Cafe Grumpy’s Hamilton. “My favorite thing people do is when they walk in and they rearrange the condiment bar. Then they order, then they go use the condiments.” Apparently, some people are really particular about the location of their sugar packets. And if you throw off their routine, watch out. One of his colleagues describes a customer who threw a fit because the shop didn’t have a cinnamon shaker, demanding a refund for both her coffee and her pastry. (They eventually found some cinnamon for her.)

9. YOU SHOULD NEVER, EVER DUMP EXTRA COFFEE STRAIGHT INTO THE TRASH.

Even if you ask for room for milk in your drip coffee, the cup is still sometimes just a bit too full. It’s tempting to just pour a little into the trash can, but whoever has to take out that garbage is going to pay for it. “Please don't pour it in the garbage,” Bluestone Lane barista Marina Velazquez pleads. “Because at the end of the night, it ends up on our feet.” If the shop doesn’t have a dedicated container for you to pour out your excess coffee, take it back to the counter and ask them to dump a bit in the sink. Your baristas will thank you.

10. MAKING ESPRESSO DRINKS ISN’T A ROTE SKILL.

When you’re waiting in line, it may look like baristas are doing the same thing over and over for dozens of drinks. But in fact, every order presents its own challenges.

“There's probably not an appreciation for how much a coffee can vary,” explains Katie Duris, a former barista of 10 years who now works as a wholesale manager at Joe Coffee. High-quality coffee is “really dynamic as an ingredient,” she says. Baristas “have to make micro adjustments all day long. You have to change the grind based on the humidity in the room or a draft or how much coffee is in your hopper—if it's an espresso machine—so they're tweaking all day long … good baristas are making adjustments all the time.”

11. IT’S PHYSICALLY TAXING.

Making espresso drinks all day long can wear you out, and not just because you’re on your feet all day. There are also repetitive stress injuries to consider. “There's physical wear and tear on your joints when you're a barista,” Birch's Hrabe says. He’s worked in coffee for 11 years, and says that tamping espresso shots (compressing the grounds before brewing) day after day has given him tennis elbow. “It's totally common for baristas,” he says.

In short, baristas are probably doing more work behind the bar than you give them credit for, whether it’s dealing with customers or actually making coffee. “Being a barista is fun, but it's hard work,” Bluestone Lane's Velazquez says. “Everybody should be a barista at least once. I think it teaches humility.”

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Art
See How Careful Restoration Can Illuminate a 17th-Century Painting
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Many of the most famous oil paintings ever committed to canvas, like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and Rembrandt van Rijn's The Night Watch, aren't just made of paint, but include a top layer of protective varnish, too. This clear coating preserves the paint beneath it for centuries, but it also decays and darkens over time, causing scenes to look vastly different than what the artist intended. To demonstrate how much aged varnish can affect a painting, art dealer Philip Mould (co-creator of the BBC One show Fake Or Fortune?) recently gave his Twitter followers a step-by-step look at the restoration process.

As Mashable reports, the varnish on the 17th-century painting in the clips and photos below is 200 years old. Painted in 1618, the image depicts an anonymous Jacobean-era woman who posed for the portrait when she was 36.

As the varnish is stripped away from the piece with a paintbrush and solvent, you can see the soft, rosy colors the artist originally chose start to come through. The process reveals colors and details that would have been lost as long as the yellowed protective layer remained.

For a closer look at how professionals can salvage paintings from the destructive forces of time, check out these behind-the-scenes secrets of art restorers.

[h/t Mashable]

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