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Showing posts from December, 2010

Will Santa put presentation skills in your stocking?

Christmas presents and public speaking skills aren't an obvious combination but with a bit of creativity, the link can be made!

For your children: encourage "show and tell" by asking children to introduce their new presents to family members. Use questions to develop a framework and help them to expand on the information they are giving. This is a great way to get your children making presentations because their enthusiasm over-rides any fear.

For adults: try a "present debate" in which everyone has to give a one minute speech arguing why they have received the ultimate present. After each round, vote for the most popular gift based on the persuasive speech (not your own preferences!) Winner avoids the washing up.

Effective public speaking begins with a basic interest in the subject and a desire to communicate. Both of these criteria are answered as you unwrap a fabulous Christmas present and can't wait to tell everyone about it!

Happy Christmas...

Cautionary Tales - more performance poetry

Post Christmas lunch.. full to the brim with turkey and Chritmas spirit, what could be better than to amuse the family with a cautionary tale? These poems/monologues were a strange beastie, incredibly popular in the late nineteeth/early twenties century. The master is Hilaire Belloc whose Cautionary Tales are full of examples of people whose actions bring them to a (normally abrupt) end.

Although the subject matter is macarbre, these poems make wonderful performance pieces. The lyrical language lends itself to reading outloud and you can use pauses to increase anticipation before revealing the climax. At Brandon Learning Centre, we have poetry reading shows twice a year and I have noticed that the audiences will lean forward as performers pause before the high point of their poems.

My father, who is a born performer, used to read "Albert and the Lion" in which the combination of a small boy, a walking stick and a lion leads to a predictable result. The monologue was original…

Treading in Greek footsteps

The art of public speaking was developed by the Ancient Greeks. Speeches were not approached casually but carefully crafted paying strict attention to the rules of rhetoric. Aristotle dedicated an entire book to the topic, imaginatively entitled "Rhetoric."

We are so lazy these days that the thought of trawling through classical literature to find inspiration fills most of us with dread. So much easier to buy one of those fabulous airport books with catchy titles promising instant public speaking skills in ten easy lessons, right? Wrong. Why waste your time on pale imitations when you can go direct to the source? I taught presentation skills to a class of fifteen year olds who not only grasped Aristotle's concepts immediately but also identified examples they had encountered. Bear in mind that this was a class of Cantonese speakers who were operating in English. Impressive.

Aristotle on credibility: "Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character whe…

Impress family this Christmas with poetry!

The Irish have always had a love of performance and I grew up surrounded by powerful speakers and singers. Family parties would always end up with people reciting, singing ballads and dancing (usually me but there was money involved!) We all had "party pieces" which would be trundled out in front of a crowd of relatives who had heard them a hundred times before.

As a child, performing in front of a non-critical, family audience is a perfect start to a public speaking career. Memorising poetry at an early age helps to develop an appreciation for language and stretches the vocabulary. The love and encouragement that you receive from the family will stay with you forever. So this Christmas, instead of loafing in front of the television, try some of the sites below and start performing.

Wonderful Radio 4 poetry programme with readings of contemporary and classic poetry

A treasure trove of poetry

Use the quote search function to identify half remembered poems

My father's party p…

Here endeth the lesson - the art of Bible reading

Bible reading is an art form unto itself. Firstly, you have to struggle with language, then come to terms with the concept of reading the word of God. Once you have mastered those two points, you have to deliver the message in a way that doesn't make you sound like a hysteric. Simple eh?

The Language: If you are lucky, you will be reading from the King James version. Why lucky? Because the language you are about to encounter stands with Shakespeare in the ranks of richness. Elegant phrasing, resonant sounds that roll off the tongue. Compare Ruth 1:16 "where you go I will go" (New International Version) with "wither thou goest;I will go" (King James Version)

The meaning: read the second site suggested below which displays all versions of the text togetther with commentaries. Instant comprehension will follow!

The delivery: Bible reading is not drama. The key is that the reader fades into the background, allowing the listener to focus on the words. This means worki…