Monday, November 30, 2009

From a Manuscript

Throughout our public speaking course I have encouraged you not to read to your listeners. It's okay to read a short definition, quote, or testimonial—maybe a sentence or two, but seldom more. As we prepare and give a speech of tribute, however, I encourage you to write out exactly what you want to say.

Maybe the word manuscript is confusing. The Oxford American Desk Dictionary (2001) defines manuscript as a hand-written or typed text. That's what we're talking about for this speech. Just write out what you want to say and practice it often enough so that you can deliver it to your listeners without reading it. Look down at the text as needed to remember what comes next.

Remember that the key to a successful speech of tribute is telling your listeners what obstacles the person or organization you are honoring has overcome. Then tell them what remarkable contributions the person or organization has made to society despite all obstacles.

Make sure the person or organization you pay tribute to is a public figure—someone we could all learn more about if we choose to. These speeches will be fun to hear, and hopefully inspiring. And, they will give you firsthand experience in speaking from a manuscript.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hook, Line, and Sinker -The Psychology of Catch Phrases

The phrase, "hook, line, and sinker" comes, of course, from the sport of fishing. What a fisherman/woman wants is for the fish to swallow the bait fully—hook, line, and sinker. Well, the same is true of our efforts to persuade others to our points of view. Since using hooks, lines, and sinkers would be unethical, we resort to the verbal equivalent—the catch phrase.

A catch phrase is a short cluster of words that provide an intellectual and emotional anchor for our listeners. The phrase is chosen so that by saying a little repeatedly, we are saying a lot.

For example, in a recent persuasive speech about comprehensive sex education, Karlene repeatedly used the phrase "the teen's choice to have sex." She used the phrase at least seven times. She was painting the teen as an intelligent decision maker. The phrase fit nicely into her thesis that we should help teens understand the consequences of their choice.

In another speech, this one opposing abortion, Cameron repeatedly referred to abortion as a solution for the "inconvenience of unwanted pregnancy." Again, I counted sever or eight repetitions of the phrase. By repeating this catch phrase so often, Cameron trivialized the motive of those who seek abortions, thereby weakening their position.

Developing catch phrases is much like the skill of clearly stating your thesis. It gets to the "heart" of your message and makes it unmistakably clear to your listeners.

Learning Activity

Try to find a phrase—a few words—that capture the guts of your message. Try the phrase out on your friends to see if it communicates to them what you intend. Build it in to your speech, repeating it 5-6 times so that no listener can possibly miss it. By doing so, you ensure that even if the listeners don't remember much of the content of your speech, they will remember the catch phrase. They may not even remember who said it, but it can alter their thinking about the topic.

Let's go fishing.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Getting the Rhythm presented this little thought by an unknown author, "The best way to sound like you know what you're talking about is to know what you're talking about."

When you speak, you have to bring more to your listeners than a charming personality and the latest in clothing fashion. You have to bring ideas. Ideas that enrich your listeners. The big surprise here is that—unless you are Albert Einstein or Bill Gates talking about something you know better than anybody else—your listeners are not really interested in your ideas. They are interested in the ideas you have gathered from others and are bringing to enrich them.

This is especially true in your efforts to persuade others. Listeners are enriched when you make supportable claims. Suppose you claim, "Our health care system is broken; universal health care will fix it." Have you enriched your listeners? Not really. You have merely expressed an opinion. You haven't improved your listeners' understanding of the issues or opened their eyes to new and helpful ways of viewing the world.

Contrast that with the following approach. "Our health care system is broken; universal health care will fix it. According to Dr. Patrick Whelan, M.D., and member of the Democratic National Committee's Faith Advisory Council, a 2002 Institutes of Medicine study concluded that health coverage for every citizen would mean fewer child deaths from asthma, fewer cancer deaths in minority communities, and fewer veterans who depend on emergency rooms for their primary care. You can read Dr. Whelan's entire statement at"

Now you have enriched your listeners. You brought with you to the podium the views of an eminent physician and you shared those. It's up to the listeners to decide what to do with the information. You have done your job.

Your greatest allies in persuasion are the words According to . . . . The persuasion one-two punch is: 1) make a powerful claim, and 2) provide support that the listeners cannot lightly dismiss. Claim-According to . . . . Claim-According to . . . Claim-According to . . . Get in that rhythm and you will find people flocking to your point of view. After all, the best way to sound like you know what you're talking about is to know what you're talking about.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Order in the Court!

We've finished our PowerPoint presentations. On the whole they were fantastic. I hope you are recognizing the improvement you have made during the past 11 weeks. Congratulations.

Now it's time to dive into the persuasion process. My best advice as we start down this road is to imagine to yourselves that you have graduated from law school and are now earning your living in a courtroom. Don't forget what you have learned about structuring your speeches and about looking up, speaking up, and moving up. But, in addition to those fundamental skills, we are now turning our attention to proving our claims. Emphasis is on the word prove.

Your next speech should be like this:
  • 5-6 minutes.
  • Prove to your listeners that a problem exists and needs our united effort to solve.
  • Suggest several potential solutions.
  • Make a call to action.
Use as many of the types of support (NETS) as are need to prove your claims. Be very generous in citing sources that prove there's a problem—and sources for the suggested solutions. Remember that a claim without credible support is no claim at all. Be bold—as bold as your support, your evidence, your proof will allow you to be. Use this speech to convince us. Sell your claim. Prove it. This speech should convince a jury, the electorate, or upper management. Go for it.

We'll work more on these and other elements of the assignment and the persuasion process this week.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Presenting at Your Peak

You are working on presentation skills—using language, your voice, your body, and presentation aids to heighten the impact of the ideas you are presenting.

1. Speak up. Ideas presented with energy and a dynamic voice will reach listeners not only at the level of understanding, but at an emotional level as well. Dynamic means loud-soft, fast-slow, and high-low. Practice is the key. As you practice, you will gradually develop an ear for monitoring your own voice so that you can murder unwanted monotone.

2. Dress up. Ideas are received more readily when a speaker meets and exceeds the dress standards of the listeners. When you look good, you automatically sound better to your listeners.

3. Move up. Practice posture and movement that conveys confidence in your ideas. Stand firmly on both feet. If you have nothing for your hands to do, let them hang comfortably at your sides. Don't feel confident? Practice is the solution.

Learning Activities

Practice, practice, practice! How many times should you practice your presentation aloud before giving it? You can not practice too often or too much. If you really want to improve, practice on at least three consecutive days. Emerson said, "Those things that we persist in doing become easier, not that the nature of the thing has changed, but that our ability to do it has increased."

Watch this video clip borrowed from Dancing With The Stars (results show, October 27). DWTS interviewed Nadia Comaneci (Olympic Gymnastics Gold), Gregg Louganis (Olympic Diving Gold), and Bill Walton (former UCLA and NBA star). Hear what these champions have to say about the importance of practice in preparing the mind and body for performance.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Say It With Style

We have shifted our focus from building great speeches to delivering great speeches. In short, we should agree that becoming an effective speaker depends not only on what you say, but how you say it. All of our discussion (and all of the preceding blogs) are intended to help with what you say. Now, let's talk about how you say it.

First, be aware that language choice serves three key purposes as you speak:
1. Word choice helps make your ideas simple, bold, and memorable.
2. Word choice awakens emotions in your listeners.
3. Words paint mental pictures.

Learning Activities

These are a few guidelines you should try to follow:
1. Avoid jargon (unusually specialized or obscure words) and its equally fatal companion, doublespeak.
2. Pronounce nouns, pronouns, and verbs correctly as shown in this list—

Syllable emphasis
moun tain' instead of mount' un
Lay ton' instead of Layt' un
cer tain' instead of cert un'

The infamous d/t swap
matter instead of madder
battle instead of baddle

Dropping the "g" (sorry Sarah Palin)
going instead of gonna
needing instead of needin

Pronoun Slurs
our instead of ar
we'll instead of will
I'll instead of ahl
you'll instead of yul
he'll instead of hill
she'll intead of shill

Vowel errors
mail instead of mell
pillow instead of pellow
just instead of jist
get instead of git

3. Try to increase emphasis on important ideas by using parallel words or phrases:
We won't be satisfied until . . . .
We won't be satisfied until . . . .
We can't be satisfied until . . . .

4. Increase the visual power of your ideas by using figurative metaphors:
"living on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of prosperity"
"Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."
"battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of brutality"

Try some new approaches with your language. Have a little fun.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Putting the Power into PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint is the industry standard for preparing and delivering presentations in business, education, health-care, and the professions. Follow these simple guidelines to get the biggest bang for your buck with most listeners:

1. Select a solid, dark color background and use it consistently throughout the presentation.
2. Select type in contrasting colors (white, yellow, etc.) so that it will be easily readable. Use a simple typeface.
3. Use large type sizes that are easily readable by groups of viewers (text 32 pt., titles 44 pt.).
4. Avoid slide transitions and goofy sounds that distract from your message. Fade and dissolve are the best transitions for most viewers.
5. Whenever possible, make a statement with the slide title instead of just using a heading.
6. Cite the sources for your support on the slide and say them aloud (i.e.,

If you will do these few things, your viewers will be able to see, read, and understand your ideas easily. They'll think you are wonderful and will thank you.

Please watch the attached sample presentation. Try to see how the presentation follows the guidelines listed above.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Citing Sources

As an improving public speaker or presenter, you should practice citing your sources until it becomes second nature for you. Remember that an effective citation tell readers who said or wrote it, where the information can be found, and when it was published. Citing a source of support this way probably takes less than ten seconds, but it adds much to your credibility as a speaker.

When citing a web site, limit the address to Don't recite the www or any /slashed additions. But, do give the full web address to the home page (i.e., Mothers Against Drunk Driving at Don't be afraid to cite as often as you can.

Learning Exercise

Formulate a source citation for the following sentence taken from Time Magazine, Oct. 19, 2009, p. 16: "Less than 20% of schools cook school lunch from scratch; many rely on packaged reheatable foods."

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Solid Foundation

Imagine building a fifty-story skyscraper in a sand box. Of course, it won't work. Every structure needs a solid foundation. In speaking, we refer to the thesis sentence and the main points of your speech as the foundation.

The thesis is the entire speech boiled down into one simple declarative sentence. That sentence should tell your listeners: 1) what your topic is, and 2) what you intend to say about it.

Suppose your topic is "dangerous dogs." Those words should be in the thesis sentence. In fact, they will usually be the subject of the thesis sentence.

Decide exactly what you want to say about "dangerous dogs" and finish the sentence with that.

Some Examples

"Dangerous dogs should not be kept as pets."
"Dangerous dogs can be tamed by training."
"Dogs are dangerous because they have been mistreated."
"Dangerous dogs eat less dog food." (presumably because they get part of their nutrition from those they bite)

Another sample topic: "stronger borders with Mexico." A possible thesis sentences would be:

"Stronger borders (your topic) protect people on both sides (what you intend to say about the topic)."

Then you can explain the thesis with main points like these:

“A stronger border will reduce smuggling.”
“A stronger border will cost you less in taxes and insurance.”
“A stronger border will build a better relationship between the two nations.”

Learning Activity

Take another look at the thesis for your up-coming speech. Is it as simple as the sentences shown above. Remember, a simple sentence has no ands, ifs, or buts. It doesn't ask and question, and it doesn't tell people what to do. It just makes a statement that you believe in and are prepared to convince your listeners of through the use of sound support (NETS).

Good luck.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sneak Preview for Exam #1

While all of your classmates are wondering what to study in preparing for Exam #1, you will know exactly because you visit Dr. Richardson's blog. Here are four real questions that you will see on the exam. Listen for the answers as we discuss Chapter 9 in class. Way to go, Dude. You're already ahead of the crowd.

1. In which part of the speech should the speaker especially slow down, pause as needed, connect with the listeners, and give emphasis to the main points and thesis?

2. How long can the speaker expect the listener to wait for a statement of the thesis before the listener loses interest and goes on to thinking about something other than the speech?

3. Mary's speech focuses on how her mother's actions shaped her personality. What is the best speech design for Mary's speech?

4. As a speaker, you should be cautious about using which kind of attention getter?

© Frank Richardson, 2009.


Give Them a Map

You've found a topic that excites you.
You've decided exactly what you want to say about it.
You've stated your idea in a simple, declarative sentence—a thesis.
You've searched out Numbers, Examples, Testimonies, and Stories to support the idea.
Now, you will organize your main points into a presentation that is easy to follow.

It's Easy to Follow a Map

1. Select two or three main points that directly support your thesis. Write them as full sentences, just like the thesis. The thesis and main points are the foundation of your speech. For example:

Thesis sentence: “Pets teach children life's lessons.”

Main points:

  • “Pets teach children to deal with birth, illnesses, accidents, and death.”
  • “Caring for pets teaches children responsibility.”
  • “Children with pets learn to respect other living things.”

2. Preview the main points at the beginning of your speech. Review the main points at the end of your speech. This follows the old advice, "Tell them what you are going to tell them. Then tell them. Then tell them what you told them." That is sound advice.

Learning Activity

1. Write your thesis statement .

2. Select two or three main points that support the thesis. These are also presented as full sentences.

3. Preview the main points in your introduction and review them in your conclusion, i.e., "Today I'm going to give you three reasons why you should get your child a pet. . . ." (Give the three reasons. Explain them in the body of speech. Move to the conclusion.) . . . . "Please remember these three reasons for having a pet. . . ." (Repeat the three reasons.)

It's so simple. And it works. You have just made it easy for your listeners to follow you by giving them a map. Well done.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Media Prompt: Violence Begets Violence

In class, we mentioned from Chapter 6 how useful media prompts can be in finding interesting and timely topics for a speech. The video bar in the right-hand column provides a perfect example. In fact, it provides visual support for the idea we used as an idea example in the previous blog—violence begets violence. Try always to be alert to the ideas, topics, and support flowing past you in the media. Again these are called media prompts.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Simple, Bold, and Unforgettable

Fuzzy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Focused . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Sharpening the focus helps listeners understand the idea.

We already know that great speeches—effective speeches—convey a powerful idea expressed as a
simple, bold, and unforgettable thesis statement. You begin with a topic of interest. Then you sharpen the focus by asking, "What, exactly, do I want to say about this topic?" Hopefully, what you want to say about the topic is in the form of a great idea. You then state that idea in one simple, bold, unforgettable sentence, your thesis statement.

Let's try an example. Your topic is video game violence. The great idea you want to express is violence begets violence. Video games are just one example of that idea, but if your listeners grasp that idea, it will steer them away from violent video games as well as other kinds of violence. So, you choose as your thesis this simple, bold, and unforgettable sentence, "Violent video games result in violent behavior." Then you go about the task of finding solid support to show that playing violent video games does in deed lead to violent behavior.

Learning Activity

1. You have been assigned to speak about the topic Competition.

2. What, exactly, do you want to say about competition? (Does what you want to say meet the acid test for ideas?)

3. Write a thesis statement about competition and share it in the comment section.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Acid Test for Ideas

We are all familiar with some of the world's great ideas. They guide our thinking and actions. They help us make sense out of the world we live in. The reason we admire great thinkers is because they have discovered the relationship between competing values and expressed that relationship in ways that we can all say, "Of course. Why didn't I think of that?"

Take as examples these great (and well-known) ideas:

"It is more blessed to give than to receive (Jesus)."
"Many a flower was born to blush unseen (Gray)."
"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs)."
"All men are created equal (Declaration of Independence)."
"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (Burke)."
"All that glitters is not gold (Shakespeare)."
And many, many more.

Not all statements are ideas. Here are a few that do not qualify:

"Roses are red; violets are blue."
"I am angry about terrorist attacks."
"My sister is my hero."
And many, many more.

What makes the difference? Ideas serve three unique functions.

The Acid Test

1. An idea relates (equates, compares, contrasts) two competing values. The simplicity and forcefulness of an idea helps to explain and clarify the complex system of values we live in.

2. An idea applies to most or to all people. The values related by the idea are universal; they apply not just to one person but to many or most people. That's why ideas are important, because many listeners can see how the values apply in their worlds.

3. An idea provokes thought and discussion. Because ideas attempt to explain the phenomena we see around us, they are susceptible to interpretation. They can be tested against perceived realities. They evoke judgment. This is the reason that many ideas seem controversial. It is possible to take more than one position regarding an idea.

In one measure or another, every speech or presentation should be built around an idea. It is the idea that moves the listeners. It is the idea, if well presented, that will be remembered. As you prepare a presentation, test your thesis statement against the three standards above to see if it is really an idea?

Learning Activity

Which of the following statements are ideas? If they are ideas, they will pass the test above.

Good teachers are good learners.
Wisdom is a form of wealth.
You are the architect of your own fate.
Miracles happen.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.


Friday, September 4, 2009

What's the Big Deal About Values, Beliefs, and Attitudes?

We've devoted the last three or four blogs to this complex relational chain at work inside our listeners—values, beliefs, and attitudes. Not much fun. Great for people training to be shrinks, but not much fun for people training for sales, law enforcement, nursing, teaching, or operating small businesses. Why all the fuss?

Because this is how human beings work, at least in a rudimentary way. Anyone wanting to become a public speaker, to inform, persuade, or entertain others, should understand at least this much. And because, when you learn to see the world this way, the reaction of listeners to your ideas will not longer be a mystery.

As you talk your way to success, you should know how you are impacting your listeners. Remember that in our opening blog we agreed that the basic recipe for public speaking is:
  • present an idea
  • provide support
  • draw a conclusion
Here's the good news. Each step in that recipe relates directly to the way your listeners feel, think, and act. Here's how:
  • Ideas clarify values.
  • Support changes beliefs.
  • Conclusions guide attitudes.
Learning Activity

Write the three bullet points above in your public speaking journal. We'll be working on a better understanding of this scheme as we go along.

An Example

Suppose you are sharing this idea with your listeners: "There is great undiscovered talent in common people."

Values related in the idea: Talent, Common people
Listener beliefs:
  • Kids from privileged backgrounds get more breaks.
  • It costs a lot to develop world-class talent.
  • People with real talent get discovered early.
Support you provide for your idea: The Susan Boyle story (see the video clip by Britain's Got Talent as shown on YouTube).

Your conclusion: "There is great undiscovered talent in common people. Be open to receive it."
Audience attitude: Greater openness to recognize talent in common people. Greater appreciation for common people.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Attitudes Predict Behavior

Researchers in psychology, politics, and persuasion suggest that attitudes are expressions of an intent or predisposition to act. If my present attitude or opinion is that its time for a change in America politics from the extreme right toward the left, then I am likely to vote for a Democrat in the next election. If my attitude about obesity is that the warnings are overblown, then I will continue to eat like I have and fail to protect my children against the dangers. Attitudes are part of the Values-Beliefs-Attitudes chain.

Values are our conclusions about the ideal world, how the world should be. Values are nearly fixed and highly resistant to change. Beliefs are our conclusions about how the world really is. Beliefs can be strengthened, modified, or dispelled by an infusion of additional relevant information. Attitudes are our inclinations to act on beliefs, given our values. Attitudes appear to be highly changeable. Attitudes are based on the momentary assessment of many factors bearing on a choice before us. The factors may be extremely complex and interactive. They may include all relevant values, all relevant beliefs, assessment of all incentives, disincentives, and obstacles, assessment of history and prophecy, levels of fear and self-confidence, hopes, dreams, desires, what we had for breakfast, and which way the wind is blowing. Based on those and many more factors processed instantaneously by our mental computers, we make our choices. With all that variability, it is no wonder that attitudes can change from moment to moment.

So what?

Having looked briefly at values, beliefs, and attitudes, it should be apparent that the keys to successful pubic speaking are the abilities to understand universal human values, form and dispel beliefs, and influence attitudes. In doing so, we help to shape listener choices.

Learning Activity

Write down a value that is very important to you at the moment. Look back to the blog "Ain't No Big Mystery" for a partial list. The value you are writing down represents an ideal, one of the ways you conclude that things should be.

Now, next to that value write how you think things really are. If they fit the ideal, great. If not, how do they differ from the ideal? For example, if your value is human equality, you might write these beliefs:

Value: Human Equality


  • More minorities are prosecuted and imprisoned for crimes than Caucasians.
  • Fewer minorities go on to college.
  • More minorities live below the poverty line.

Then write down your attitude, i.e., what you believe we should do about the conditions you believe to exist. For example,

Attitude: We should lobby for better enforcement of Equal Opportunity legislation.

Try this pattern with two or three values until you can see clearly how values, beliefs, and attitudes relate.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.