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.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

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.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

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.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

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.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

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.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

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.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

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.
email: swpubs@xmission.com

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.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Clear Thinkers Hit The Mark

Bruno Kammerl`s
popular video clip from www.megawoosh.com as seen on YouTube).

Want to stand above the crowd? Run at the head of the herd? Then learn how to recognize ideas, how to create them, and how to express them.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

Why learn to master ideas? Because mastery of ideas shows your listeners that you are a clear thinker, one who can hit the mark in a convincing and unforgettable way (like

Beliefs are Values Gatekeepers

The values that we talked about in the previous blog tend to be found in most people and most cultures. They are resistant to, or impossible to change. Values seem to be born into us—hardwired—though the nature-nurture debate has raged for generations.

Unlike values, beliefs can be formed, modified, and dispelled at the cognitive level—the level of thought and reason. If values are instinctual feelings about the ideal world (how things should be), then beliefs are conclusions about how things really are. Beliefs result from the observations and conclusions we draw from personal experiences—what we see, read, and are told.

Usually, beliefs are formed tentatively. They strengthen or erode by the reception of additional relevant information. Beliefs become gatekeepers when they determine which values ascend or decline at the moment when a choice must be made.

For example, two people face off in a debate over abortion. Both value the sanctity of life. Both feel instinctually that every person has the right to freedom of choice. Yet, they differ in their opinions about legalized abortion.

One person believes that life begins at conception. The other believes that life begins at birth. Depending on which of those two facts (or interpretations of fact) the persons in the dispute believe, they may allow differing values to prevail at the moment of choice. The person who believes that life begins at birth will say, “The sanctity of life value does not apply here since the fetus is not truly living in the sense that it is an independent biological entity. Therefore, the prevailing value is freedom of choice—the right of the mother to choose what to do with her own body. She can abort the fetus (not a living thing) the same as she can choose to have a tooth pulled or a tumor removed. Like aborting a fetus, neither of those actions is killing an independent living entity.”

For the person who believes that life begins with conception, sanctity of life prevails at the moment of choice. Because the fetus is a living entity (or will become such), abortion is tantamount to murder. Sanctity of life trumps freedom of choice.

As we see in this example, the belief about when life begins allows one value to advance and prevail at the moment of choice and causes the other value to recede in relative importance. The values system remains intact. Beliefs keep the gate.

Learning Activity

Think of a personal, social, or political issue that interests you. It might be healthy environment, gun control, border control, executive bonuses, obesity, universal health care, or any other. Try to identify two major competing values at stake in the controversy. What personal belief causes you to apply one value over the other in this particular issue?

Share your values assessment and gatekeeping belief in the comments below. We'll share it with your classmates.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

email: swpubs@xmission.com

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ain't No Big Mystery

There are some big mysteries—why men shave every day, why women live with men who don’t shave every day, why children won’t listen to their parents, and why we hate the people we elect.

Those are the big mysteries. However, why people act the way they act is no mystery at all. A long-time friend and Seattle psychiatrist, Owen E. Clark, M.D., once explained this to me, “People do what they do for the rewards they get from doing it.” In other words, you can look behind every behavior and find some important way in which the behavior rewards the doer. Even the behaviors they hate. Even the self-destructive behaviors. All behaviors offer some reward that the doer values at the moment of choice.

Here’s the big secret that dispels all mystery: values drive behavior. We are prone to act in ways that bring valued rewards.

Of course, we can all think of someone who seems to act contrary to expressed values. A man values family life. Yet, he embezzles from his employer, ends up in prison, and loses his family. Were values driving his behavior? Of course! Maybe not his family values, but other values that took priority at the moment of choice.

The reason the picture seems confusing is that our values systems are very complex. There are so many human values that every possible choice is potentially rewarding in some way. In this respect, we can say that values are always competing with each other. At any given moment, one value ascends (moves toward the top of our priority list) while others decline into positions of lesser importance. At a different moment, the order may reverse depending on what reward is being sought. Throughout life we attempt to clarify our values, sort them out, learn in what settings one value ascends and in what settings it declines. Future blogs will explain what an understanding of values has to do with public speaking. For now, please remember that values drive behavior.

Learning Activity

Read the following list of values that seem to be universal (or nearly so). Notice which values might influence choices that you make.

Partial list of values:

Acceptance of fate, Achievement, Ambition, Art (music, literature) appreciation, Authority, Choice, Craftsmanship, Creativity, Curiosity, Devoutness, Equality, Family security, Freedom, Healthy environment, Honesty, Humility, Independence, Inner peace, Justice, Meaningful life, Personal health, Personal safety, Pleasure, Productivity, Recognition, Recreation, Respect for heritage, Self-respect, Sense of belonging, Social order, Success, Tolerance, Wealth, Work, World peace, Etc.

Chances are good that in the proper setting any one of these values might influence your choices.

© Frank Richardson, 2009.

email: swpubs@xmission.com