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.