Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Show Me Your Foundation

PowerPoint presentations will be begin on Thursday, 4 March. If you missed class, be sure to read the blog posting just below this one ("Powerful Presentations") and look at the PowerPoint example. We passed the sign-up sheet for the up-coming PowerPoint presentation today. If you missed class, please be prepared to give your presentation on Thursday, 4 March.

IMPORTANT: I want to see your foundation (thesis statement and slide headings) for the PowerPoint presentation in advance. Email them to me at sspubs@xmission.com before Sunday, 28 February. I'll look at them on Monday, 1 March and send you my comments on Monday, March 1. That pre-review of the thesis and slide headings will be worth 20 points of the total 100 for the assignment. So, if you forget to send them to me in advance, the highest score you could hope to get for your presentation would be 80.

Best to you.

Powerful Presentations

Presentation software like Microsoft PowerPoint, Apple Keynote, and Open-Office Impress are fantastic for preparing and delivering effective presentation.

Having said that, we need to remember that effective presentation are effective only when they follow the proven principles we have been learning in our course. You are preparing to present a 4-5 minute PowerPoint presentation with at least five slides. If you want your presentation to really hum (or sign, yodel, scream, whatever) so that your listeners willingly buy into what you are saying and remember it, you must follow a few proven guidelines. We discussed them in class today and saw examples. These guidelines include:

1. Use your thesis sentence as the title for your presentation. For example, instead of using a title like, "Credit Card Debt," make a statement like," Americans are burying themselves in credit card debt."

2. Make a statement in the heading of each slide. The heading statement is a main point that tells your listeners what the slide should mean to them. For example, let the slide heading be, "The summer of 2006 was the worst ever for wildfires," instead of using a label like, "2006 Wildfires."

3. Display your source citation on the slide and mention it out loud. For example, "I took this information from a 2004 study on cdc.org." Type cdc.org prominently at the bottom of the slide.

4. Be sure to follow the recipe for all presentation aids: 1) show it, 2) explain it, and 3) interpret it. When your presentation aid is part of a PowerPoint, be sure that the interpretation shows up in the heading statement of the slide.

5. Choose type faces and type color so that the slide is immediately readable by your viewers. White type on a dark-colored background is easiest to read. Make the type large (32 points for body type and 44 points for headings). Those aren't hard and fast rules, but be sure to reduce the amount of type on the slide so that it will all fit in about that size.

6. Of course, present a clear thesis and solid support as you have in past speeches.

Take a look at the PowerPoint example that follows. Pay particular attention to the slide headings, the source citations, and the use of colors and type sizes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Content Statements vs. Value Statements

The thesis sentence and all main points in a speech must be statements, preferably simple declarative sentence. We all agree on that. Don't we? A trap we sometimes fall into is the tendency to let our main points be value statements. Watch out for these culprits. They are weaklings posing as heroes. Expose them. Banish them. Even better, kill 'em.

A value statement simply sets forth our opinion of the subject of the sentence. Examples of value statements would be:

Homework sucks.
Healthcare reform is stupid.
Operas are boring.

No matter how much we might agree with any of those statements, any one of them would be hard to prove to reasoning listeners.

A content statement makes a claim that can be supported. For example:

Most students hate homework. (A survey of students on campus could demonstrate that this statement is true.)
Healthcare reform is unpopular among Republican politicians. (A review of their voting records should tell the story.)
Operas put some people to sleep. (Testimonies from three husbands who were dragged to the opera and fell asleep might be adequate support.)

A Recent Example

A good student (maybe an outstanding student) in one of my classes emailed me some main points for review. The topic was the importance of eating breakfast as a foundation for good nutrition. The proposed main points were:

MP1: Not eating breakfast is bad.

MP2: Eating an unhealthy breakfast is just ok.

MP3: Eating a good breakfast is the best.

Clearly, the three points intend a comparison (bad, good, best). As you can see, each sentence is a value statement (is bad, is just okay, is the best). They could be strengthened by converting them into content statements—statements that offer listeners something of substance. For example:

MP1: Not eating breakfast is like starting a trip with no fuel.

MP2: Eating an unhealthy breakfast starts you fast then drops you flat.

MP3: Eating a good breakfast gets you all the way to your goal.

These three statements build on the analogy of energy or fuel consumption during a trip. We are all familiar with the way that works in automobiles. The three statements can be supported by reporting blood sugar test results, testimonies of experts, and interviews with students who have tried the three breakfast options.

Learning Activity

Take a careful look at the main points for your up-coming speech. If you find any value statements, kill 'em. Replace them with content statements.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Full Sentences. What's the Big Deal?

You were all once in junior high school, learning to build sentences. You know that a complete sentence has to have a subject and a verb, and can include an assortment of objects, clauses, phrases, appositives, and so forth. But, that was a long time ago. You may not have thought about sentences since.

There are four kinds of sentences:

Question (interrogative sentence)
Statement (declarative sentence)
Command (imperative sentence)
Exclamation (exclamatory sentence)

All kinds of sentences can be used during a speech, but one kind has special significance: the declarative sentence.

Whatever else you remember, remember this: The thesis statement and all main points in your speech should be simple, declarative sentences.

Foundation of a Speech

The thesis statement and main points constitute what we might call the foundation of the speech. Each must be presented as a full sentence. The thesis must be a simple sentence (no ands, ifs, or buts). You have a little more flexibility in the main point statements, but not much.

Example of a Speech Foundation Using Full Sentences

Thesis: “Strengthening the US/Mexico border will benefit all citizens.”

Main points:

“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

Look at the foundation (thesis and main points) of the speech you are now preparing. Are the thesis and main points presented as simple, declarative sentences? Work them over until they are.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Arnold vs. Jabba

We've all heard speeches that give us a general notion of the speaker's idea but leave us mostly wondering what it was all about. By contrast, we occasionally hear a speech that presents a crystal-clear idea and compelling support. The difference between the two kinds of speeches can be illustrated by the two photos I showed in class. One photo features Governor Arnold Schwartznegger when he competed in the Mr. Universe bodybuilding competition. The other photo is Jabba the Hut, a despicable Star Wars personality whose character is as flabby as his body.

Of course, each of us wants to present an Arnold speech in which all the parts can immediately be recognized and related to one another. We do not want to present Jabba speeches that only vaguely convey the clear message we intend.

The key is speech organization. Presented below are the organizational components for an effective speech, the ideal outline. As you prepare your up-coming speech, be sure to follow this outline.

Attention grabber
Thesis statement
Preview of main points

Main point 1
Support for main point 1
Transition to main point 2
Main point 2
Support for main point 2
Transition to main point 3
Main point 3
Support for main point 3
Transition to conclusion

Review of main points
Memory grabber
Restatement of thesis

Please remember to strive for balance: Introduction 20% of time, Body 60% of time, and Conclusion 20% of time.
Have fun.