Inspiring Ideas to Ponder or Pursue

Attention!!!    Audience members are usually brought to attention at the opening by a speaker’s planned attention-grabber. Without it, many members of the audience would be lost forever. But a more common lost opportunity is that of the close, or closer. Just as a relief pitcher is called in to protect a lead late in a game or a business associate comes in to close a transaction, the speaker needs to have a clincher or closer.

Betty McCallister, in her Better Speaker Series, spoke on the importance of giving closure. She said having no definite closing is like telling a joke without a punchline. Up to 10% of a speech, or at least 30 seconds, should be planned to wrap up and put a bow on the speech. This ending should have impact and be memorable.

Some closing techniques Betty described are the following:

  • Use a quote
  • Tell a story
  • Call for action
  • Ask a rhetorical question
  • Refer to the beginning
  • Repeat the main points

So, do not just let the timer signal you so that you simply conclude with “I have to stop as I’m out of time.” Do end on time, but plan and practice so that you end with at least as good an impression as you got with that first impression opening.

Madame/Mr. Toastmaster. . . . (The speaker just addresses the Toastmaster and does not say thank you at the end.)


To Memorize or Improvise

The CC manual says by the third speech to have the objective to “strive to not use notes” and is rather implicit that confidence, enthusiasm, eye contact and speaking from the heart are not as possible unless you abandon notes (p. 19). Then nothing is said for the remaining seven speeches about notes, with the common assumption being that notes are a drawback to being adequately prepared.

Stan Coss counts his most successful and ambitious speeches not his memorized contest runs but his “three hour” speeches. That is three hours from start to finish to prepare.  The first instance he was substituting for a last minute cancellation and never wrote out more than the introduction and an outline. He had to improvise with how to say it. Stan did apply all the various skills he’d picked up in Toastmasters and had a small folded notecard at ready but didn’t have to use it.  He did another based on his grandfather, and looks forward to more speeches he’ll craft an opening and close for.  He’ll brainstorm and outline his three body points but leave the wording to what he practices aloud and what comes out live to his next audience.

This is the type speech veteran Four Seasons Toastmasters like Ron Climer give so successfully.  Dale Carnegie said to never write out a speech and certainly never memorize. He wanted things conversational and fresh.

Ted Talks is a book by Chris Anderson, whose been in charge of Ted Talks since 2001. He says the majority of the 1,000 + Ted speakers script and memorize their whole talk and do their best to avoid letting it sound memorized. Find your best mode, he advises, and as you start to rehearse, the difference between the two modes starts to fade. The Ted program doesn’t have set rules. They give suggestions “for helping speakers find the mode of delivery that will be most powerful for them. One of the first key decisions you need to make— and ideally you’ll make it early on in your talk preparation— is whether you will:

“A. Write out the talk in full as a complete script (to be read, memorized, or a combination of the two), or
B. Have a clearly worked-out structure and speak in the moment to each of your points.”

Anderson says there are powerful arguments in favor of both strategies. The typical Ted Talk is 18 minutes. “For most of us, an 18-minute talk can easily take five or six hours to memorize.” (For some of us, the eight minute speech for Toastmasters, can take five or so hours to memorize!) The key is to make the speech NOT sound memorized but natural. It should use spoken language instead of written language. Many speakers believe “the best way to ’write’ a talk is “simply to try to speak it out loud multiple times.” In any case you need to five a sense of “feeling it in the moment. Mean every sentence.”

Ted speaker and author Elizabeth Gilbert always memorizes her talks. “Memorization makes me feel comfortable and safe; improvisation makes me feel chaotic and exposed. I would rather risk sounding like I am reciting something from memory than sounding like I lost my way, or like I never had a plan. . .” Pam Meyer agrees that the reason to script a talk is to make every sentence count. “You have to love every sentence.”

Ted speaker Salman Khan differs. “Believing what you are saying in real time has a much larger impact that saying the exact right words. I tend to list out bullet points. . . and then try communicating those ideas in my natural language as if I’m talking to friends at the dinner table.” Steven Johnson says he doesn’t memorize “because the audience can hear memorized text very clearly, and it takes away from the spontaneous, engaged nature of speaking to a live audience.”

“People should do whatever makes them comfortable on stage and helps them to relax, says Sir Ken Robinson, one of the worlds’ most talented speakers, according to Anderson. “Whether it’s ten people or ten thousand,” says Robinson, “I feel it’s essential to talk with people, not at them, and to be authentic in doing it.”

Dan Gilbert writes “a script for his talks (being careful to use spoken English) says Anderson, but then “he doesn’t stick to the script. Gilbert says, “A great talk is both scripted AND improvisational: First, the opening and closing are always completely scripted; second, the general structure is fully determined; third, what makes jazz interesting and captivating is that in the middle of the tune there is always some point or several in which the player can go off script and spontaneously create something that captures the mood of that particular audience in that particular room and time. A totally scripted talk is like a classical music concert: intricate, deep, and flawlessly executed, but often predictable enough to put the audience to sleep because they know from start to finish there will be no surprises.”  This is the link to 2,400+ Ted Talks that have a short description and an image.  It’s a great resource for inspiring thoughts.  The following is one example.  Others are given in the Misc. tab under Links to Inspire. “We mustn’t speak to strangers.” Malavika Varadan, challenges this societal norm, by presenting 7 ways to make conversation with anyone with this Ted Talk. 7 Ways to Make Conversation with Anyone.
Malavika Varadan has a four-hour radio morning show, Breakfast No.1 on City 101.6 with 1.6 million strangers/listeners each day. She has a very pleasant accent in this Ted Talk of 15 minutes.
Skip the small talk and ask a really personal question she says. How long have you lived here, where does your family live, etc. Find the “me, too’s.” Find what is in common rather than what to debate. Be on the same side. Give a full, unique compliment. Avoid the general compliment. Be genuine. Ask for an opinion. Don’t cross examine.
Be present. Make eye contact. Name, place, animal, thing. Say this name back to them. Ask about these things that are important to them.

A conversation is like reading a book. Every person is like a good book. Full of stories. Do we just read the titles or do we starting reading the story.


flag ab

The Pledge of Allegiance
The original Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist Minister who fervently believed in the separation of church and state. The original pledge was first given wide publicity through the official program of the National Public Schools Celebration of Columbus Day, in 1892, the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s first voyage.
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The flag “of the United States” replaced the words “my Flag” in 1923 because some foreign-born people might have in mind the flag of the country of their birth instead of the United States flag. A year later, “of America” was added after “United States.”
Bellamy died in 1931, 11 years before the pledge was officially recognized by Congress. In the midst of WWII and needing a distinct unifier, Congress also mandated the rendering with the right hand over the heart.
So, what about the “Under God” part?
On February 7, 1954, close to the birthday anniversary of President Lincoln and in the midst of The Cold War, President Eisenhower was sitting in Lincoln’s church and in Lincoln’s very pew. He was listening to a sermon based on the Gettysburg Address. The pastor argued that the Pledge’s sentiments could be those of any nation, that “there was something missing in the pledge, “the characteristic and definitive factor in the American way of life.” He cited Lincoln’s words “under God” as what set the United States apart.
As Lincoln said, “(W)e here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Eisenhower responded enthusiastically to the pastor in a conversation following the service and the next day he had Rep. Charles Oakman introduce the bill that was passed on Flag Day 1954.
Some have argued that this pledge is a prayer and have tried to eliminate it from the schools. Whatever the health plan of our nation, some matters of the heart don’t need a surgeon.
(Remarks from the FTSM 1-20-16 meeting)