Friday Public Speaking Tips – Clichés

Your Running Mate

A speaker or a writer who resorts to clichés is often viewed as lazy or slapdash. (Finding Your Voice Ten Steps to Successful Public Speaking) 

Yes that is true but I love a familiar phrase, a welcome platitude or neat idiom and my everyday speak is peppered with  them.  So 3 Tips for speakers fearful of being thought lesser individuals for their use of a ‘well worn phrase.’

Ask yourself is it pertinent to your audience. A certain measure of vulnerability goes down well with most audiences but if you are a giving a keynote speech at a publishing conference – I wouldn’t.

If a cliché gives clout to your words and works in with the rhythm and  style of speech, use it with a sense of drama – a pause and a broad smile works well to put the audience on notice that you are well aware you are slipping in a cheeky little cliché.

Give the cliché a spin –  audiences love  a bit of cleverness with an instantly recognisable phrase. Today’s exercise: Have fun revamping  these common garden phrases – firing on all cylinders and talking the talk and walking the walk


Friday Tips for Writers – Left Brain Freeze

alphabet-15461_150She was shaking as she drove home.  Sighting a red telephone box she pulled over.  The phone box smelt of stale tobacco, she dialed Tom’s surgery number, his nurse answered. She drummed her fingers on the graffiti covered telephone book until she heard his voice. 

I start to write dialogue. I cut and delete it. I write again. I delete it. Dialogue frequently swamps me. I’m too explanatory by nature and my characters consequently become wordy wanting to fill in all the gaps for the reader.

I push away from the desk and wander into the kitchen. I open and shut the cupboard and refrigerator doors. I make coffee, I open the fridge again hoping to find a snack.

Its my pattern, I seek diversion preferably food, when I get momentarily stuck or know that I’m wallowing in waffling dialogue. When I resolve my tension with this type of diversion I’m still stuck when I return to the keyboard.

But I have found I can access my creative side and get back into the flow of my work with these three action steps.

Identify and recognise what I do to resolve my creative tension. I counter that strategy immediately by getting some fresh air, water the plants or a walk round the garden.

I use my intuition to receive a topic to write about – committing to write the first thought that pops into my mind. I set the timer for 5 minutes and  write, it does not matter what the content.

Thankfully that exercise blasts my left brain freeze and takes me back into my right creative hemisphere. I find I can get back into the flow of my work with a fresh approach.I’m back in the saddle again:

‘I’ve had a wretched day any chance of you coming for a drink tonight?’ she asked.  

‘I’m playing squash but will come later,’ he said. She sighed as she replaced the phone on its cradle.

What’s your way of dealing with writer’s block?

Absolute Bollywood!

vbsd0070_ntscEvery now and then when I am writing, my mind seeks a diversion from the  task of smoothing back story, building plot and fleshing characters.  I wander, flick through the DVDs. Should I ? The movie Slum Dog Millionaire  is in my hand, why not you deserve a coffee and a break.

I know a movie break is simply my way of resolving my creative tension.   It does not help overcome my impasse.

I read the synopsis; the word BOLLYWOOD captures me, now that’s a sound with a chipper rhythm.    Balderdash/Bollywood both trip of the tongue so nicely. It’s a word that surely has a broader appeal than simply a noun to describe Indian movies.  An encompassing adjective I think.

‘That’s sheer bollywood,’ said the lawyer jamming his wig hard on his head, his eyes flinty with anger.

‘Naughty, naughty you keep your bollywood to yourself,’ she said with a saucy smile.

I see white letters high on a hill in Bangladesh surrounded by expensive homes or is that sheer bollywood in my thinking?

And I’m back in my world again wanting to write but first I think I might go up and get into the belly dance outfit and jiggle around the lounge.  That’s all for today, that’s your bollywood lot!

Friday Tips for Speakers – Win an audience – speak to time

Speak to Time
Speak to Time

My pet peeve as a former conference and event organiser is  a presenter who does not speak to their allotted and agreed time.  I have known many a speaker, watch draped over the lectern, me zipping my finger across my throat each time  we made eye contact, continue on without any sign of chagrin, some 10 minutes-plus over time.

Four reasons why you SHOULD and COULD speak to time.

The audience are more inclined to absorb a speaker’s presentation if they run to time.  Speakers who run over time are evaluated poorly by the audience, seemingly their frustration obstructs the quality of the message.

Consideration for others:  Often one over-time speaker will cause a snowball effect with other speakers running late as they become stressed with the longer wait to ‘go on.’   Carefully timed agendas are disrupted. Refreshment breaks and meal service delayed.

Prepare & Rehearse: Speakers running overtime are slack. It comes down to preparation. You need to thoroughly rehearse and time your presentation. When rehearsing at home make sure that it comes in under the allotted time given by organisers.  Because the performance you give at home is generally at a faster pace than the one you give on centre stage. Double check your itinerary and speaking notes or disc before leaving home. (I once had a keynote speaker who arrived with the wrong disc for his Powerpoint presentation and had to wing it which caused him to run horribly late.)

Want a repeat gig? Then speak to time. Be professional. Organisers    of events and conferences hate their work to be compromised and will cross a tardy speaker off their talent list.

War Within

There is a battle raging within me when I write with the end result in mind of  readers praising my work. My rapacious and fearful ego jigs around in my head, denigrating each hard-earned, hard-worked para’ that appears on the screen.  

My mind runs in circles. Use the thesaurus. Surely that’s not grammatical?  For God’s sake  you can’t write that it’s politically incorrect. You are so-00 ancient history!  Another cliché, really! And the delete key runs hot.

The attachment to achieving validation is my central focus and it cripples me as a writer.  I cannot write with you in mind, it is too hard.  It fills me with fear that I will not live up to your expectations.

The authentic flow of expression comes only when I change the vision of the end result. When I write for the joy of writing. When I write intuitively – to please me, no one else.

Yes I have to be realistic about my work but editing can come once I have the words down on paper.  If I start with the premise that my writing is not good enough then my subconscious will try to prove it every time I sit in front of the computer.   But if I embrace a state of innocence, the joy of words and telling a story, without  the pressure of wanting, or, trying to achieve, I can write freely. That’s when the good stuff happens.

Friday Tips for Writers

alphabet-15461_150I ain’t Scott Fitzgerald or JK  but I am a writer, albeit with ‘L’ plates.  I think if you scratch the surface of any writer they will tell you they are still learning with each new work. The old maxim remains true ‘it is never too late to learn.’ Stephen King wrote in his non-fiction book  On Writing – a must read for all new writers – If you want to be a writer you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

Read: Stephen King reads between 70 to 80 books a year and says  it’s not to study the craft; I read because I like to read…. Yet every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons and quite often the bad books have more to teach than the good ones

Write: Do you want to write? Then discipline yourself to write every day. In between writing the final para of Losing You and starting on the next novel squirreling away in my head, I set myself a 75-Day intuitive blogging challenge publishing it on a Facebook page. Each morning after a short meditation that set my intention to receive a topic, I wrote whatever first came into my mind. Most were obvious topical issues or my personal soap box rants but others, like ‘whirling dervishes,’ ‘fields of glory’ and ‘Petula Clarke’s number Colour My World’ came out of left field. If you are not sure what to write, not ready to write then try this intuitive writing exercise, it stretches you and teaches you a lot about your  relationship with writing.

Friday Tips for Speakers

Your Running Mate

At a recent meeting, people in the front rows of the audience were excited by a speaker’s powerful words while the rest of us towards the back of the hall heard zilch. Why the @#%$  is it that people recoil from using a microphone? They do all the steps needed to prepare their presentation, rehearse it ad nauseam then fail at the last hurdle.  My blood runs cold when  a speaker refuses the microphone saying  ‘No thanks, I don’t need it. You can hear me can’t you?’ in a well articulated and projected voice. Once their presentation is under way they forget the volume and all that work is wasted. Three tips for using a microphone.

Seek out it. It wants to work with you to promote what you are saying.

Learn to use it. Before you speak , get used to the feel and weight of it, find out how to turn it on and off. If it is on a pedestal, practice  raising or lowering it till it is the right mid chin height. For more sophisticated microphones lapel or  a headset, the sound technician is your new best friend, they will mike you up and brief you.

Use it. Hold it a hand span  away from  mid-chin level for best amplification. Speak. For lapel and headset microphones simply wear and forget, the sound techno will do the business!

3 -7 Seconds to Prove

Researchers from NYU found that it takes us between three to seven seconds to make a judgement about a new person. During that time our brains are slicing our first impressions about how the person’s grooming, dress, posture,body language, smile and attitude affects us. As these snap decisions are based on  cultural and emotional issues it is unlikely you can be all things to all people.

But things you can control, appearance, will give you a head start in creating the right impression.   First attention to all those little and not so little give-away signs that signal you care  – in other words grooming.   Obvious stuff like a manicure, good haircut, clean shoes, nasal or ear hair trimmed, stockings without a run and a good deodorant.

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society said Mark Twain. Obviously from his final sentence Twain lived in another century where a sight of a well turned ankle from under a long skirt could get a gentleman’s  blood rising.  But his quote clothes make the man/woman is still sound especially when standing in front of an audience.

Your choice of dress should reflect the audience and environment.  A big pucker event requires  formality, an all day gardening workshop does not.  There are shades of grey (not Fifty) when choosing the appropriate garb. Research your market/audience. Ask yourself how will they relate to you if you wear your ‘going out best’ or would they be more comfortable with something less obvious.

Finally make sure the outfit you choose is comfortable and you feel good in it.  Feeling good = increases confidence.  Oh and one other thing – SMILE it is one of the key things that contribute positively to that 3/7 second prove.

Friday Tips

microphone7 Tips for Presenting Workshops to Adults.

  1. Understand that we all learn in different ways, develop plans and strategies to help adults learn. Importantly we need to feel free to direct our own learning process.
  2. Adults have a lot at risk when trying new behaviours or attempting new skills. Be supportive.
  3. Adults do not like long periods of inactivity, keep the lectures short and involvement long.
  4. Be sensitive, new information or ideas that conflict with beliefs take longer for us to absorb.
  5. Adults are goal-orientated.
  6. The physical environment is important – to learn effectively adults need to feel comfortable and relaxed.
  7. Like children, adults  gain considerably from positve re-inforcement.

Recommend: Research Adult Learning Principles 

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New fiction writers information – Show it Don’t Tell it

Read Jessica Bell’s  Show & Tell in a Nutshell   (or visit her blog)

Visit Write to Done blog and devour How to show (not tell) A writing lesson from John LeCarre

Visit The Write Practice and practice The Secret to Show Not Tell  penned by Joe Bunting