Quote for organization

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

― Pablo Picasso


Web resource for delivery

We all have those words we struggle to pronounce correctly (for me it is the words conscious and conscience). Many of us have just learned to avoid the words that give us trouble. But for some speakers, there may be several trouble words because of a speech disorder.

Guest blogger Ben Allen gives several great suggestions about how to be a confident speaker with a speech disorder at the Six Minutes blog. Because he shares from personal experience, this would be a great article to share with students who are concerned that their manner of speaking may interfere with their message.

And I always share the advice from Randy Fujishin: Audiences will forgive many mistakes when they sense a genuine desire to communicate with them — and you can do that.

Link to article


Visual aid for storytelling

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A Prezi prepared for Carmine Gallo’s new book, “The Storyteller’s Secret,” offers several great examples of the power of storytelling in various public speaking contexts.

This could be a nice addition at the start if you use a storytelling introductory speech, or later in the semester as part of the persuasion unit.

To incorporate an in-class activity, students could be asked before seeing the video to make a list of characteristics of a story and/or to name different contexts where people tell stories (speeches, dates, family gatherings, etc.).

After the video, a class discussion about how stories are used to transmit group values could be done. I like to use familiar stories like “The Wizard of Oz” or “Three Little Bears.” But I also share a few brief stories told on my first day at a former workplace (“and we all stayed all night and worked right through the blizzard…”) and a story my in-laws told when I first met them to ask what values they were intending to communicate.

Note that there is a brief ad for the book at the end of the video.

Link to Prezi

Web resource for visual aid design

Often public speaking textbooks give visual aid advice that is overly technical, too simplistic for computer-savvy college students or just hopelessly outdated. I’m always on the search for basic advice that is also practical and will apply to a variety of software programs.

Andrew Dlugan’s “Slide Fonts: 11 Guidelines for Great Design” from the Six Minutes blog gives great advice (though I’m still partial to serif fonts myself) along with picture demonstrations about why the advice works, which you can use for class.

If you need some good material on visual aids, especially slides, this would be a good reading assignment for students or rules to present in class. It could be turned into an activity if followed by several “rule-breaking” examples for discussion.

Link to article

Web resource for group communication

Speaker and author Keith Ferrin explains two key words that help focus every group interaction (or speech planning) at the Dynamic Communicators blog.

…so that…

By placing the purpose at inform, update, educate, etc., it not only leaves the meeting’s purpose one-sided, but also leaves it unable to be assessed — was the meeting necessary? did it succeed?

Having the answer to “so that…” can give the meeting planners the sharp focus, making better use of everyone’s time.

For a class activity, challenging students to add “so that…” to a specific-purpose writing exercise for a speech or an agenda-writing exercise for a group assignment would be an excellent extension of the activity.

Link to article

Web resource for group communication

During August 2015, Andrew Dlugan of the Six Minutes blog ran a series on group communication. Some public speaking textbooks are far too brief on this topic and in my state a group presentation was required for students in the basic course — so I was always looking for practical information to share.

Topics covered include Planning a Group Discussion, Leading a Group Discussion, and Dealing with Challenging Group Members.

I also found a link to an earlier post with advice about giving a group presentation. (My favorite advice here: control your introductions and transitions, they matter.)

Web resource for visual aids

One challenge I give my students is that they are not allowed to use all-text visual aids for their speeches. There must be VISUAL elements like photos, diagrams, or charts if they are going to use slides (and this challenge is immediately followed by an explanation of the difference between a 75-minute class of students taking notes and a 6-minute speech of classmates who are not since their instructor is a frequent creator of the bullet list…).

This blog from JeffBullas.com features 20 different tools for creating infographics, including timelines, word pictures, interactive maps and charts. Each tool is briefly described for its best features.

Unless visual aids are a big part of your class, this probably would not take up class time, but would be a nice link to provide to students online or to have available to students who ask for help.

Link to article

Board games to use for in-class activities

I love board games. Recently I was helping another prof develop some in-class activities and recommended activities based on three board games that I incorporate into class.

  • Scattergories: For the most part, it is the alphabet-sided die that comes in useful. For a brainstorming session in looking for topic ideas, I have put students in groups and challenged them to come up with as many ideas as they can within a set time that start with the letter randomly rolled on the die. This can be repeated with 2-3 letters, and the topics can be narrowed if you like (“Things about this campus starting with letter W — go!”). After generating a list — and according to the rules of brainstorming there is no questioning or evaluating list items as the list is created — the students are then asked to choose 1-2 items that can be stretched or expanded into interesting speech topics for class. If you have more time to spend on topic selection, a version more faithful to the rules of the game might be helpful as well.
  • Mindtrap: Not all speech textbooks have a reasoning section, but I always dedicate one or two days to covering the basics of reasoning and fallacies as part of the persuasive unit. Mindtrap comes with dozens of cards with logic puzzles and word games of varying difficulty. Not all are straight reasoning, so I have selected out cards that best illustrate the point for class. Students get into groups and are given copies of the cards (because the original cards have answers on the back) and work them together. If they get an answer quickly or need a hint, they can let me know. When they solve it, I will give them another card while the other groups work. One group member is a recorder who is called on during the debriefing to describe the logical process the group took to find the answer, which I can then relate to the types of logic as I discuss them later.

    The other prof was doing exercises that focused on creativity and was able to find examples of lateral thinking in the game deck and use the same steps of the exercise.

  • The Whole Brain Game: This is a game consisting of two decks — one a list of words associated with various colors (nouns are listed as Green words, for example) and the other deck are questions. The question deck calls on you to use specific random words from the first deck. The questions ask you to look for connections between two random words, or to treat the words as a superpower, or to make the word a human and speak in its voice, among other things. You are given a brief period of time to answer each question and scored by the quantity of acceptable answers you give.

    The decks have been great to incorporate into class activities, challenging students to create fresh metaphors, be creative with transitions, and see topics in a new way.

I’ve been able to incorporate these games into activities in public speaking and my colleague had success using them for activities in an advertising class as well.

Are there any board games you have found useful for class activities? I’d love to add them to the list.

Web resource about audience feedback

Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes discusses great ways for speakers to collect and assess audience feedback. This article would be great to share with students who want to make serious improvements in their speeches or who are struggling with how to interpret the responses they are getting from the audience.

The article makes several suggestions for the speaker to get more useful feedback. For example, follow up a general compliment like “that was great” with questions like “what part most resonated with you?” Also, pay attention to the questions: If the questions are demonstrating that the audience missed points that you covered, it indicates that you need to make sure your main ideas are being made more clearly.

Also, the suggestions for soliciting good feedback could be used by instructors, especially if you make use of peer reviews. The article gives some specific questions that could make a peer review form stronger, like “what was the most useful thing you learned?” It also gives other suggestions that teachers could use to help students assess audience feedback which professional speakers sometimes use, like filming the audience during the speech to review later.

Link to article

Web resource with several great examples

“Eight Master Strategies for Public Speaking” from Fast Company has several great examples to work into class.

Included are examples of speaking techniques from Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, Napoleon, Ronald Reagan and Chris Rock. Most are brief stories that can be incorporated into various topics such as practicing, delivery, audience adaptation and language.

This is a great resource for finding examples to share or, if you like, share the entire article with students who wish to increase their skills in one or more areas.

Link to article