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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


Video for interpersonal comm: Missing context cues


The Simpsons: Season 2, episode 12

Link to episode description

This is a flashback episode showing how Homer and Marge began their relationship as teens. Early in the episode is a scene where Marge is tutoring Homer in French (clip available online here). After admitting he lied to her about taking French just to spend time with her, Marge reacts angrily and Homer fails to grasp the repercussions of her anger.

It provides a nice example of how Homer misses the context cues when the tone of the conversation changes. If you have time, the end of the episode would be a nice addition to show how they worked it out.

Know of any other clips where characters miss obvious social cues? Leave a comment and let us know.

Photo courtesy of Simpsons Wiki.

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Video for delivery

Sound expert Julian Treasure delivers a great TED talk available for free at YouTube, “How to Speak so that People Want to Listen.”

While the full 10-minute video is fairly long for class, this one breaks down into three smaller segments which could be shown on their own for different topics.

  • The first part focuses on interpersonal issues — why are some approaches conversation killers?
  • The second portion focuses on characteristics of the voice — using the metaphor of a toolbox Treasure covers vocal qualities that a speaker wants to demonstrate and those to avoid.
  • The final (brief) portion covers warm-up exercises to practice before speaking. A demonstration of each exercise is given.

Either of the last two segments would be a great addition to the delivery topic in a public speaking class — either in class or as additional material available to students. The first segment also contains very good information, but would fit better in an interpersonal unit or related to audience adaptation than delivery.

Link to article (via Six Pixels of Separation blog)

The Importance of Nonverbal Communication

A well-researched series of slides about nonverbal communication shared by Alex Rister at Creating Communication. These could be used in class or made available to your students online.

Creating Communication


How do you work to grow your nonverbal communication skills?

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Examples for male/female communication differences

These are four brief sample conversations that I wrote based on student suggestions about the differences in how men and women communicate. I would use these examples on tests with a question like “Based on what we have learned about how men and women communicate, identify five differences in communication style that are contributing to a misunderstanding.” Find the in-class activity that I used to generate these conversations here:

1. “What do you want for dinner?”

A couple are on a drive and the following conversation takes place:

Female:             “Do you want to get something to eat?”

Male:             “Sure. What kind of food do you want?”

Female:            “I don’t care.”

Male:             (pulls into a KFC)

Female:             (sighs loudly)

Male:            “What’s wrong?”

Female:             “Nothing, it’s just that I thought you knew that I don’t like chicken.”

Male:             “We can go somewhere else.”

Female:             “No this is OK, I’ll just have a Pepsi.”

Male:             “We can go get a pizza instead.”

Female:             “This is fine. I haven’t had pizza in a long time though.”

Male:             (Starts to leave parking lot)

Female:             “What are you doing?”

Male:             “Going to get pizza like you said.”

Female:      “I didn’t say to get pizza. I said we can do whatever you want and you want fried chicken so this is fine.”

Male:     “If changing your mind was an Olympic sport you would have a gold medal.” (laughs)

Female:     “What? Why are you being a jerk?”

Male:             (stops car) “Just make up your mind.”

Female:             “Stop yelling at me!”

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Example for language

This graphic from Joshua Katz at North Carolina State presents a fun look at language variations for some common terms in different regions of the U.S. You could select parts of it to share with students as an in-class example or use the entire graphic as additional information on a class web site:

Amercians Speak English Totally Differently From Each Other

Atlantic Video has created a 4-minute video that presents this same information in an entertaining way. It is available at

Soda/Pop/Coke video

Speech assignment on interpersonal comm

I had a hybrid class with a mix of public speaking and interpersonal communication. The public speaking part of the class ended with a group presentation worth 20% of the final grade. On occasion, a student would have a legitimate excuse for missing their group’s presentation (such as a car accident on the way to class). In those instances, I would offer this makeup assignment.

This assignment still required a class presentation but also helped to offer a student’s perspective to the class during the interpersonal comm unit, which I placed at the end of the semester.

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Written assignment for interpersonal comm: Identity

This is a brief written assignment that I would offer students as an option to help them appreciate how groups work to create and communicate their identities.

This could be modified to require students to take photos of the ads or it could be made into an assignment for a brief class presentation or group activity.

Find three different examples of ads or announcements presented by groups on campus. These can be found in the school newspapers, in posters or fliers, or in sidewalk chalk messages. Briefly describe the group that created the ad and where you found it. Review the ad and describe how the language and symbols used help to define the group’s identity and to target their desired audience.

Written assignment for interpersonal comm: facework

This is a brief written assignment I’ve used to encourage students to find examples of facework:

Find and describe one example from a “non-scripted” TV show or online video where someone makes a face-saving move to attempt to avoid embarrassment. “Non-scripted” refers to a video where the participants are not following a set script and errors would not be edited out, such as reality television or a live news report. Describe why the face-saving was necessary (what threatened their face), how the person attempted to save face, and whether you feel the face-saving move was effective.

Video for interpersonal comm: Changing face

Simpsons: Season 7, episode 17

This episode features a couple of great scenes that show changing face. Mr. Smithers takes a vacation, leaving Homer to tend to Mr. Burns’ needs.

Under the pressure of Burns’ unreasonable demands (including a very funny scene shown in picture), Homer snaps and punches Burns. But rather than be angry, Mr. Burns undergoes a dramatic change and becomes self-reliant.

Several short scenes can be edited together to show this change in just a few minutes of class time. It would be a great lead-off to a discussion about changing face.

Photo courtesy Simpsons Wiki. Find an episode description here.