Ten Tips for Building a Strong Story

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Effective Feedback to Speaker

If you think about a time when you have received useful feedback, what was it specifically that made it useful?

Just recently, I had a very technical presentation to a peer group and at the end one of the participants gave me some really useful feedback. He said, “your overall presentation was very organized and easy to follow because you had visual support and you walked us through each step.” Then he followed with, “you may want to consider increasing the volume of your voice so the people in the back could hear because there were times when we could not follow along because we could not hear you.”

Do you see how these two feedback comments included support for each statement made? My presentation was organized and easy to follow, BECAUSE of…  My voice was not loud enough so the people in the back of the room could not hear.  These are types of feedback comments that are the most useful to a speaker.  These are things that the speaker can do something about. It is not addressing the speaker’s behavior, it is addressing the speech itself.  As a speaker yourself, don’t you want to know what areas were strong and what areas you can improve upon?  I know that I do!

Here are some short tips to consider when providing feedback that is the most helpful to the speaker:

  • Start with positive feedback. This can reduce defensiveness and help the speaker to be more open to receiving your feedback.
  • Use the 90/10 principle 1. The basis of this principle is that a person’s weaknesses are not necessarily the opposite of their strengths; they are  “excesses” of their strengths. If you provide feedback on 90% of a particular quality as positive, then mention the 10% that worked in in the opposite way or against that 90%. For example: “Your physical variety really helped us understand your topic, however there were a few times that you ‘fiddled’ with your hair that made it distracting.”
  • Feedback descriptive rather than evaluative. For example, instead of saying the speech was disorganized, describe why it was disorganized, “you mentioned the cause and effect for two of your points, but I wasn’t clear on the third.
  • Feedback is specific. Instead of saying, “Your graph was interesting,” say, “Your GMO graph really helped us to show how much soy in this country is genetically modified.”
  • Focus behavior rather than on the person. – The speaker is less likely to take it personally if you use non-judgmental feedback.  For example: “When you raise the pitch of your voice at the end of sentence, and you’re making a statement (not asking a question) it makes you appear uncertain or lacking in confidence.”

The basic idea of feedback is sharing information with the speaker about the speech — not giving advice.

1 Sprague, J., & Stuart, D. (1984). The speaker’s handbook. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Asking Questions of Speaker

GUIDELINES IN ASKING QUESTIONS

If you are part of the inquiry group (questions group): pay close attention to the content of each speech in order to ask informed and provocative questions.

  • Be respectful – think of the content of your questions as well as the tone. If you come off in an accusatory tone, you are much less likely to receive a direct and respectful answer.
  • Do not be overly argumentative the goal is NOT to argue points with speaker. The goal is to find out more. What did the speaker mean by referring to genetically modified organisms as “poison”? Ask for clarification in an inquisitive manner, not one with demand or dispute.
  • Ask effective questions – use questions that delve further into the speech topic. This is where you want to think beyond yes/no questions and move into more of the how/why questions. For example, instead of asking, “what town are you from?”, ask, “what is the town like that you grew up in?” This is more apt to get the speaker talking and get the audience more detailed information.

 

Introduction to a Lesson – the “Flight Plan”

Preparing the introduction for my lesson reminds me of preparing a ‘flight plan” before take off.  Everything needs to be in order, in my mind. I go over my notes, my materials, do a run-through in my mind, check and re-check.

cockpit by berin

These “starter sets”, or introductions, can include a variety of different elements to “hook” your students into the lesson as you get started.  It is important to grab them at the beginning and begin to turn that attention into engagement with the lesson concepts.

Yesterday, in my public speaking class, we were focusing on using “attention getters” and “transitions” in a speech.  I began by asking the students about what exciting adventures they had over Spring Break.  That was my lead into the lesson, which began with my exciting adventure over spring break. The personal story that I shared with them to introduce the lesson was sprinkled with a variety of “attention getters” such as:

  • activity and movement (which you can’t “see” in this audio below)
  • proximity (referring to someone else in the room)
  • novelty (the type of therapy I spoke about)
  • familiarity (a different personal story I shared with the class a few weeks prior when we worked on introductions)
  • suspense (building the students up after telling them I got 50 injections)
  • a bit of humor (joking about how I handled the injections better than my husband who was only watching)
  • “the vital” (which appeals to audience sense of value, make life better, save time, save money, etc.).

I noticed that my transitions were not as smooth as I had hoped to demonstrate for my students. I used a lot of “ands” and “sos”, rather than varying my transition words, or using pauses.  We discussed this after my intro and did a fishbowl activity in which two groups were able to orally practice “attention getters” on a given topic. This was followed by a brief discussion of “transitions” as compared to driving a stick shift with smooth shifting (no grinding of the gears effect!). The students then had practice with coming up with transitions in the following “Transition Card Pair-Share”:

  1. Students partnered up and came up with one sentence (absolutely anything!)
  2. I passed out a sentence that I created on a slip of paper to each pair
  3. The pair worked together to create a transition statement to tie the two sentences together smoothly.
  4. Much hilarity ensued due to the nature of the funny statements I gave them, i.e.: There are many things you can say about your dog, but not your roommate.

Overall, this activity was very successful in that students really understood and practiced how to create transitions, which are critical to a fluid speech in order for the audience to follow.

 

Note: To get my audio recording, I did the following:

  1. Recorded my intro via my iPhone 5s (using VoiceMemo app)
  2. Emailed the VoiceMemo to myself
  3. Downloaded the VoiceMemo (Mp4)
  4. Logged into my SoundCloud free account and uploaded the Mp4
  5. Once uploaded, I selected the Share menu and copied the provided code and pasted it into this WordPress post (this last step can be a little tricky as free WordPress pages don’t seem to like the code). Feel free to keep in simple and just create a hyperlink to the URL of your SoundCloud audio file.

Impromptu speech topics

ideas for impromptu speeches

teachingpublicspeaking

A lot of lists are available for impromptu speech topics. My topic list evolved regularly. I typed it up recently for someone on request and wanted to offer it here as well.

At the start of the semester, I would choose a topic then ask a question for the students. Later in the semester, I could just read the topic and let the students run with it. If you have a reluctant group, you could stick with the questions.

The persuasive topics can be a bit more difficult so I only used them for the last few days of the semester for the few students that had to finish up their impromptus. For the persuasive impromptus, I would give the students two topics and let them choose one.

Informative topics:

Web sites – what’s the best web site that we’ve probably never heard of?
Video games – what’s the best…

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In-class exercise: Transition cards

great activity ideas for public speaking

teachingpublicspeaking

Practice with transitions

This is based on a “Whose Line is it Anyway?” game. At least one class day before teaching transitions, I have the students create the cards. The students organize into pairs and I give each pair three quarter sheets of paper. They are to write one sentence on each piece of paper. The sentences can be about anything, but I ask them to keep them clean and to avoid questions. They are often skeptical, so I will usually tell them about the “Whose Line?” game. I then go through the cards after class and discard any that will not work.

On the day we discuss transitions, I mix the cards up and again have students get into pairs. Each pair gets two cards. Their challenge is to write a transition sentence that will go between both cards to connect the sentences in some way. Each pair shares…

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