A long, long break!

Wow, it’s been a long time since I wrote on here. I just lost inspiration and got out of the habit. The next post will have to be a conclusion to my book but I will have to read it again to remind myself of what I wrote!

Hey, ho! I’m off again, anyway!

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Weekly Photo Challenge (theme of the week)

Unique pied blackbirdOur Unique Blackbird. Mostly white, actually. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen him for a while. We think the females rejected him, as he took over our garden from the resident bird but didn’t stay in the summer. He came for two winters and we felt privileged to know him.

By the way, in reference to the theme of my blog: be careful of the meaning of words that you use. Unique should only be used if there are no others exactly like your subject. It should not be qualified at all. Nothing can be quite or very unique; it is or it isn’t. This bird was unique. There are other birds that have partial albinism but no two are the same.

I felt sorry for him because he was rejected by his own kind, not recognised because he was different.

I expect that a lot of people understand how that feels.

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A New Start

A belated Happy New Year to my readers! I’m starting the year with a new blog appearance, which I hope will be clearer than the last. The pictures are from Chesil Beach near my home. The pink thrift looks lovely in the spring behind Chesil Bank and the sea at Chesil Cove can look like the Mediterranean but it’s a bit chillier! 

My hubby and I didn’t get off to a good start in 2013 in cyberspace by being offline for over a week. I had intended writing this as soon as the year began but it didn’t happen.

No emails, Facebook, crossword puzzle help, Skype –  Aaagh! I had to be patient (not easy!) and wait. The usual modern ways of communicating that I had got used to were not available and I had to return to some old ways. My writing is appalling now after such a long time typing but out came the pen. Life sometimes changes our plans and we have to adapt to circumstances.

This is why I always try to have a Plan B when I give a talk. To recap on what I said in last years’ posts: never rely wholly on equipment; rely on what you know won’t fail – yourself; make what you have to say the most important thing and you will carry people with you even if all the equipment fails.

If modern aids let you down trust in yourself and your subject. It might not be what you planned but you can still satisfy your audience. So what if the slideshow of your overseas trip doesn’t work on the day? Lots of interesting things happened, the people were interesting, the smells were extraordinary, the customs were strange etc. Include descriptions of these in with the slideshow and, if the equipment  fails, expand on them. It might be shorter than the audience expected but that is better than being too long and if you succeed in whetting their appetites you might be asked to return.

As in life in general, be prepared to take a new direction. It is never too late to try something new. You don’t have to stick with your tried and tested formula when speaking. A new year can be a chance to try fresh approaches in every part of our lives and this is not a bad thing. Be prepared to make a few mistakes, as when starting any new venture. If you haven’t used equipment before, why not give it a try?

If you have always spoken on the same subject but have been somewhere new or tried a new experience, prepare to speak on that. If your talks are not going down as well as they used to, perhaps you are getting a little stale. Think hard about making changes and refreshing your subject matter and your approach.

My latest guitar student is a lady of 80 years. She is not afraid to try something new and I admire her for that. It’s never too late to try. With arthritis, it is not physically easy but she is not giving up and is enjoying it. She has taught me never to give up on your dreams but be prepared to put in some effort and you can achieve remarkable things.

Best wishes on your public speaking in 2013.

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Happy Christmas and a blogging good year to you all!

Does that sound a bit rude? It’s amazing how some innocent words can be made to sound rude! You have to be careful when public speaking, too. (Well, I had to make this a bit relevant to the subject of my blog!)

I’ve been out of action due to a nasty fall on my ribs and haven’t felt much like doing anything but am better now, so intend getting back to blogging regularly again. 

Must go now as Christmas dinner is ready and all I had to do was make the cranberry sauce. Lovely and relaxing for a change – just what I needed. Thanks to my younger son and his family. 

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Speaking at Christmas

Well, you should see snow falling on this blog now until January 4th. That doesn’t mean much to anyone reading this in a hotter part of the world and we don’t often get snow in Britain until January anyway but we have the perception that it is Christmassy, probably from an earlier age when it was. The Victorians gave us most of our Christmas ‘traditions’.

Around this time, when asked to ‘give a talk’ you can always talk of seasonal things. For an older speaker, young people can be fascinated by hearing of Christmases past and how little people received in the way of presents. They can here of the daft games played in times past before the advent of TV and Wii. It is always good to be entertaining at this time and if you write or like reading poetry on the subject, there are many good poems about that can make the audience laugh or cry on the subject. Perhaps you have your own funny or poignant tale to tell of your childhood.

I have my own poem inspired by imagining what might be going through the mind of a little boy I heard arguing with his mother while standing in a long queue (line – for anyone who does not use the expression!) in a store. “Why do have to have Christmas, anyway?” he said stamping his feet.

I grew up knowing the original Christmas story and we didn’t start Christmas in the shops as early in those days. I grew up separating Santa (Father Christmas , in England) and tales from the Biblical ones but, if you don’t really know any of the stories and they all get mixed up, it must be confusing.

The following poem arose from that incident in the Christmas queue. I am submitting it to the DP challenge this week. The poem is from the child’s point of view. (And I know the first verse is a different metre – it works if you perform it, which I’ve done successfully at several talks!) 

 

The reason for Christmas ain’t quite clear to me

Will somebody tell me for sure?

The grown-ups around me all act like they know

But then, I am only four.

 

My Mum spends lots of her money -

The money she really ain’t got

On a lot of things for a lot of people

She really don’t like a lot!

 

My Dad has his mates round at Christmas

They drink beer and send me to bed.

The next day, I have to be ever so quiet

While Dad walks round holding his head!

 

I’m very confused about Christmas.

There’s Santa, reindeer and a sleigh

And shepherds and kings and angel

And a baby asleep on the hay.

 

I bet you the first Christmas, Santa

Didn’t get organised as he should.

When he saw these three blokes up on camels

Said, “Going to Bethlehem? Good.

 

“There’s a baby asleep in a stable

Will you take these three presents for me?

‘Cause I’m running a bit late in Israel

And I want to get home for my tea.”

 

So they followed a star to the stable -

They’d have found it because of the smell!

THREE presents was all that they gave him -

And it was his birthday, as well!

 

We’re supposed to be happy at Christmas.

My mum thinks it’s just a big chore.

I really don’t understand Christmas,

But then, I am only four!

 

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Lists for everything!

I am a great procrastinator and tend to disorganisation – for example: this should have been my first post on this subject. This disposition is not helpful in preparing for anything, including writing or public speaking. My first writing tutor is a strong believer in making lists. Procrastinators are probably the people who benefit from them more than any other type of person. 

When preparing for a talk, it is a good idea to list all the topics you want to cover. Having ascertained the time limit you have for the whole talk, divide the topics into time slots that fit within that time frame. It might soon become obvious that you will never be able to satisfactorily cover all those topics.

Decide what you can sensibly miss out. However, you should be ready on the day with some information on those topics in case there are questions concerning them.

Next, list the essential information within those topics you want to cover and set a time limit for each section. 

For example, if I were speaking about Public Speaking, my preparation list might begin like this:

Time limit: 40 mins

1. Know your subject. 5mins

2. Preparation 15 mins

3. Delivery. 15 mins

4. A satisfying conclusion. 5 mins

1. Know your subject: 

a) Revise the basics.  3 mins

b) Looking up sources for reference. 2 mins

2)Preparation:

a) Make lists: 2 mins

 b) Write or type clearly:  3 mins

c) Using equipment 10 mins  (Mikes: 3 mins (expand in Delivery); projector: 5 mins; older stuff: 2 mins. 

Delivery: a) Speaking;  3 mins; b) using mikes: 5 mins; c) clothing; 2 mins

I won’t go on, as I’m sure you can see how quickly time adds up and you need to make sure your talk is concise and organised if it is to be satisfactory. 

The lists make it clear how important it is to allocate time. You might find that you have to completely re-think your delivery and how to use the equipment available. 

It really is best to be organised for your talk, even if you are not normally. Speakers (or job interviewees) need a certain amount of acting ability and if you have one, you should leave your disorganised personality behind, convincing the audience that you are knowledgeable, organised, confident and calm. You can let yourself go at home afterwards! This is why I say that rehearsal is quite important, especially for amateurs who do not speak very often in public. 

 

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If at first you don’t succeed at public speaking – DON”T GIVE UP!

At the start of any new enterprise, things will go wrong or just be unsatisfactory. If your first talk was clearly not what you or the audience hoped – they twiddled their thumbs, fell asleep or kept looking at the clock etc, do not give up and think that you are hopeless at it.

 The first time will probably be not quite right, you might have forgotten some of the advice you might have read or, perhaps you did not cope well with last minute surprises, such as the weather or road works making you late or you forgot something important that you were going to show. Maybe you didn’t feel that you dealt with the questions very well. It doesn’t matter – learn from your mistakes and aim to improve next time. Don’t give up!

Make a list of all that seemed to go wrong. Leave space to write or type, on the other side of the page, what you could do to improve each item. When you are preparing your next talk, refer to your list and plan things differently.

If there was anyone you know and trust who was present at the previous talk, ask for feedback and constructive criticism. You must be prepared to accept it with good grace and use it to improve your presentation next time.

Those whom you ask for this criticism must know that they may speak honestly but ask them to be as kind as possible and give useful criticism. Just being told, “I didn’t think you came across well, at all,” isn’t constructive. It needs to be something like, “You didn’t come across well because you never looked at your audience and you constantly looked at the ceiling.” Nobody likes to be criticised but it is usually necessary when anyone is starting out on a new enterprise. Don’t be too arrogant to accept it. 

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