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Saturday 1 September, 2018

Rovers Training Weekend

The Rovers Club is meeting in  Carlisle for our annual training weekend.  Members met last night for a meal. Proceedings started this morning with the business meeting.  This was followed by the speech contest  and pictured are (L to R): Yvonne (Speech Contest Chairman), Colin (Contestant). Laurence (Contest Winner with the Tibbie Brown quaich) and Evelyn (Contestant).

Activities continued in the afternoon with a talk by Nancy on her early years on Lewis, a quiz on Etymology led by Diana and a workshop on accents led by Evelyn. As always it was very enjoyable and we learnt a lot.

A more formal dinner will take place tonight and there will be further workshops tomorrow morning before we wind up the weekend and head for home.

Monday 18 June, 2018

Great Britain Region Speech Contest.


Great Britain Region met at the Holiday Inn, Lancaster on Saturday 16th June, 2018.

The Speech Contest was chaired by President Nancy  and the winner was Carole from Pollokshields Club.


 Contestants and President Nancy with the cup.

Following the Speech Contest the winners of the Writing Contest were announced by Colin
 The winner for the non fiction was Evelyn from Rovers 
The Fiction Winner was Anita from Pollokshields.  Anita was, unfortunately there so Roz, President of Pollokshields accepted the trophy.

The Winner of the Poetry went to Olga from the Netherlands.

There was a short business meeting when the new Constitution was discussed.   It had been decided that President Nancy would stay in place until September.
The Financial Year end has been changed to 31st March with the accounts discussed at the AGM.

Members enjoyed the opportunity to meet up with members from other clubs  and all enjoyed the meeting.


Sunday 27 May, 2012

Reading Aloud

If ever you are asked to read aloud there are three things you have to do:

  1. Read the words
  2. Read the punctuation
  3. Read between the lines.
It may seem obvious to say that you have to read the words but is that what the audience is hearing? Don't whisper, don't gabble. You may feel that your objective is just to get through it as quickly as possible but no, your objective is to communicate with the audience. There is such a thing as speaking too slowly so don't over compensate – just try to speak at a reasonable pace.

The words only tell us what to say, the punctuation tells us how to say it.  There should be a slight pause at the end of a sentence or when you encounter a comma. You might use a longer pause when you encounter a semicolon, colon or dash. If nothing else, pauses give you a chance to take a breath.

When you encounter quotation marks your tone of voice should indicate the change from narrative to quotation.

In normal speech we tend to use an upward inflection at the end of a sentence when we ask a question. So if you encounter a question mark you should inflect your voice in the same way (note: in some dialects of English an upward inflection is part of normal speech).

An exclamation mark is the most obvious indicator that emphasis should be applied but if you read between the lines and try to imagine how it should be said. Which parts should be louder or softer? How can your tone of voice replicate the tone of the piece you are reading?

When reading poetry you have to capture the rhythm of the poem but prose can have rhythms as well. Modulate your voice and avoid monotone. Your audience will appreciate it.

Tuesday 13 March, 2012

Presentations: Best Practice

Last night I was at a meeting of a professional body. The speaker gave a presentation using an overhead projector linked to a PC.

The speaker was clearly confident in giving presentations to his peer group. The overheads were mainly black text on white. He proceeded at a rapid pace. One overhead might have a heading and a line of text, the next another point under the same heading.

Half way through the presentation he said "You don't need to take notes, the slides will be available on the website".

At one point he looked at the screen and said "I didn't mean to concentrate so much on ***".

After the meeting, I heard a few people say "A lot of that went straight over my head".

What do you think the speaker could have done to improve the presentation?

Friday 1 July, 2011

A Simple Guide to Newsletters in Word

POWERwrite

Online, On Paper or Both?

Are people going to be reading your newsletter on a computer screen?  If so any web addresses should be hyperlinks i.e. the reader should be able to click on a link to be taken to the web address. If it is to be printed you may want the number of pages to be a multiple of four especially if it is to be professionally printed. One sheet of A3 can accommodate four A4 pages (this is the advantage of the ISO system of paper sizes over the ANSI standard used in North America).

Tick TOC

If you want to use a table of contents insert a TOC field. It will make life much easier for you. Why? because the table of contents is updated Automatically. By default the TOC entries will be based on the heading styles so make sure that you use the correct heading rather than arbitrarily changing the size and weight of the font to match a heading. The page number will be a hyperlink to the item and you can add the \h option to make the entire entry a hyperlink (this is the default in newer versions of Word).

As an alternative to mapping the TOC to headings you can set the \f option to use TC fields.  This means that you insert a TC field before any item that you wish to appear in the table of contents.

Add Your Own Style

You may wish to add a style for a particular purpose for example a byline style might use right-justified paragraphs and bold text to display the author of an item.

Columns

Columns can complicate the layout of your newsletter but you may prefer this style of presentation. Use section breaks to separate collimated parts of the newsletter from non-collimated parts.

At the Drop of a Cap

If you leaf through a magazine you will notice that the first paragraph of an article and possibly some of the other paragraphs start with a large capital letter. This is a dropped capital or "drop cap". In word you can format the first letter of a paragraph as a drop cap. Do not use it on every paragraph and especially avoid it on short paragraphs. You might want to use drop caps as a way to break an article into sections.

Pull Quote

That eye-catching quote in your magazine highlighted in large print is known as a pull quote. You can add a pull quote in Word by inserting a text box and choosing a large font style. Format the text box to allow text to flow around it.

Format Painter

If you incorporate a submitted article into a newsletter you can use the format painter to copy the paragraph style from elsewhere in the document. The format painter is a brush found on the home ribbon or standard toolbar.  Select a piece of formatted text and then click on format painter. Select the text to be formatted and when you release the mouse button the format is applied. If you want to apply the format to several places you can use a double click to activate the format painter. It then stays active until you press the escape key.

An alternative to format painter is to use Ctrl-Shift-C to copy the formatting and Ctrl-Shift-V to paste formatting to other places.

Take care with formatting paragraphs containing hyperlinks. The hyperlinks will still be active but will have the appearance of the surrounding text.


Compatibility Issues

Somebody’s just got a brand new shiny computer and suddenly you cannot swap files. What’s wrong? The chances are that the recipient is using an earlier version of Word. If you are the sender you can fix the problem by ensuring that you send files in Word 97-2003 document format (Instead of “Save” choose “Save As” from the file tab and find said format in the pull-down list for “Save as type”). If you are the recipient of a “docx” file and your version of Word can only load “doc” files, do not despair; you can download a compatibility pack from http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/open-a-word-2007-document-in-an-earlier-version-of-word-HA010044473.aspx


Pictures

Insert your picture and experiment with the different formatting options until you are satisfied that it is presented the way you want it.

The Devil

… is in the detail so they say and the detail will depend on the version of Word you are using. Use what I have said above in conjunction with the help system to add a little sparkle to your newsletters.

Saturday 21 May, 2011

Persuasive Speaking Part 3 - Charm and Hex Words

To understand persuasive speaking you have to understand the power of words. If an advertisement for a food product claims it is “full of natural goodness” they are trying to make you believe the product is wholesome. The phrase is meaningless but it circumvents laws against making demonstrably false claims.

Words can have emotional resonance that strikes deeper than rational argument. When a tabloid journalist talks about “Frankenstein food” he or she is trying to stir up revulsion at the idea of “tampering with nature”.

Words like pure, natural and hygienic are what I call charm words. Words like artificial, synthetic and “germy” are what I call hex words. The former have a positive connotation, the latter a negative one.

A vitamin made by artificial means is no different to the same vitamin from a natural source. Is it meaningful to describe a soap dispenser as “germy” if it harbours a few hundred bacteria? If it harboured a few thousand the advertisers might have a point.

In a TV studio discussion programme they were talking about whether obese pregnant women should be given a drug hitherto given to diabetics (including pregnant diabetic women) in order to prevent the foetus from receiving too much insulin. One of the panel said that if she were pregnant she would want to make sure that anything she took was “pure”. Pure what? Pure poison?

When I hear words like “chemical” being used a hex word I take it with a pinch of sodium chloride (that’s a chemical commonly known as salt by the way). If you want to avoid chemicals, avoid the sugar and spice and go for the healthy protein of the rats and snails.

To recap, in Part 2 I explained that an Adult-Adult transaction at a social level can also be an Adult-Child transaction at a psychological level. As a persuasive tactic you can appeal to the Child in us through charm words, words that make us feel safe and comfortable or you can use hex words to frighten the Child (scary monsters – hide behind the sofa).

In debating think about the use of words and the resonances that certain words have. Don’t forget about humour. sometimes the charm words that work best tickle the Child.

Friday 20 May, 2011

Persuasive Speaking Part 2 - Transactional Analysis

In his book, Games People Play, Dr. Eric Berne described ego states as being “a system of feelings accompanied by a related set of behaviour patterns”. He tells us that ego states are categorised as exteropsychic, neopsychic or archaeopsychic. The first resemble ego states of parental figures; the second are autonomously directed towards the objective appraisal of reality and the third are ego states that remain from early childhood.

The expression of the three kinds of ego state may be referred to colloquially as the Parent, Adult and Child respectively.

Berne defines a transaction as a unit of social intercourse. Parents indulge in gossip. Adults solve problems together. Children or Parent and Child play together. These are known as Complementary Transactions. However a Crossed Transaction occurs when one party addresses the other as Adult-to-Adult and the other party responds as Child-to-Parent or Parent-to-Child.

What does any of this have to do with persuasive speaking? In Part 1 I talked about Aristotle’s three types of persuasion. Ethos (moral character of the speaker) is an appeal to the Parent, Logos (reasoned argument) is an appeal to the Adult and Pathos (an emotional appeal) is an appeal to the Child.

Berne points out that transactions involving the activity of two ego states simultaneously (Ulterior Transactions) are the basis of games (games are complex social behaviours with their own rules not necessarily games in the literal sense). He cites the following example:

Salesman: ‘This one is better, but you can’t afford it.’
Housewife: ‘That’s the one I’ll take.’

On a social level the transaction is Adult-Adult but on a psychological level the salesman’s Adult is addressing the Housewife’s Child. Notice that there are two sets of Complementary Transactions here. Berne states that “the first rule of communication is that communication will proceed smoothly as long as transactions are complementary; and its corollary is that as long as transactions are complementary, communication can, in principle, proceed indefinitely.”

Perhaps now you can see why the emotional appeal is particularly powerful. In Part 3 I’ll examine the use of language in persuasion and how we are easily persuaded using words with a positive connotation (charm words) or those with a negative connotation (hex words).

Thursday 19 May, 2011

Persuasive Speaking Part 1 - Aristotle's Rhetoric

The Greek Philosopher Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion”. Aristotle’s Rhetoric was a very influential work in the development of the art and now, millennia after it was written, it is still regarded as an important work in the academic study of rhetoric.

Aristotle identified three types of persuasion that a speaker can use:-
  • Ethos: Persuasion based on the moral character of the speaker,
  • Logos: Persuasion based on logical argument,
  • Pathos: Persuasion based on emotional appeal.
By far the most powerful persuader is pathos. If you want to win people over trying to appeal to reason can be difficult as can relying on your reputation – would I lie to you? Emotion will trump these almost every time.

Saturday 25 September, 2010

How to Create an Impromptu Presentation

According to Mark Twain it usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech. Most of us however when called on at short notice to give a brief presentation in a meeting (for example) probably don’t even have the luxury of 5 minutes preparation time – let alone 3 weeks! So how can you still deliver a reasonably successful presentation if you’ve got about ZERO Preparation time?

Presentation Structure is the Key

In a situation like this, you need to have some form of standard structures in your head that you can call upon at very short notice.

One example structure that you can use quickly (if it’s relevant) is:-

  1. What’s the issue
  2. How is it affecting things?
  3. And what is being done about it?
Using the Power of Three – so 3 main points and then if needed break down each of the points into 3.

Chronological Structures

Another structure you can use for impromptu presentations is:-

  1. Past
  2. Present
  3. Future
 Another similar structure is based on:-
  1. What was it like before?
  2. What was the event?
  3. What’s the result now?
 The Three 'W's Structure
  1. What?
  2. Which?
  3. Who?
e.g.  Buying a car: What sort should I buy? Which brand should I purchase? From Whom should I buy it?

More Conventional Structure 
  • Introduction
  • Main Body
    • Point 1 – with 3 sub points in support
    • Point 2 –  with 3 sub points in support
    • Point 3 – with 3 sub points in support
  • Conclusion and call to action if relevant
Conclusions
As with most things the more you practise something the better you can become at it. And impromptu speaking is no exception!

Give yourself some topics to speak on and then allow 2-3 minutes of preparation for each one. Then try presenting on each of about 5 minutes. Learn as you go get someone to watch you and give you feedback on how it went. Try it in your POWERtalk club!

Not a member yet?  See the links to clubs in the right-hand panel or ask about starting a club in your area.

Stella Sneddon

Thursday 2 September, 2010

Notes on Debating - Rovers

Basic Set up

Chairman, Chair, Moderator, Speaker


Proposers, Government

Opposition, Opposers
Right of the chair –
those for the motion:

Proposers, Government

They speak first
(and traditionally also last)

Proposers define what the motion means
Left of the chair –
those against the motion:

Opposition, Opposers

They speak alternately with proposers

(But always check the local set up and rules, inc. timings)

A motion is always a positive statement… this house is / will / would / likes / wants / believes / can…

E.g. this house would fight for King & Country; believes in God; wants cannabis legalised; values higher education.



Discussion and Challenge (again always check the local set up, customs and rules)

  1. Usually only address (talk to or through) the chair – never directly to another speaker
  2. Point of information – providing information to or challenging the person speaking e.g. Madam Moderator, is the lady aware of the survey in today’s Times…; Mr Speaker, I have already explained this point… Can also be used humorously e.g. Mr Chairman, I cannot believe that the gentleman is over 21!
  3. Point of order – providing information to or asking for guidance or intervention from the chair e.g. Mr Speaker, can I remind you that we need to leave the hall by 10pm? Madam Chairman, it is surely not acceptable for the gentleman to use that kind of language here! Can also be used humorously but with care, not always appreciated e.g. Mr Chairman, Surely the lady is too young to have that drink brought to her!


Team work
  1. If you’re debating competitively, check the rules for what you are (each) meant to do and what the judges mark you by. Generally the expectation will be as 2 – 5 below:
  2. The first speaker for the motion is expected to ‘define’ it – to say how it is being interpreted, what it means.
  3. All speakers are expected to be able to refer to previous arguments already used on both sides and it helps to refer to what your team mates will say later (‘My colleague Jenny will develop this…’)
  4. All speakers are expected to take and deal with some points of information, and to give points of information.
  5. The final speaker is expected to summarise the arguments. It can pay to have your most confident speaker in this position.
  6. There is great value in joint preparation and anticipation of the other side’s arguments.
  7. Consider your team’s appearance – all jackets / all shirts / all jumpers?
  8. Don’t get waylaid by complex points of information – practise cutting someone off / dismissing the point.
  9. It’s meant to be fun for participants and audience – enjoy it, laugh at it.

Ruth Maltman DC FITC

Tuesday 1 June, 2010

INTRODUCING AND THANKING A SPEAKER


1. Check that

  • The microphone and other electrical equipment is working
  • water is available for the speaker
  • the lectern is the right height for the speaker
  • You have enough background information.


2. Make the Speaker Welcome

  • Meet the Speaker at the entrance.
  • Ask if there is anything he/he requires.
  • Show the speaker to his/her seat.

3. Preparation.

  • Prepare your introduction and thanks beforehand.
  • Write key words on a cue card.

4. Avoid.

  • Cliches
  • Repeating yourself - remember to use your notes.

5. Use this Formula.

  • Why this subject?
  • Why this subject subject for this audience?
  • Why this subject for this audience at this time?

6. Don't

  • Exaggerate the speaker's qualifications
  • Read a lengthy curriculum vitae or biography
  • Say how wonderful the speech will be
  • Steal the spotlight

7. Do

  • Speak to the audience not the speaker
  • Be brief - never longer than two minutes
  • Be genuine and sincere
  • Smile and relax

8. Facilitating questions

  • listen carefully to the question
  • Repeat it clearly for the benefit of both speaker and the audience
  • Unobtrusively guide speaker to audience members signalling to ask a question.

9. Thanking the Speaker

  • Say what you enjoyed about the presentation
  • Don't simply repeat the main points of the presentation
  • Speak to the speaker and the audience.

10. Most Importantly

  • Be sincere
  • Be brief
  • Be seated!

Wednesday 19 May, 2010

Ten Tips on Mentoring

  1. Mentoring is a relationship that enhances the development of individuals by the passing on of knowledge, skills and values.
  2. This relationship is a creative bond between a mentor (teacher) and a mentee (learner) which is to the benefit of both.
  3. From a mentor, a mentee receives input about organisational culture, coaching and counselling, skills development, motivation and continuous feedback, thus becoming a useful member of an organisation much more quickly.
  4. The mentor benefits by the development of interpersonal and leadership skills, and accomplishments in his/her mentee's success.
  5. A mentoring programme should have the visible support of those at the head of an organisation, and it should form part of the culture of that organisation.
  6. The ideal ratio is one mentor to one mentee.
  7. Mentors should volunteer their services. The relationship should be one of choice, and should be committed to in writing.
  8. The best mentors are experienced empathetic persons with a willingness to share, the capability of building trust, and with good listening skills.
  9. Specific time periods should be set aside for mentoring. Opportunity should be given to the mentee for questions and feedback.
  10. It is recommended that the mentee maintains a close relationship with the mentor, takes ownership of his/her own development and actively seeks new challenges.

Monday 10 May, 2010

Ten Top Tips Effective Delegation.


1. Choose the Right Person.

You should consider the needs of the assignment and your knowledge of the person's skills, abilities, interests and motivations i.e. you need to be confident that the person to whom you are delegating will be able to achieve the required results.


2. Give Compliments.

Say why you feel they are the right person for the job.


3. Define the Results You Expect.

The focus needs to be on the GOAL rather than on the tasks performed in order to achieve the required results.


4. Emphasize the Purpose of Achieving the Objectives.

The importance to the organisation and personal benefit of achieving the objective or failing to do so, needs to be emphasized.


5. Ensure There are Adequate Resources

for the devised plan of action which ensures adherence to specified times.


6. Introduce Control Systems.

These need to be developed and introduced so that deviation from progress can be monitored and corrected.


7. Establish a Measurement of Success.

This is necessary to determine whether a satisfactory or outstanding result has been achieved. You want the best.


8. Offer Support

Get agreement and ensure that rules, regulations, limitations and policies regarding the area in which they are to work are understood. Back them all the way.


9. Delegate the Responsibility.

But allow a margin for minor mistakes in judgement.


10. Empower with Sufficient Authority.

For achieving results and reduce your authority. Then you will get the best performance.




Tuesday 30 March, 2010

Region



GREAT BRITAIN REGION BOARD MEETING.




On Saturday 27th May the Region Board met in the Premier Inn Carlisle South. This was the fourth meeting of the Board and was, as usual conducted in a warm, friendly and happy way with the members in agreement about most things and sparking ideas off each other. The next meeting will take place just before Conference in the Premier Inn, Newcastle City Centre.

Thursday 25 February, 2010

LISTENING SKILLS


  1. 10% of our waking time is spent in communication and 45% of that time is spent listening but we only retain 25% of what we hear.
  2. Active listening is about listening for the purpose of understanding and interpreting the message the speaker is trying to convey.
  3. Concentrate carefully - don't get distracted.
  4. Listen for the explicit date (what is said) as well as the implicit data (what is not said)
  5. Refrain from immediate evaluation - attempt to see the other person's point of view.
  6. Check that you are really listening to the other person - not just waiting your turn to speak.
  7. Listen for the main ideas. Acknowledge what you have just heard and give an appropriate response.
  8. If you do not understand, don't be afraid to ask for clarification.
  9. Read and listen to difficult materials just for the exercise. Jot down the main points you have noted and then check to see how you did.
  10. For a day, keep a record of the time you spent listening. Consider the specific differences improved listening could have made.

Thursday 7 January, 2010

Book Reviews in Club Programmes




BOOK REVIEWS
(Club Programming)

Has your club every thought of having Book Reviews for a club programme?
Many members of POWERtalk are avid readers (when they have time) and have widely varied tastes in books. There are many advantages to having this sort of evening including making you much more aware while reading a book you intend to review and enjoying hearing other people’s views of something you have read your self or even finding out about one or more books that you would enjoy

Another interesting idea would be to ask members to review specific books – perhaps something that they would not normally read



Wednesday 6 January, 2010

More about blogging : Is it already an outdated means of communicating'?



There are so many new means of communicating on internet -- UTube, My Space, Twitter, Facebook -- as the one celebrates its first birthday, the next is born overnight -- yet blogging is one that seems to remain and to persevere through it all and to hold its own. I see every major newspaper starting up more and more blogs as their resident or invited correspondents air their views, start up debates and comment on current issues, more and more academics and intelligentsia turn to blogging to argue topical issues, every organization or business enterprise realize that this is by far the easiest, the most economical and the most effective way to advertise, inform and communicate their interests; -- and when more inane and seemingly senseless forms of one-liner self-indulgent and nonsensical kind of communication forms pop up -- such as Twitter and even Facebook, and blogging remains the only such format where longer and meaningful debaters and columnists can express their views. I wondered about this remark -- and so went to look at what I wrote about blogging before. The following is from one of my posts about blogging -- read and let me know what you think -- do you agree with the comment that "blogging as very 'last season' and a fairly tiresome means of communicating" I look forward to hearing from you!


I recently wrote about literary awards for bloggers and how blogging has started to emerge as a recognised form of published literature.

The latest news is that Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, One Tiny Apartment Kitchen has been named the winner of the inaugural Blooker Prize, beating the major British contender on the shortlist, Belle de Jour, a prostitute's memoirs.


It seems that the majority of internet users out there are still pretty much in the dark as to what exactly a blog and blogging is.
As it concerns internet issues, I thought the internet encyclopaedia was the correct source for a definition -- Wikipedia says:
A blog (or weblog) is a website in which items are posted and displayed with the newest at the top. Like other media, blogs often focus on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news. Some blogs function as online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Since its appearance in 1995, blogging has emerged as a popular means of communication, affecting public opinion and mass media around the world.

So where did this blogging revolution start?
Andrew Sullivan says: "Weblogs Are To Words What Napster Was To Music".



In the beginning - say 1994 - the phenomenon now called blogging was little more than the sometimes nutty, sometimes inspired writing of online diaries. Most of the writers called themselves diarists, journalists, journallers, or journalers. A few called themselves escribitionists. These days, there are tech blogs and sex blogs and drug blogs and onanistic teenage blogs. But there are also news blogs and commentary blogs, sites packed with links and quips and ideas and arguments that only months ago were the near-monopoly of established news outlets.

Poised between media, blogs can be as nuanced and well-sourced as traditional journalism, but they have the immediacy of talk radio. Amid it all, this much is clear: The phenomenon is real. Blogging is changing the media world and could, I think, foment a revolution in how journalism functions in our culture.

First off, blogs are personal. Almost all of them are imbued with the temper of their writer. This personal touch is much more in tune with our current sensibility than were the opinionated magazines and newspapers of old.

The second thing blogs do is - to invoke Marx - seize the means of production. It's hard to underestimate what a massively important medium this has become. For as long as journalism has existed, writers of whatever kind have had one route to readers: They needed an editor and a publisher. Even in the most benign scenario, this process subtly distorts journalism. You find yourself almost unconsciously writing to please a handful of people - the editors looking for a certain kind of story, the publishers seeking to push a particular venture, or the advertisers who influence the editors and owners. Blogging simply bypasses this ancient ritual.

Think about it for a minute. Why not build an online presence with your daily musings and then sell your first book through print-on-demand technology direct from your Web site? Why should established writers go to newspapers and magazines to get an essay published, when they can simply write it themselves, convert it into a .pdf file, and charge a few bucks per download? Just as magazine and newspaper editors are slinking off into the sunset, so too might all the agents and editors and publishers in the book market.

The original weblogs were link-driven sites. Each was a mixture in unique proportions of links, commentary, and personal thoughts and essays. Many current weblogs follow this original style. Such links are nearly always accompanied by the editor's commentary. An editor with some expertise in a field might demonstrate the accuracy or inaccuracy of a highlighted article or certain facts therein; provide additional facts he feels are pertinent to the issue at hand; or simply add an opinion or differing viewpoint from the one in the piece he has linked. Typically this commentary is characterized by an irreverent, sometimes sarcastic tone. More skilful editors manage to convey all of these things in the sentence or two with which they introduce the link . Indeed, the format of the typical weblog, providing only a very short space in which to write an entry, encourages pithiness on the part of the writer; longer commentary is often given its own space as a separate essay.

These weblogs provide a valuable filtering function for their readers. The web has been, in effect, pre-surfed for them. Out of the myriad web pages slung through cyberspace, weblog editors pick out the most mind-boggling, the most stupid, the most compelling.

By highlighting articles that may easily be passed over by the typical web user too busy to do more than scan corporate news sites, by searching out articles from lesser-known sources, and by providing additional facts, alternative views, and thoughtful commentary, weblog editors participate in the dissemination and interpretation of the news that is fed to us every day. Their sarcasm and fearless commentary reminds us to question the vested interests of our sources of information and the expertise of individual reporters as they file news stories about subjects they may not fully understand.

Towards 2004, the role of blogs became increasingly mainstream, as political consultants, news services and candidates began using them as tools for outreach and opinion forming. Even politicians not actively campaigning began to blog to bond with constituents. Some blogs were an important source of news during the December 2004 Tsunami such as Medicins Sans Frontieres, which used SMS text messaging to report from affected areas in Sri Lanka and Southern India.

Blogs have been seen as archives of human thought. They can provide useful insights to aid in dealing with humanity's psychological problems (such as depression and addiction). And they can also be used to solve crimes. (In 2005, Simon Ng posted a blog entry which identified his murderer.)

Blogs have also had an influence on minority languages, bringing together scattered speakers and learners; this is particularly so with Scottish Gaelic blogs, whose creators can be found as far away from traditional Gaelic areas as Kazakhstan and Alaska. Blogs are also used regularly by other minority language activists. Minority language publishing (which may lack economic feasibility) can find its audience through inexpensive blogging.

Around the beginning of 2005, amateur blogging took off in a big way. Terms such as 'Alternative media' began to be used for blogging in the mainstream media. Well-informed bloggers soon shot into prominence by sheer ingenuity and clarity of their content. And in the United Kingdom for instance, The Guardian newspaper launched a redesign in September 2005, which included a daily digest of blogs on page two.

These days, most blogs are often updated several times a day, and have become instead a record of the blogger's thoughts: something noticed on the way to work, notes about the weekend, a quick reflection on some subject or another. It is also quite fascinating to see new bloggers position themselves in the weblog community, referencing and reacting to those blogs they read most, their sidebar an affirmation of the tribe to which they wish to belong.

More than that, blogging itself places no restrictions on the form of content being posted. Its web interface, accessible from any browser, consists of an empty form box into which the blogger can type...anything: a passing thought, an extended essay, political or social commentary, a subject he or she wishes to debate, a cause to promote, a childhood recollection, a place where the blogger can give much added information which would be of interest to a potential customer, but which would not be suitable for the business website. The Spectator's blog Coffeehouse, and Got2begreen, a conservation blog are two examples.

Sunday 3 January, 2010

Train of Thought


How do you maintain the train of thought when making a speech? How do you stay on track and avoid being derailed or crashing into the buffers?

The carriages of that train are the separate thoughts from which it is constructed.  You are most likely to lose track when going from one thought to the next.  So it is important to consider how the carriages (thoughts) are linked together.

Write out your speech in paragraphs, each paragraph representing a particular thought.  Make sure that you can move easily from one to the next, like a passenger moving through a train to find the buffet car.

In POWERtalk a contest speech lasts five to eight minutes with a light signal that goes on at five minutes and off at six. Thus you aim to speak for about seven minutes.

Make sure you know where you expect the signals to come in the speech and remember that on the night you may have to shunt a carriage or two into a siding. So make sure that your speech contains a couple of unimportant paragraphs that you can drop to adjust your timing.