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Birmingham International Speakers Blog

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Wednesday 31 May, 2023

The Power of Positive Speaking

For many people, one of the scariest things in life is to stand up in front of a group of people and give a speech.  It doesn’t matter whether the group is friends - e.g. at a wedding – or whether it is a group of strangers, the feelings are the same.  We can prepare well and practise but it does not take away that fear.  Of course, the more one speaks in public the more confident one becomes but for many the occasion is a ‘one off’.  So how can we deal with these fears and positively enjoy the occasion?


‘Fear’ or F.E.A.R. is simply ‘Future Expectations Appearing Real’.  We create our own fearful feelings through our imagination – the ‘What ifs’

‘What if I forget what I am going to say?’

‘What if I stumble over the words?’

‘What if I bore everyone?’

Why does this negative internal chatter affect us so much and how can we change it?


We have a conscious and subconscious part of our brain.  The conscious is that part which takes in information and makes decisions.  The subconscious controls the reactions to the messages sent to it by the conscious, it never questions or makes decisions, it just believes what it is told.  Consequently all those negative messages our conscious is sending to the subconscious are being acted upon.  The result is our stomach churns, our mouth goes dry and we feel really nervous.  To change the way we feel we need to change those negative voices into positive ones. 


The phrases need to be in the first person ‘I’.  When the subconscious hears ‘I’ it becomes alert and ready for a command.  The instruction should be in the present tense (it’s happening now) and it needs to be specific and positive.

For example –

‘I am speaking clearly and confidently.’


‘I am not stumbling over my words.’

Practise this and replace every negative statement with a positive one.

In everyday life avoid speaking negatively to your friends or colleagues, it has the same effect on your subconscious.  Instead of saying ‘I am really worried/nervous about this.’ You could say, ‘I am working at controlling my nerves.’


Finally, remember to believe in yourself and overcome those last minute nerves.  I recall many years ago, standing in the wings of a stage waiting to make my entrance in my first amateur dramatic play.  I tried to remember my first line (or any other line for that matter) and nothing!  I was beginning to go into panic when I stopped and told myself – ‘I’ve learnt my lines, I have successfully rehearsed them, just trust yourself.’  And sure enough, as I stepped on to the stage the words began to flow.


Remember, when you come to make your speech do your preparation, practise your speech, think positively and trust yourself .  Do all of these things and enjoy the experience.  

Lesley Smith

Monday 6 February, 2023

Improve Your Communication Skills

What do I write on a blog? Would other people be interested in what I have to say?  Who knows?  But here goes.  I joined POWERtalk GB many years ago long before I had even heard of the Internet, webpages and blogs.  So I definitely did not join in order to become a blogger.

When the Edinburgh Toastmistress club was started up again in 1971 I was working as an Administrator but had just landed a job as a Further Education lecturer.  It occurred to me that this might just give me more confidence to stand in front of a class of adults, some of whom could well be older than me, and teach them.  I still remember the first topic I was given “You have won £1 million. What would you spend it on?”  I think I spoke for about a minute.  But that was the start, both of my Further Education career and my ongoing fascination and involvement with communication in the widest sense.



Communication is so important in life.  We are social beings, but not perfect, so to be able to hone our skills in speaking, listening, organising, debating, contributing to discussions in meetings, minute-taking and finally chairing meetings in a welcoming, friendly, supportive atmosphere of a club meeting is one of the major plus points of ITC, now POWERtalk. 

At school I was terrified to open my mouth at a debate; at university it was an ordeal to present a paper to my tutorial group.  Taking minutes was fine for me after my secretarial training, but to take part and to chair a meeting…

I enjoyed teaching in Further Education.  Yes, some of the students were older than me.  Some were men and women who wanted to change careers of get back into the workplace after a break.  I enjoyed researching the subjects I taught at the same time as I was enjoying researching for the speeches I was making in ITC. The opportunity for promotion came and I had the confidence to  go for it and eventually became head of section.  More communication skills were required now delegating, listening, organising timetables, counselling and meetings. 

In ITC I was taking part (and winning) speech contests and debating how proud my parents were with my achievements.  I held office, club right up to region and finally helped organize an international convention here in Scotland.  This would not have happened without the support of fellow ITC members, each of us putting our ITC training into action.

I am still a member of POWERtalk, now retired from lecturing, but still learning and improving my communication skills with my friends in The Rovers Club and Stirling POWERtalk.

If you have just been surfing the internet and found yourself reading this, I hope it was of interest it’s never too late to improve your communication skills for business or for pleasure. 

Diana Porterfield

Saturday 3 September, 2022

Rovers Training Weekend

The Rovers Training Weekend in Carlisle commenced with an informal meal at SannaS Sardinian Restaurant on Friday night. Members enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere and there were a lot of favourable comments afterwards about the meal.

Saturday morning commenced with the AGM followed, after a short break by the speech contest. The winner of the contest was Yvonne Baker, pictured below receiving the Tibbie Brown trophy from club president, Rosemary Low.

Speech Contest 2022
President Rosemary presenting the trophy to winner Yvonne Baker


After lunch the club parliamentarian, Ruth Maltman, led a workshop on Practical Parliamentary Procedure. The second part of the afternoon was a mini debate chaired by Margaret Robertson.

In the evening we had a meal at the Crown and Mitre hotel followed by table topics led by Nancy Sanderson.

Saturday Dinner
Members and Guests at the Crown and Mitre

Thursday 7 July, 2022

Rovers Spring Weekend in Chester 2022

Janya Statue

The Rovers Spring Weekend took place this year in the historic city of Chester, in Cheshire, NW England from 22nd to 24th April 2022. We were fortunate to have fairly good weather with little rain — always a plus for any area in the west of the UK!

On the Friday evening, we all met for a meal at our city centre hotel which allowed us to catch up with all the news and to have a reasonably early bedtime, prior to a prompt breakfast before our first activity of the day — a private guided walking tour of the centre from Stephen Shakeshaft, one of the city’s Guild of Tour Guides who provided a fun and educational background to the city. 

City Walls

 Chester has a compact and easily walkable city centre, Particular highlights from the tour were the Roman walls and amphitheatre and the famous “The Rows.”  Unique to Chester, these consist of covered walkways above the shops at street level and are reached by steps from the street. Some date as far back as the 13th century but their origin is unclear with many their facades being restored in Victorian times. 






 In the afternoon, members had free time, shopping, museum visits and sightseeing. Many visited the impressive Chester Cathedral for lunch and an exhibition of some stunning mosaic work. As a bonus, the Chester Symphony Orchestra was rehearsing for the upcoming celebration concert of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and we were treated to stunning renditions of classical pieces like Elgar’s “Nimrod.”

Our Saturday evening’s Members’ Dinner was located at the Georgian “The Architect” bar and restaurant near “The Roodee” — Chester’s racecourse. The experience was most enjoyable with excellent food and an after-dinner presentation, by our tour guide Stephen, on other aspects of this historic city. Meeting face-to-face for the first time since 2019 allowed President Rosemary Low to present Diana Porterfield with the Tibbie Brown Trophy for winning the 2020 Rovers Speech Contest.  





Diners in the Architect



Diana with Stephen Shakeshaft and Rosemary Low
Diana with the Tibbie Brown trophy


On Sunday, half the group departed for home, but those remaining enjoyed a variety of pursuits including river cruising, Chester Zoo, more shopping, visiting local museums, restaurants and cafes. Everyone then headed home on Monday after having a most enjoyable weekend  great: company; food; and the chance to learn about this historic city.




Iris Gibson

Thursday 7 April, 2022

The Perfect Host

The most important qualities of a good host.

    Always pro-active
    Uses initiative
    Has organisational skills
    Is always welcoming
    Easily connects with people

But many other qualities are also required.

    Approachable personality
    Ability to keep calm at all times, not easily flustered
    Is both sympathetic and empathetic
    Willing and available at all times to help and smooth over any issue that arises
    Uses common sense
    Is aware at all times of what is happening
    Is adaptable to all situations
    Always inclusive
    Advance preparation
    Always willing to share knowledge with others
    Listens attentively and absorbs the message   
    Exudes friendliness to all, not just "significant" people
     Good at remembering names
    Engaging speaking voice
    Ensures people are introduced to others
    Has knowledge of speaker and audience
    Keeps smiling!

The Perfect Host has a Perfect Check List>>>

What should be considered:   Before,    During   and   After   an event.


    Is a committee required?   If so, what will be delegated to whom?
    What venue?  If necessary have contacts who can help with finding most appropriate one
    Visit the venue, with president/chairman, familiarise yourself with layout and meeting rooms
    Liaise with president at all times re all details and information required
    Prepare map or directions to venue
    Parking - at venue?  nearby?  capacity?
    Meet liaison person at venue, discuss requirements,  arrange meeting dates
    Investigate disabled access, and location of fire escapes and toilets
    Any Health & Safety issues relevant
    Find out how to operate blinds, curtains, air conditioning in meeting room
    List of those to be invited, when invitations should be issued and RSVP date
    What information should be sent to participants, eg: what, where, when, etc
    Any special requirements for any participant - diet?  overnight accommodation?
    Is catering required?   Who organises it?
    Programme - timings, start, finish, breaks, meal, identify speakers
    Know the names of key personnel, especially correct pronunciation and spelling
    Know the correct title and address of those to be introduced
    Obtain short bio details of those to be introduced
    What aids required?  Screen, OHP,  White board, Laptop, Microphones, extra cables?
    Are there to be questions from audience at any time?   How will they be dealt with?
    Ensure that guests will not be left alone at any time.
    Be early at venue
    Check room - layout, water and glasses - especially top table
    Check final arrangements with venue liaison contact
    Be at door to welcome guests and take to chairman
    Make attendees welcome, give special attention to special guests
    Keep constant watch on what is going on
    Inform everyone of housekeeping - toilets, disabled facilities, fire exits, etc
    Know how to deal with distractions - noise, sunlight, air conditioning, room temperature    
    Keep discreetly checking on chairman and guest speaker - any requirements?
    Have someone at door to prevent unwanted entrance
    Look out for any potential problems and be prepared to deal with them
    Have pre-arranged signal to chairman if items seriously over-running time
    At ending of meeting:  gifts/ payment to guest/s  readily at hand?
    Be a gopher - go for this, go for that


    Feedback forms as participants leave?  or later?
    Say goodbye to any that the chairman is not attending to
    Make sure the room is left tidy, no papers, files, bags etc left
    Check bill is correct and pass to treasurer
    Thank you letters to be sent?   Or does chairman do that?
    Liaise for final time with venue
    Be the last to leave the room - final check!

    Nancy Sanderson and Stirling Club workshop

Tuesday 16 November, 2021

The Windmills of My Mind

Some months ago, I was asked to find a speaker for a charity dinner.  I consigned the question to the windmills of my mind, in the firm belief that the sails would turn, wheels and cogs would interlock and a speaker would be found.

Now I’m a sucker for ‘freebies’ and last week I picked up a free Rotary magazine from Sainsbury’s.
One of the articles was about leprosy. The very word conjures up fear. It is a wasting disease where the peripheral nerves die, causing pain and numbness, but also leaving the body vulnerable to damage. For millennia it was recognised as infectious and a sufferer was immediately banished from the community.

I was reminded of a famous letter written by Robert Louis Stevenson concerning leprosy. Stevenson had gone to the South Seas in the hope of recovering from tuberculosis, then an infectious and incurable disease. In Britain at the time, families were often ostracised if one of their members had the illness. He empathised with the social rejection of the lepers and decided to visit the island of Molokai where a famous priest, Father Damien, had just died.

A Belgian missionary, Damien had volunteered in 1878 to go to live in the leper colony on Molokai, a lawless place, ruled by violent gangs. Sixteen years later at the age of forty-nine he contracted leprosy and died, but not before establishing a civilised community, providing care, justice and peace. His total commitment to the lepers of Molokai gained him world-wide acclaim.

Father Damien

Stevenson was greatly moved by the care shown by the doctor and nuns in the hospital but repelled by the smell and sight of the lepers with their disfigured faces and bodies. Back in Hawaii a public figure, who had never visited the island of Molokai, wrote a letter in answer to a colleague’s enquiry about Fr. Damien. In his response he referred to the colony’s insanitary conditions and maligned the name of Father Damien. The letter was published in an Australian paper.

On reading the letter, Stevenson was outraged. In a lengthy open letter to the world’s press, he publicly humiliated the writer in a stinging rebuke. Stevenson’s invective was so severe, that he thought he might be sued.  He never was. In the letter Stevenson suggested that Damien might someday be made a Saint. The Vatican officially declared Damien a saint in 2009.

The treatment of leprosy advanced, but up until 1916 the only effective medication was injectable chaulmoogra oil, which had very unpleasant side effects. In 1916 a black American chemist, Alice Augusta Ball was working at Hawaii University.  She was the first woman and first black American to teach chemistry and obtain a master’s degree at the University. At the age of 23, Alice discovered a method of radically improving the medication. Her discovery, led to the most effective treatment for leprosy until the 1940s, when a full cure was found. Sadly, Alice died in 1917. Four years after her death, her notes were published and her superior, the Dean of the University, was exposed as trying to claim the discovery for himself. He had even given the new medication his name.

Today leprosy has been almost completely eliminated globally. Any pockets are quickly identified and treated.
From an article in a Rotary magazine, my windmills had interlocked.  I had journeyed from Glasgow to Molokai and Hawaii, encountering en-route, saints and sinners, writers and reprobates, chemists and cures.
At the end of the article there was, written in small type: 
‘Anyone requiring an after-dinner speaker should contact ‘administrator@stfrancisleprosy.org.’
In the words of the song,
“As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.”
My windmills had finally resolved the initial question and provided me with a potential speaker.

The full text of R.L. Stevenson’s letter can be viewed online.  There are several films about St. Damien on YouTube.
A film was made of Alice Augusta Ball’s life ‘The Ball Method’. 

Brendan Berry

Saturday 13 November, 2021

Beyond the Fifth Element

Was Sean Connery the 'quintessential' Bond or was Daniel Craig? Personally, I don't care because I want you to focus on the strange word 'quintessential'. It means 'the perfect example'. The 'essential' part makes sense, but what about the 'quint-' prefix? It's Latin for 'fifth' but why?

The origins of the word go back to ancient times and early attempts to understand what the world is made of. I shall explain why it divided astrologers from alchemists and how it gained its modern meaning. Finally, I'll move on to what the world is really made of and some important ideas we have to consider today.

The story begins in ancient Greece in the sixth and fifth centuries BC where the pre-Socratic philosophers were thinking about the primordial substance from which everything else was made. In time they decided it was not just one substance but four: earth, water, air and fire. These correspond to what we would now call three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas plus energy.

Aristotle felt that the heavenly bodies were composed of a fifth element. Although he did not use the term himself, it came to be called the Aether. So why, even today, do people talk about four elements when the idea was outdated when Alexander was a lad? Probably because twelve is divisible by four, but not by five, and there are twelve signs of the zodiac. So, three star-signs share one element.

In medieval alchemy the fifth element was very important and they called it 'quintessence'. Quintessence was thought to be a panacea for curing illnesses or even the philosopher's touchstone that would transform base metal into gold.

Incidentally by medieval times alchemists recognized two more elements, sulphur and mercury. So, according to astrologers you could be fiery, earthy, wet or windy but if astrology ever moved on you could be vitriolic, mercurial or ethereal. Of course, the adjective we are missing is 'quintessential'. Alchemists saw the fifth element as the purest element so the term 'quintessential' came to mean the perfect example of something.

Sulphur and mercury are real chemical elements. There are another ninety naturally occurring elements. Water isn't one of them but gold is. There is no Rumpelstiltskin out there spinning gold out of straw so let's ditch fairy tales and antiquated philosophical concepts because we need to look to the future not the past. We need to understand the modern concept of an element to deal with the state of the planet.


To be clear, the modern definition of an element is a substance that cannot be broken down using chemical reactions. These are the fundamental building blocks of our world. If you search the Internet for 'periodic table' you will see them listed from the simplest to the most complex.

The first element is hydrogen, meaning the water-former and you are going to hear a lot about green hydrogen from now on. If you pass a direct current through water you can break it down into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is 'green' if the electricity is generated by renewables. When you burn hydrogen it recombines with oxygen to produce water. Green hydrogen will one day power aircraft.

Lord Bamford, the chairman of JCB argues that it would be better to run all vehicles on green hydrogen. His company has developed a kind of internal-combustion engine that runs on hydrogen rather than fossil fuel. Bamford says that you cannot use electric engines in the type of heavy plant machinery his company produces. He also claims that his new engines are closer to the kind of engines that mechanics are used to. The counter argument from Energy UK is that the expense of hydrogen production and the cost of deploying new infrastructure rule out the use of hydrogen-powered cars at least in the next decade.

The real fifth element is not particularly exciting. In fact, it is named boron. Boron is found in the mineral borax and in the heat-resistant glass used for casserole dishes. The sixth element is a different matter, much more important. The adjective should be 'sextessential' but that sounds like a late-night Channel Four programme. A web search suggested an interesting alternative, 'existential': of, or relating to existence. The existential element is carbon because all life is based on carbon and its ability to form long-chain molecules such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, DNA, RNA etc..



I have given you a few definitions to ponder. I have shown you how the concept of elements has developed from ancient times to our modern understanding and how the latter feeds into climate debate. The carbon cycle is out of balance and we have to be careful to be balanced in our response. Language matters. Campaign groups overuse the term 'existential threat' to justify anarchic behaviour and terrified teenagers believe they may see the end of the world. No, Greta we do not need 'blah, blah, blah'. Not even from you. In Classical Greek, words are 'lexeis' but logical reasoned arguments, or words that lead to actions, are logoi. The success of COP26 will be judged by how many logoi it produces.

Wednesday 3 November, 2021

Speaking at a formal function – getting organised.

Grinning Chimp

You don’t remember why you said yes – you’re not even sure you did – but now your  ‘best friend’ has reminded you that you agreed to get them out of  a hole by speaking at their formal club event / college prize giving /  fund raising dinner or whatever. My advice – return the monkey now to your friend’s back and let them take at least the initial strain.

So this is a list of ten questions – and none the worse for it. Give it to your friend, or work your way through it together; once you know the answers to these questions, you’re more or less organised - just throw in some words of wisdom or suitable jokes, and you’re there. Or at least, that’s my theory. Good luck with it!

  1. Numbers – how many people will be at this function and what sort of people? What links them? (E.g. students, Rotarians, parents, members of a particular club … ).
  2.   Dress – is there an appropriate or expected dress? Are medals to be worn? 
  3. Timing – how long is this speech to be?
  4. Opening – what’s required? (E.g. My Lords, ladies and gentlemen; Lord Lieutenant, Principal, ladies and gentlemen, … )
  5. Is this speech either a formal toast or a reply to a toast? If so what’s required? Who’s replying or if that’s you, who’s making the toast? Get their contact details – can be useful to consult each other in advance.
  6.    Are there any peculiar customs you should know about? (E.g. loving cup or similar ceremony, interruptions to speeches, spontaneous singing … )
  7. Seating – where will you be sitting, who’s beside you, who are they?
  8. Speaking – when during the function will you speak, where do you speak from, do you have a lectern, what’s the lighting like?
  9. Microphone – is there one? What kind (e.g. table mike, throat mike … )? How does it work – where’s the on / off switch? Can you get a quick try-out before the function?
  10. Who will introduce you? Try to take control of your own introduction – write it yourself (ideally short, topical and amusing), send the person introducing you a copy in advance and carry a paper copy to thrust at them on the day.  
Ruth Maltman

Tuesday 8 June, 2021

What is a Speakers Club?

What comes to mind when you hear ‘Speakers Club’? Do you imagine a school environment where you are tested and scored on capability; where you either pass or fail? Do you imagine a room full of business people in suits and ties, swapping business cards and trying to ‘outdo’ one another? Or do you imagine a room full of people from all backgrounds and capabilities who share one common goal and that is to invest in themselves? 

If you imagine the third scenario then you are 100% correct. Our meetings, although hugely beneficial when it comes to the art of public speaking, offer so much more. In a relaxed environment, where social interaction is encouraged, we teach you how to build your confidence, present to an audience, control your nerves, speak with clarity and conviction and learn from others. Together we can achieve great things and our goal as a speaker’s club is to help you achieve greatness. 

So much of our life revolves around the fight or flight intuition. This is part of our genetic makeup where our ancestors needed to protect themselves from predators in order to survive. Often, it’s the easier option to chose ‘flight’, but visualise the empowerment of standing up and winning the ‘fight’. Having the confidence to go for that promotion or a new job, speak out in meetings, become the life and soul of the party instead of shrinking into the background, make an impact in everything you do. This can be you! And we can teach you the skills and techniques to get there. So, stop procrastinating and come along and see for yourself. 

We meet every second and last Wednesday of each month at 7.30pm currently on Zoom but we have everything crossed for being able to meet in Moseley, Birmingham in July/August. Drop us a message to book your place.

Tuesday 16 March, 2021

Top 10 Tips to Avoid Death by PowerPoint

Avoid Death by PowerPoint

PowerPoint can be a great aid to use to support your speech however, it can also work against you. Rather than enhance what you are saying to your audience, if not used properly it can actually turn your audience off completely.

Here are some top tips to consider the next time you need to write a presentation. 

1. Before you even get to your computer, consider what your subject is and what you need to cover. Have you done your research and is everything correct? What are your objectives? Are you trying to persuade, entertain, inform etc? How long does it need to be and finally, what is the outcome that you are looking to achieve?

2.Once you have a clear agenda or story, break down your main ideas into bite-sized statements for each of your slides. This will help you control the length of your presentation and decide what needs to be there and what doesn’t need its own slide.

3. Choose a single background to your presentation and use it throughout. If you use a different background it will look ill-prepared and distracting. By all means, use the tools that PowerPoint has to float words onto the screen or fade in or out, but don’t overuse these. Keep it simple and clear.

4. Use simple and clear fonts ensuring the text is big enough. Think about the audience in the back, they need to see what you have written too.

5. Use bullet points rather than sentences. You only want to give your audience a snapshot of what you are going to talk about, not the whole of your speech. When you are presenting try not to read from the screen either. Your audience can already read your presentation. When you go through each point, that’s when you can elaborate.

6. Use key words to emphasise your points. Use strong punchy words that get the point across without giving away everything.

7. Make sure that your slides follow a logical order. Nothing is more off-putting than a presentation that jumps all over the place. Think about a story needing a beginning, middle and end.

8. Use pictures. If they support your presentation then use pictures to support your key points. It will help to keep your audience interested and engaged.

9. Avoid a lot of text and too many slides. If you have ever heard the saying ‘Death by PowerPoint’ this is why. The more your audience needs to read, the less they will listen to you and the more what you are saying will fall flat.

10. Rehearse and time your presentation. Sounds obvious, but lack of preparation before your presentation will show. You need your words and your PowerPoint presentation to work in complete harmony. You are only able to see if your speech and presentation work together if you present it out loud. Present to a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback. By the time you are ready to deliver your presentation, you will be confident that your PowerPoint presentation and your speech meets all of the points mentioned in tip 1.

Bonus Tip: Love what you are presenting. Passion comes across in your voice, so enjoy your subject and good luck !

Friday 5 March, 2021

Impromptu Speeches: Some ideas and tips to get started

Most people find it hard to stand up and speak fluently off the cuff.  Perhaps you want to respond to someone’s talk, but do not have the confidence or know the right words – how often do you say nothing and then when you get home you suddenly think “now why did I not say…”. At a meeting you may be asked for your opinion or asked to comment on a particular subject. You may know the subject, but having to comment right there and then….
Perhaps you need a bit of practice — and you can do this at home, no-one else needs to be around.

Step 1: Take a noun e.g. DREAMS

Photo by Benjamin Sow on Unsplash


Step 2: Write down words beginning with each letter
     e.g.      Danger

Step 3: Take 5 minutes to draft a story using these 6 words.  It does not matter in which order  you use them, just make sure you use them all in your story.
Step 4: Read out the story you have just written (remember this is just to yourself, but it is better to say it aloud)
Step 5: Repeat step 2 — same letters, different words.
Step 6: Now, don’t write anything down, but still compose your story as you speak it, i.e. impromptu.

And now that you have tried that, you can choose any other word and repeat — until you feel more confident that you are not going to get tongue-tied next time you want to stand up and say something at a meeting or are asked for your opinion!

Diana Porterfield

Tuesday 16 February, 2021

Top Tips for Writing an Awesome Speech


You are sat down with a blank piece of paper, ready to write your speech; an hour later the page is still blank. You want to be entertaining and engaging, funny even, but the words just aren’t coming to you. 


Here are some top tips to inspire you to write an awesome speech. 


1. Know your audience. Identifying who your audience is will help with setting the pitch tone and content of your speech, use the right language and engage your audience appropriately. Is your speech in front of professionals or a casual setting? Setting the pitch and tone at the right level will help you to get maximum engagement from your audience. 

2. Write an outline. Much like writing a story, a speech needs a beginning, middle and end. By writing an outline of what you want to say will help when it comes to adding detail. What are the main points that you want to cover? What is the reason behind giving the speech? What do you want to achieve? 

3. How long does it need to be? Keep this in mind will help when it comes to fleshing out the details. You may have a set time that you need to stick to or the freedom for it to be as long as you like but make sure that no matter what the length, you keep to the time you set otherwise, you could run the risk of waffling which will detract from the main points you want to cover.

4. Get creative. Now you have your main points, it’s time to flesh out the details. Let your typing or writing run amok. Give yourself complete and utter freedom to write down whatever comes to you. The more writing you do at this point the better your speech will be. Even if you think of something crazy, write it down. At this stage, it doesn't matter. 

5. Editing and proofing. Following your outline as a guide, it is now time to give your writing some structure. Take out the bits that don’t support your speech, focus on your intentions, take out any waffle. Expand on the bits you know to be important. 

6. Practice. Perform your speech in front of a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback. This not only gives you the opportunity to time your speech but also to cut out or add anything to make it better. Once you have edited your speech, then recite it again and again until you are comfortable. The more you know your speech the more natural it will be when you come to deliver it. 

7. Enjoy. Even if you are delivering to a room full of professionals, if you prepared well and comfortable with your speech you will come across as confident and enjoying sharing with the room.

Next time you need to write an all-important speech, following these tips will help you to not just write a speech, but to write an awesome speech.

Monday 25 January, 2021

Platform Presence on Zoom

Computer screen showing a lectern and microphone with Zoom controls underneath.

What is good platform presence and why is it important on Zoom? Good platform presence helps to command and hold the attention of your audience, whether you are physically in front of an audience in a meeting room or appearing on a screen on the wall or even on a screen in your own home. You may not be too worried if you are simply making social contact on Zoom, but if you are in a business meeting you may need to impress and you certainly need to get your message over, to make your presence felt.

The following gives you some suggestions to ponder over before you venture onto Zoom.

A Two Step Approach


  • Make sure you have practised on Zoom beforehand — you can always try it out with a friend. But remember that there are different levels of Zoom, each providing slightly different facilities.  Search of the internet will give you lots of practical advice on how to use Zoom and how to get the best out of it technically. 

  • If you are using Zoom from your home, decide which room you are going to use and make sure your set-up is as good as it can be. Avoid busy and untidy rooms in your house. Alternatively, Zoom offers you the ability to change the transmitted background using a selected wallpaper. However, be careful what sort of background you pick. If it is too busy it will distract from your presentation. Also be aware of how any movement you make may affect the apparent focus of the background. This is definitely something to try out beforehand.

  • Make sure that your lighting is suitable, you cannot impress if your audience cannot see you clearly. The best source of light is one that you are looking towards. Light from one side can be adequate but will highlight your pores and blemishes, so it depends on how vain you are!

  • Make sure that you are in focus and that you can clearly hear and be heard. Again a  practice with a friend beforehand can be useful. If using a PC then a separate webcam and speakers may be required – make sure they are of adequate quality.

  • Have visual aids which can be brought into play without difficulty. Zoom facilities for displaying documents or slides are available. There is also a Whiteboard option. But do make sure you have tried and mastered these facilities beforehand.

  • Have your notes in order and easy to handle – cards or A4 sized documents are still best for talking from but remember that it will be possible to display key data using the facilities described in the paragraph above.

  • Be appropriately dressed. Your appearance is still important and although casual outfits may be appropriate, you do need to look as if you care.

  • Be sure you know how to get into Zoom in a timely manner and how to mute your voice when others are talking so that no extraneous noises disturb the meeting. Not everyone wants to hear your dog barking or your children quarrelling!

  • Don’t forget to close all unnecessary files or tabs that can slow down your software and connection. Make sure you have done a test run to ensure there are no unexpected technical obstacles for your presentation.

  • Place your seat so that your audience can see your head and shoulders. If using a laptop, have it on a solid surface and use a box or books to raise it up if necessary.

The Presentation

  • Greet your audience and introduce yourself if necessary. Make sure your name is appropriately displayed on the screen. If you press the “record” facility at the start, then you can review your presentation and all the audience interaction to it, afterwards. Your next presentation can then be even better.

  • Sit comfortably and try not to move around as this can be distracting and may affect the focus of your picture or the clarity of your sound for the audience.

  • Indicate when you are starting and speak clearly.

  • Maintain eye contact by looking at the screen. Avoid looking at the walls and the ceiling of your room, and never out of a window.

  • Be aware of any distracting mannerisms you may have as these can be exaggerated by the concentration of your presence on a small screen and annoy your audience:
    • Make sure your hairstyle is tidy even if you haven’t had a hair cut for a while. Untidy hair can be a distraction especially if you find yourself “fiddling” with it.

    • Spectacles that do not fit and have to be pushed up the nose all the time should be avoided if possible.

    • Gestures may not be of much use on Zoom but do not to fiddle with paper or other things on your desk / table.

  • Make sure it is obvious when your presentation has come to an end.

  • Wait for the host to close the meeting before you disconnect.

Platform presence is as important on Zoom as in any other situation. Do not be put off by the technology. With thorough preparation, your presentations can take off on Zoom and achieve the high standards you are used to. No presenter is ever perfect and nobody expects you to be. If you slip-up during the presentation, simply acknowledge it, and pick up from where you erred. Always remember to keep your audience engaged with a SMILE.

Yvonne Baker

Tuesday 12 January, 2021

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome


Imposter syndrome (Noun) 

 the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.

We have all had a moment of doubt in our abilities where we feel unsure of if we are any good at what we do, whether it is in your professional or our personal lives. It's not a nice feeling, so what do you do to overcome it? We have put together some ideas for you to try the next time that imposter devil comes knocking at your door. 


  1. Recognise imposter syndrome. As soon as you admit to yourself that this is truly how you are feeling and not just having a bad day, you enable yourself to tackle how you feel. Sometimes giving a name to how you are feeling is just as good as a cure.
  2. Ask for validation. Vocalising your worries to someone you trust is a great way to not only get how you are feeling off your chest, but a good confidant will also help to boost your confidence back up again. Don’t worry about feeling embarrassed or ashamed, chances are that they have felt the same way at some point. 
  3. Talk, talk, talk. We are all feeling pretty isolated at the moment which can impact our confidence greatly. If you are alone you run the risk of getting stuck with the thoughts in your head and can lead to depression which is the last thing you need when you are having a crisis of faith. Set up a zoom call or phone a friend just to talk nonsense if you want to. We are designed to be social creatures, so try to avoid hiding away. 
  4. Make a list. It is easy to forget our achievements, successes and capabilities, by putting them down on paper you will have physical proof of how great you are. Keep that piece of paper to look at every time you feel this way and remind yourself daily that you are amazing! 
  5. Ask for testimonials from customers. This may sound slightly strange, but when you feel unsure about yourself, asking for a customer to give you feedback on the great job you do, will instantly boost your confidence. Every business will benefit from having good feedback, so it is a practical thing to do anyway. As soon as those testimonials start coming though it will help no end with your confidence. Be sure to share them to your social media and website. Let everyone know. 
  6. Know that you aren’t the only one. We are so lucky that the internet has given us an abundance of reference materials. The saying forewarned is forearmed so do some research into imposter syndrome. It will help you to recognise how you are feeling and will help you overcome this bad patch. 
  7. Connect with others. Join a forum or networking group. Particularly in your professional life, joining in with a group will help you to learn from others. Not only will it give you that crucial social interaction, but it will also enable you to share your fears and worries without fear of embarrassment. 
  8. Take a day off. Having a proper break from work does the world of good. Turn the laptop off, switch your phone to silent and have a 'me' day. If your imposter syndrome is personal, then do something to change up your routine. For example, if you are experiencing a day where you have doubts regarding your parenting skills, then go out for the day. You may be homeschooling every day, as well as trying to work and keep on top of the chores; take a break. Go to the park and feed the ducks or go for a nice walk. Breaking the monotony is essential for you as well as your family’s mental health. That pile of washing can wait!
  9. Are you a perfectionist? If you suffer from imposter syndrome, is this because you constantly strive for perfection? Absolutely no-one is perfect, no-one is expected to be perfect. Try to realise that it's probably only you which is putting this level of pressure on yourself. Try to take a step back from the situation and spend some time letting go of the unimportant things. You will feel so much better for giving yourself a break.
  10. Give yourself a reality check. Yes, this does mean having a stern talking to yourself. Tell those voices in your head to get lost because YOU GOT THIS!!!!


Written By Sarah English – Write Idea 11 January 2021

Tuesday 8 December, 2020

Top 10 Ways to Build Confidence


Have you ever looked at someone and admired how confident they are? Confidence is an ability that can be learned and with a little practice, you can overcome your fears and learn a skill which will help you all walks of life, from doing well at an interview to speaking in public. 

Here are our top 10 tips to build your confidence. 

  1. Set goals and get stuff done. Accomplishing tasks either big or small will change your overall mood. Lifting your mood automatically, helps you stand prouder, even when you speak you will come across as happier and more confident.
  2. Be positive and visualise. Sound simple doesn’t it? It is fact that if you have a positive outlook, your mood changes, as does the mood of everyone around you. If you take time and visualise a positive outcome of a situation, you are far more likely to succeed. Sports professionals, entertainers, public speakers etc, practice this frequently.
  3. Internalise. Confidence comes from within. Really think about what confidence is and what it means to you. If you fear failure, challenge what failure would mean, how are you able to pick yourself back up again. As soon as you realise that you can bounce back with no trouble, the fear will subside.
  4. Posture. Work on your posture, shoulders back, chin up, chest out. Confident people will always have great posture. Not only will you look more confident, your voice will be louder and clearer.
  5. Reward yourself. Praise and recognise your achievements. If you won a big contract or got the job you wanted, celebrate your success. It doesn’t have to be anything lavish, just something that marks your achievement.
  6. Appreciate yourself. It is easy to be critical of ourselves, but when did you actually sit down and think about how great you are? Grab a pen and paper and list your qualities and achievements.
  7. Talk to yourself. You may feel silly doing talking to yourself, but having a dialogue with your reflection is a great way to build confidence. Tell yourself that you are amazing and confident and you can do this!
  8. Live in the present. It is easy to fret about something that hasn’t even happened, which causes you stress that you don’t even need. Be in the moment and let things happen. As soon as you release the worry, you will feel lighter and more in control.
  9. Practice eye contact. Next time you speak to someone be conscious of how much eye contact you hold or don’t hold. Being aware of our body language is a powerful tool to have at your disposal. We do it without even thinking and we read the signals that it gives out from others. Recognising positive body language signals will help you appear far more confident.
  10. Be yourself. Our individual personalities, tell people what we are all about. You can learn to be confident, but stay true to yourself. Don’t try to be someone you are not. It is fine to aspire to be like someone but ultimately your confidence is yours to own and embrace. 

Wednesday 4 November, 2020

Effective Communication

Effective Communication

If you missed our very own Cat Foulkes on the ZoShow on Wednesday 28th October, you can watch it again with this link. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=654238222119399

If you don’t have time to watch, we have picked out some great highlights from the show here. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

Zo: Tell us a little about yourself and your role within Birmingham International Speakers Club (BISC).

Cat: I am one of the organisers of the club, I have a job that I love and although it doesn’t involve public speaking, I would not have achieved this role if I didn’t have the effective communication skills that BISC gave me.

Zo: Public speaking is a huge skill, I had huge issues with a stutter when I was younger and had a real lack of confidence. So, I plucked up the courage to join BISC and as soon as I sat down, I knew I was in the right place. Can you explain to people who don’t know about BISC, what the club is all about?

Cat: I had a similar experience with public speaking that went terribly wrong. I went for a job that required a 20-minute presentation as part of the second round of interviews. I ended up not progressing further with the job because of the fear of public speaking. I knew that this fear would stop me from progressing with my career so I looked online and I found BISC. It’s a local club based in Birmingham and part of a global organisation. We have a clear set of procedures around public speaking, to enable anyone and everyone to become a competent public speaker, and to become a proficient communicator.

It’s a definite life skill that impacts so many parts of our lives, so I initially joined to enable me to deliver a presentation for an interview. Now, I have learnt how to structure the content of a presentation and how to deliver in an impactful manner, becoming competent in speaking whenever I am called upon. It feels so good to overcome something that was, initially debilitating and to progress further in my career. BISC has impacted all parts of my life.

Zo: Lets talk about fear. How do you overcome the fear of speaking in public?

Cat: Communication is fundamental in progressing through life. My first speech, I was absolutely petrified, I was hoping to break a leg so I wouldn’t have to go. I wasn’t really clear and confident about my content and the delivery itself was laughable. I spoke too quickly and just ran of the stage when I was finished. Because this experience was so bad, I found that every occasion after that was slightly better. So, with the positivity of the club and my own determination, I was able to progress.

There are three main points that BISC help with. The first is to know your audience, and to get the internal dialogue away from you. Think about what you are going to teach them, you are there to share information with them. Once you change the focus from you to your audience it really helps.

Secondly, practice. Practice in the shower, the car, to a line of pillows on the sofa, to a family member. The more you practice the more confident you will be with your content.

Third is to breathe. Take the time before your presentation to concentrate on your breathing, even write it in your notes to make sure you do it. Right before starting, take a deep breath and survey the room.

Zo: What are some quick tips on overcoming nerves?

Cat: Being well prepared, goes without saying. Have a positive visualisation of seeing the meeting going really well. Have someone manage the timing of your meeting to take that worry away. Most importantly. believe in yourself. If you have been asked to deliver a speech, then they are already deeming you competent. Having the self-belief that you can do it will help so much with your confidence and nerves.

Re-focus the adrenaline that you are feeling. It is the same adrenaline that you feel when you are excited, so instead of focussing on how you are feeling nervous, change it to feeling excited instead. Time to shine!

Zo: What is a typical club meeting?

Cat: Twice a month we are currently meeting online, formally face to face, and the meeting is divided into two halves. The first is typically 2-4 prepared speeches on a pre-given topic and time frame, and the second half is a workshop which is fully interactive, either delivered by a member or external guest. The topics given could be anything from a lottery win to a bank heist and it is entirely up to the individual to take the topic and run with it however they would like to.

There are two evaluations given for each speech, by more experienced members, and this is where the magic happens. You are given feedback on what went well and what to consider for next time. You get to learn your individual strengths as a speaker and often, it comes to light, things that you had never considered before. Maybe you say ummm a lot or touch your face, and once your attention is drawn to it, it makes you more conscious and able to do something about it for future presentations.

Zo: What about impromptu speaking?

Cat: I would suggest three things, think about your audience. What is the take home message that you want to give your audience? What is the one sentence that you really want to end with? Make sure that you mention why you are there and why you are addressing everyone. It could be raising a toast at a party or speaking about someone leaving a company. It is a skill and you do have to work on it, but once you do, its like riding a bike.

Zo: How do you deal with hecklers or negative members of the audience?

Cat: Address them at the end of your presentation, deal with it in a diplomatic way, without letting them disturb your flow. The main thing is, that it is your presentation, so acknowledge them and deal with their comments at an appropriate time in a way that does not derail you from your flow.

Zo: Many meetings are now been held over the internet so do you think that the world is changing in terms of switching to digital?

Cat: I think there will always be the need and desire for people to gather in a face to face auditorium to get the energy and passion that you get from a public arena. I think that learning to be a host on Zoom etc is definitely a skill in itself and we will all benefit from learning how to move to digital.

Zo: Talking about fillers in a presentation, the ummms for example. How would you suggest you tackle these?

Cat: Fillers are such an easy go to; they are the words that you use when you can’t think of what to say next instead of leaving a silence. Leaving a pause instead is actually a lot more effective, it will keep your audience’s attention without holding you back from your message. One thing we teach you is to become comfortable with holding pauses. It seems very alien at first but is very powerful, your audience will be in suspense of your next words, if used correctly.

Zo: Do you have any suggestions for anyone delivering something via digital medium?

Cat: I would suggest that meetings held on Zoom would still follow the same time management structure. Engagement is the key change. Face to face you can easily detect if someone is distracted, lost focus or they are loving what your saying. On a Zoom meeting, the way to keep engagement is to be much snappier and quicker, keep the meeting moving.

Zo: How important, now we are moving into digital delivery, that tech works?

Cat: I can’t tell you how many Zoom meetings I have been on where someone’s battery has died and the meeting has just stopped. A good hour before the meeting, check to make sure that everything is working and the battery is fine. Be prepared by checking that your background is appropriate and well lit. Check that you are a proper distance away from the camera, that the sound works etc.

Zo: For digital meetings, what is a non-aggressive way of involving those who are not participating?

Cat: There is a fine line between putting someone on the spot and trying to involve them in engaging in the meeting. I tend to make sure that everyone introduces themselves at the start so everyone knows everyone. It could be as simple as asking what they had done that morning. This involves everyone right from the get go, and it’s a bit of an icebreaker. It helps you engage everyone throughout the rest of the meeting.

Zo: What is the benefit of being able to speak in public?

Cat: Many of our members, including myself, have gone on to get promotions at work and have improved their lives dramatically. I find that I am now able to put my point across succinctly and be confident in an environment when I am put on the spot. Without effective communication we cannot succeed. In all aspects of our lives, work, relationships, friendships, we need to be able to put across our point to make sure that the recipient of our message understands. Public speaking is just the tip of the iceberg, it actually effects so much more to a person in all parts of their life.

Zo: How important is it to learn in a safe environment where you don’t feel criticized or inferior to others?

Cat: To go to a club, where your boss isn’t there and meeting other like-minded individuals who all want to grow and no one is judging is freeing. Everyone is there to encourage and support growth not to criticise. Its all about building confidence.

Zo: We’ve had some great tips here, so how do people go about visiting BISC and getting involved?

Cat: Facebook : https://facebook.com/BhamSpeakers/

LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/birmingham-international-speakers-club-3b36251b1/

Twitter: @birminghamspeakers

Website: https://bisc.powertalk.org.uk

We look forward to seeing you there!


Tuesday 6 October, 2020

Top 15 tips to enhance your Zoom meetings


Top 15 tips to enhance your Zoom meetings

Zoom has quickly become the most popular tool to keep us connected during Covid-19, especially in a professional capacity. We have adapted well to running and joining meetings at home even with the worry of invasion from the kids, the cat sitting on your laptop or the dog deciding it’s a good time to pee on the carpet. Even when we finally go back to offices, the popularity of Zoom meetings will continue, as we realise that there is no longer the need to bring everyone together for a meeting in an office environment and can just as easily be done remotely. More and more people will also be given the opportunity to continue to work from home.  So, Zoom is here to stay! Here are some great tips to help you when running or attending meetings.

1.      Add a background – Zoom offers a selection of backgrounds to use or upload one of your own. Just go into settings and get creative. If you don’t want to use a background then have a plain wall behind you.

    2.      Light up- Being in a well-lit area or having a light facing you will highlight your face. You can easily use a lamp or with a small investment, buy an LED ring light.
      3.      Level up – Have your camera at the correct level. You don’t want to be looking down or up at your screen. If you need to sit your laptop on a pile of books to get the correct level then that’s fine. No one can see what you are using. Your picture will be a lot more flattering and clearer to anyone watching.
        4.      Mute and unmute quickly – It can be very distracting if everyone is off mute throughout a meeting. Having everyone mute other than the speaker is wise. If you need to unmute quickly, simply hold the space bar down while you talk and release it when you have finished.
          5.      No need to add video when you join a meeting – When you join a meeting, generally there is a period of time when you are waiting for others to join. There is no need to activate video straight away. Wait until the meeting is about to begin before opening the video option.
            6.      Change up the screen – Use Gallery View so you can see everyone in the meeting.
              7.      Sending invites – Send well ahead of time with a follow up reminder. Often Zoom meetings fail purely because they are badly organised.
                8.      Share Screen – This enables you to do presentations or demonstrations to everyone at the same time. Both the co-ordinator of the meeting and the attendees are able to share their screen.
                  9.      Zoom App Market Place – Through these apps which integrates with Microsoft Teams and your google or outlook calendar, making the whole experience with Zoom a lot more seamless.
                    10.   Recording your meetings – There are two levels of being able to record your meetings. Zooms free level enables you to record your meeting locally onto your hard drive, whereas the paid Zoom level will allow you to save to the cloud.
                      11.  Enhance your look – Zoom offers you the chance to soften your features. (Settings -> Video -> turn on Touch up my appearance)
                        12.  Audio Transcript – The paid version of Zoom lets gives you the option to have an audio transcript of your meetings, found under advanced cloud recording settings.
                          13.  Waiting Room – It is a good idea to enable this feature as hackers or strangers could be attending your meeting without permission or an invite. Using waiting room lets you see exactly who is in attendance and who shouldn’t be. This can avoid an embarrassing situation during a meeting.
                            14.  Break out rooms – If you have a large number of attendees you can set up to 50 break out rooms for workshops or mini meetings.
                              15.  Practice – Arrange with a friend or colleague a dummy meeting to test out the Zoom features and to get the level and lighting right.

                              Saturday 3 October, 2020

                              ITC – An Education!

                              How I found out about the Scottish Colourists


                              In the pre Covid times, I always enjoyed my annual visit as Region Board member to Caledonia Council meetings.  

                              Portrait of Grace McColl by J D Fergusson

                              Who would not enjoy being royally entertained by old friends? I always arrived on the Saturday evening, had a splendid meal provided by my host for the weekend, then a full breakfast on the Sunday morning, and so on to the Redhurst Hotel for the Council Meeting. On one memorable occasion, I was seated comfortably enough, and from somewhere I could hear the sound of the staff preparing to serve Sunday dinner. “I’m still full from breakfast!” I began to think, when, suddenly, I found myself on the edge of my seat, almost startled. I had hardly noticed from the programme that the last event of the morning was to be “The Scottish Colourists”, but Brendan had commenced a talk and was projecting a stunning sequence of paintings onto a screen. I was surprised because, although art has always interested me, I had never heard of this group, and had never seen any of these paintings, before.

                              The Colourists were Samuel Peploe, John Fergusson, George Hunter and Francis Cadell. They were at their height between 1900 and 1930 and were very much the heirs of the French Impressionists of the nineteenth century. The name came to be applied to them because of their “use of brilliant colour to capture the rich evocation of a place or person”. What were their subjects? To continue to quote from Dr Cummings of Edinburgh University, “whether a landscape, a portrait, a still life or a subject celebrating the vibrancy of urban life, [they] convey a real sense of joie de vivre which few can match”. It’s difficult for the layman to add to that. A large part of their attraction is that they are capable of being appreciated by anyone: the viewer can simply enjoy the use of colour and not try and guess any “hidden meaning”. Confident in their own Scottishness, they spent a lot of time in France, where the sunshine gives plenty of scope for the artist. Several of their paintings were purchased for the French nation.

                              Disgracefully, I am not aware of any of their work being on display in any of the major English galleries, and would be very happy to be proved wrong. If you want to see more, and I hope that this very brief introduction has whetted your appetite, then the National Galleries of Scotland have some fantastic exhibitions from time to time. 

                              Colin Gray



                              Tuesday 8 September, 2020

                              Body Language – The unspoken communicator


                              Body Language – The unspoken communicator

                              Body language is our non-verbal way of expressing our thoughts and feelings. We gesture with our body and use facial expressions without even realising it. Being aware of how we use our body language is a powerful tool when it comes to the art of negotiation and persuasion and will help fully engage your listener/s.

                              Once you learn how to use your body language, you will naturally be able to read others which will help you gauge situations quickly and adjust your behaviour as necessary. This is great in meetings especially if you are needing to really capture the attention of who you are talking to.

                              Here are some top tips to consider when you are in your next meeting or giving your next presentation or speech.

                              1.      Use open body language – make sure your arms are unfolded and your hands are unclenched. This shows the listener that you are being open and will help convey honesty and integrity. If you have to deliver bad news or face a difficult meeting where there is the potential of a sticky situation, you will most likely see your audience with arms crossed, facing away from you and not making eye contact. If you mirror their behaviour then you will hit a stalemate. By showing you are open allows them to feel more at ease and they are far more likely to engage.

                              2.      Make eye contact – No matter if you are speaking to one person, a few people or a whole room full of people, eye contact is important. Of course, there is a fine balance between holding eye contact with the same person for too long and not holding it for long enough. Too long and you are in a creepy staring match, not long enough will make you appear disengaged. A few seconds at a time is more than adequate. If you speaking to a room full of people then pick out people left, right and centre and alternate every few seconds.

                              3.      Avoid touching your face and fidgeting – If you frequently touch your face or fidget you will come across as being uncomfortable, untrustworthy, dishonest and shifty. It really won’t matter how great your subject is if you let your body language contradict what you are talking about.

                              4.      Use open hand gestures – Be careful to not overdo the gestures with your hands, this can be distracting from what you are saying. Having your hands opened palmed will convey openness, sharing and trust. Unless you are putting across a serious issue and it is intentional. Never point, this will show aggression and will turn your audience right off.

                              5.      Smile – Unless you are delivering bad news of course! The simple act of smiling will show warmth and trustworthiness. Your audience will be put at ease and feel more relaxed and open. Smiling changes your whole persona and has a knock-on effect, if you are smiling you tend to make others smile. Much like how a yawn is contagious.

                              6.      Posture – If you are standing to give a presentation or speech, stand with your shoulders back and chin up, this will convey confidence and also frees your diaphragm which will help to keep your voice loud and clear.

                              Bonus Tip: Film yourself giving your presentation or speech so you can see how you are gesturing, the facial expressions you are making, and any bad habits you may be displaying without even realising it. Most of us are self-critical when watching ourselves back on film, so try not to be too hard on yourself.


                              Written by Sarah English for Birmingham Speakers Club - 08 September 2020.

                              Wednesday 5 August, 2020

                              Top tips to calm your nerves when giving a speech

                              Giving a speech requires preparation, from research and planning to writing and rehearsing, but failing to prepare mentally can mean the difference between a good speech and a great speech.

                              Controlling your nerves requires a little practice and patience, but once perfected it can be used for all sorts of situations. Here are some great tips to get you started.

                              Accept your nervousness and feel okay about it.  If you make a conscious effort to identify that you feel worried, that you feel queasy, that you are sweating and understand that your nerves are doing this, you are able to then accept that feeling nervous is natural and absolutely okay.

                              Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. We often compare ourselves to others and put pressure on ourselves to be perfect but you are far better off being yourself. Even the most established of speakers make the odd mistake and that’s what makes us all human.

                              Know your subject matter. It is evident very quickly if you are talking about a subject that you know little about. The speech come across as lacklustre and wooden with lack of passion and conviction, your audience won’t engage and your speech will soon be forgotten. The more you know about your subject the more confident you will be.

                              Engage your audience. Involve your audience so they feel a part of your speech. Not only will it raise the energy level of the room, your speech will be far more memorable.

                              Use breathing techniques. Controlling your breathing will bring your heart rate down and help you to focus. Sit or stand straight and slowly take in a deep breath from your diaphragm to expand your tummy as full as you can. Hold for a few seconds exhale slowly as far as you can, hold for a couple of seconds and repeat. You will instantly feel calmer and in control.

                              Practice mindfulness and meditation. Mindfulness is the art of being in the moment, not letting any outside influences in, any worry or problems, questions or noises. It is clearing your mind enough to blank out everything and listen to your own heartbeat and breathing and nothing else. Mindfulness and meditation take practice and patience; there are plenty of guides, YouTube sessions and books out there to help you learn.

                              Visualisation. Visualise the success of your speech. Imagine getting to the end knowing that you were concise, clear, engaging and interesting. So much so, that your audience applauds loudly and you know that all your preparation and practice was all worth it and more importantly, you enjoyed delivering your speech.

                              Practice out loud. When preparing to deliver a speech you should always rehearse it out loud and in front of a friend or family member. That way, not only are you practicing, you can get open and honest feedback on your delivery and content.

                              Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol. The last thing your body needs is extra stimulants when your adrenaline is taking over. You may think a drink beforehand will calm your nerves but in actual fact it has the opposite effect and will only add to your anxiety. Only drink water, your body and mind work so much better when hydrated.

                              Make eye contact with your audience. It can be very tempting to read from que cards or your PowerPoint presentation without really looking at your audience, but will show lack of willing to engage with your audience and will turn them off what you are trying to say. Try to hold eye contact across the room by alternating to your left, right and centre audience.

                              By following these techniques, you will soon be on the way to delivering great speeches and actually enjoy giving them!




                              Tuesday 16 June, 2020

                              BISC on Zoom

                              Birmingham International Speakers (BISC) held only their second Zoom based meeting on Wednesday 10th June with coaching and tips on speeches of persuasion.

                              We consider public speaking as involving relatively new communication skills but we went back as far as Aristotle to understand the power of crafted speeches, especially if you want the listeners to agree with a point of view.

                              Some 12 members attended and we also welcomed several guests.

                              Aristotle at the Academy

                              Aristotle’s “Three Musketeers” for the persuasive speaker are logos, pathos and ethos. That is, the appeal to reason, the appeal to emotion and the appeal based on the moral character of the speaker, respectively.

                              The success of Aristotle’s techniques may be judged by the fact that his work Rhetoric remained the standard text on the subject for centuries. Or perhaps it may be judged by the achievements of his pupil Alexander, whose leadership skills enabled him to conquer most of the then known world.

                              We cannot promise to help you build an empire but we can help you to build your confidence and develop your leadership skills.

                              The POWERtalk Great Britain Blog is listed on the Top 10 UK Public Speaking Blogs.

                              If you are interested in finding out more about BISC fill out our query form.

                              Thursday 20 February, 2020

                              POWERtalk Pollokshields — Dance

                              Wednesday 19th February. 2020  in Hutchesons' Grammar School - Room A21.

                               The evening was opened by President Brendan who gave apologies from three members and introduced 
                               Roz who was the chairman for the evening.   Roz gave an inspiration and topics were given to Grace, Liz, Louise, Brendan and Regina.   Brendan handed out a quiz about Dance which caused much discussion and laughter.   Following the Tea interval two speeches were given   
                               One by Grace on a Hungarian Dance she did at school and
                               Lauren on the importance of dance lessons for the young.
                               Regina evaluated the speech by Grace and Louise the speech by Lauren.

                              A short business meeting was then held to discuss the Caledonia Council Speech Contest and to make arrangements for the Club Speech Contest at the next meeting.
                              The General Evaluation was given by Ruth and the Vote of Thanks and Timing was by Liz.

                              A very happy and informative evening was had by all.

                              The next meeting is on 4th March in Hutchesons' Grammar School - room A21 and is the Club Speech Contest to which all are welcome.

                              Thursday 6 February, 2020

                              POWERtalk Pollokshields — Fashion

                              5th February 2020

                              The evening was opened by President Brendan who introduced the Theme "Fashion" with a recording of the Kinks "Dedicated follower of Fashion" and had everyone singing.

                              Everyone was made welcome to the first meeting of 2020.  Unfortunately, there were a number of apologies which meant that various members had two assignments.

                              Brendan introduced Louise

                              who gave us an interesting Inspiration and gave out Topics such as Liz on Burns (not a fan), Roz on fashion who gave us a quote from an Editor of Vogue "Fashion can be bought, but Style you must possess), Regina on a quote from Marilyn Munroe on the right kind of shoes, Brendan on TV programme fashion - Pottery" and

                               finally, Grace who was asked about fashion which caused dogs to be bred for fashion - she did not like the topic and cleverly talked about jewellery fashion.

                              The Education/ Fun item was by Regina
                              This took the form of a most entertaining Quiz covering many areas of fashion.   The winner was Brendan.
                              Following the tea break, the two speakers were introduced

                               Roz who took us through the ages with fashion and gave us sensible advice at the end.
                              Carole who led us through a number of areas of life which was fashion-led and told us about a jumper which she has knitted which was on the catwalk during London Fashion Week.

                              The evaluations were by Grace and Brendan.

                              A short Business Meeting then took place and items discussed were the Council and Club Speech Contest and club dues.

                              The Timing was by Carole and the General Evaluation and Vote of Thanks was by Liz.

                              A most enjoyable evening was had by all.

                              Date of the next meeting:   19th February 2020 in Hutchesons' Grammar School and the Theme will be Dance.

                              Monday 28 October, 2019

                              CALEDONIA COUNCIL - Saturday 26th October, 2019.

                               Members of Caledonia Council met in the Doubletree by Hilton, Westerwood, Glasgow on Saturday 26th October, 2019.  The first item on the Agenda was a business meeting which was chaired by President Iris.    
                              (President Iris with workshop leader Ruth).
                               Following the business meeting there was a very useful workshop by Ruth on "Personal Style"   This was a lively and enjoyable  session with members contributing. 
                               The Second session in the morning was by Nancy "Using Words Creatively".    This session involved the members being given some words and asked to write a poem showing the meaning of the words.   this was enjoyed by all.

                              A delightful lunch was served by the hotel and after lunch there was a "Lifeboat Debate" chaired by Liz.   Six members were given characters (Robert Adam (Carole), John Logie Baird (Roz), David Livingstone (Elizabeth), Ian Rankin (Terry), Robert Burns (Margaret) and Joseph Lister (Laurence)
                              This was an excellent debate and was very closely run with the winner being Joseph Lister.

                              Following the Lifeboat Competition there was a short session where members had the opportunity to complete Evaluation Forms.

                              The Vote of Thanks was by Margaret and the meeting closed at 3.30pm.

                              The next meeting of Caledonia Council will be the Speech Contest on Saturday 28th March, 2020.

                              Thursday 17 October, 2019

                              POWERtalk Pollokshields – Home Sweet Home

                              Meeting on Wednesday 16th October, 2019 in the home of a member.

                              Theme:   Home Sweet Home"

                                Due to the School Holidays we met at the home of a member.  The meeting was opened by Brendan.    Unfortunately due to a number of different reasons there were four apologies for the evening.

                              Brendan was also the Chairman for the evening and Topics were given out to Roz, on taste in books,
                              Iris on homeless, Regina on Furniture and Liz on a Happy Childhood.

                              The Education session was also given by Brendan.   He passed out a number of prints of paintings  and all the members had fun trying to remember details of the paintings.   This was a most enjoyable session on observation.

                              Timings were given by Scilla which was followed by the Tea Interval.

                              First on the agenda for the second half was a speech by Regina.  This was a very entertaining and educational speech on dwellings through the ages including information about some radical new ideas.

                              Carole gave a very fulsome evaluation of Regina's Speech.
                              This was followed by a short business meeting.
                              Roz gave an excellent General Evaluation and Vote of Thanks.
                              Although we were small on numbers it was an excellent evening.

                              Saturday 5 October, 2019

                              POWERtalk Pollokshields - Send in the Clowns

                              POWERtalk Pollokshields met on Wednesday 2nd October, 2019 in Hutchesons' Grammar School, room A21.

                              The theme for the evening was Send in the Clowns.

                              The President Brendan welcomed the members and one visitor and gave the apologies.

                              Roz was introduced as Chair for the evening.   Roz gave an Inspiration from Cole Porter's Be a Clown and then gave out topics which were given by Brendan, Carole, Liz, Ruth and Grace all connected to the Theme.

                              The Education Session was given by Regina in the form of a quiz about Glasgow.    This was full of very interesting facts and was very educational due to the fact that the scores were very low.   Everyone learnt quite a lot about Glasgow.

                              Following the tea interval speeches were given by Ruth and Liz - both keeping to the Theme, but with very different approaches to the subject.

                              The evaluations were given by Grace and Brendan.

                              Brendan conducted a short Business Meeting in which finances were discussed and Liz mentioned the forthcoming Council Meeting.

                              The timing was by Regina and the General Evaluation and Vote of Thanks was given by Carole.

                              A most enjoyable evening was had by all.

                              The next meeting will be held on 16th October in the home of a member due to the fact that ths School will be closed for the October holiday.

                              Saturday 31 August, 2019

                              The Rovers Club Training Weekend

                              Rovers Club are having their annual training weekend, as usual, in Carlisle. This morning the Business Meeting was held followed by the club speech contest.
                              Linda presenting the trophy to the winner, Laurence

                              The contestants

                              In the afternoon members visited Burgh by Sands and St. Michaels, a  Norman church.

                              Carved Corbel

                              Millennium Mural

                              In the evening we had a meal at the Crown and Mitre. A little surprise was that a former member of ITC had provided a little reminder of the past.
                              ITC Napkin

                              After a good meal, Rosemary led a very entertaining topic session.

                              Rovers 2019

                              Monday 25 March, 2019

                              CALEDONIA COUNCIL SPEECH CONTEST.

                              The Annual Speech Contest of Caledonia Council was held in the Doubletree by Hilton, Westerwood, Glasgow on Sunday 24th March 2019.

                              President Iris opened the meeting.
                              The First item on the Agenda was the Speech Contest

                              Nancy was the capable Chairman of the Contest.

                              The timers were Roz and Brendan

                              The winners were Iris and Diana with Terry and Grace as runners up.

                              Following lunch there was a short Business Meeting and the final item on the Agenda was an illustrated talk by Iris on Madeira.  The meeting closed at 3.30 pm. and all agreed that it had been a most enjoyable day.

                              Thursday 21 February, 2019

                              POLLOKSHIELDS CLUB - SPEECH CONTEST.

                              Pollokshields Club held its annual Speech contest on Wednesday 20th February, 2019 in Hutchesons' Grammar school and welcomed members from Stirling and Rovers.

                              The contestants anxiously await the start of the contest.

                              President Scilla, with her usual charm opens the proceedings and introduces the Speech Contest Chairman

                              Louise - who chairs the contest with charm.

                              Following the conclusion of the contest the ballot was collected and everyone enjoyed supper.

                              Following supper, Ruth was introduced and she gave an excellent Education slot/evaluation of the contest.

                              Finally the winners were announced.    Anita and Carole.   President Scilla presented them with the Shield.

                              This was a most enjoyable evening with a delightful surprise at the end when Lauren asked to join the club.    Two new members in the past two meetings.     We are hopeful that more visitors will come along and perhaps join us.

                              The next meeting is on 6th March 2019 in Hutchesons' Grammar School - visitors are always welcome.

                              Saturday 9 February, 2019

                              Pollokshields Club

                              On 6th February Pollokshields Club met for the first time in 2019.    The Theme for the evening was "Fungi"

                              Members were welcomed by President Scilla who welcomed Regina as a new member - a good start to the year.

                               New member Regina.

                              The Chairman, Liz was introduced and after giving an inspiration "All mushrooms are edible, but some only once" which is a Croatian Proverb.she led the topics including Scillla on "Life is too short to stuff a mushroom", Carole on the difficulty of going out to dinner as a vegetarian, Grace foraging for mushrooms in Italy and Regina on the difficulties of love in ancient Rome.

                              Tis was followed by a very lively "fun" session based on 20 Questions.   The winner was Carole.
                              Following the tea interval there were two speeches 
                               Roz - Title "Fungi by any other name" and
                               Iris - title "Our little fungi friends"

                              Both speeches were both entertaining and educational.   Who would have guessed that there was so much to say about fungi?
                              Our General Evaluation was by Grace and the evening concluded with Louise, the timekeeper giving the timings, closing thought  and the Vote of Thanks

                              Our next meeting is to be on 20th February in room A8.  This is to be our Speech Contest.  A number of people have indicated that they will be joining us and, as usual, visitors will be made very welcome.

                              Thursday 8 November, 2018

                              CALEDONIA COUNCIL MEETING.

                              Caledonia Council met on Sunday 4th November, 2018 in the Doubletree by Hilton, Westerwood, Glasgow.
                              President Iris welcomed members and chaired the Business Meeting.

                              Members enjoyed three excellent workshops
                              "Oral Reading: Science or Art" by Rosemary

                              "Evaluation - What I Meant to Say" by Ruth and

                              "Get Inspired!" by Carole.

                              This was a very happy and most enjoyable day with an excellent attendance by members.

                              The next meeting of Caledonia Council will be on 24th March 2019 in the Doubletree by Hilton, Westerwood, Glasgow and will be the Speech Contest.

                              Thursday 18 October, 2018

                              POWERtalk Pollokshields.

                              POWERtalk Pollokshields met on 17th October in the home of a member due to the fact that the School is closed for the Autumn Holidays.
                              Theme:   Autumn Leaves a lot to be Desired.

                              The members were welcomed by President Scilla.
                              Special welcome to visitor Frances.

                              Roz was chairman for the evening and gave us the Inspiration and Topics.
                              Topics were given by Liz, Louise, Grace and Brendan.

                              Brendan gave us an interesting Education on some of the pictures of Vincent Van Gough with some insights into the background of three pictures.

                              Following supper Iris gave us an educational speech about Autumn with a great deal of information about trees, leaves and even railways.
                              The final speaker for the evening was Ruth who gave us an amusing but useful speech about having an exit strategy. 
                              Timekeeping was by Liz.

                              The evening was brought to a close with a General Evaluation by Scilla and the closing thought and Vote of Thanks was by Liz.

                              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.

                              Friday 6 July, 2018

                              POLLOKSHIELDS CLUB.

                              Last night members of Pollokshields Club went out to celebrate Carole winning the Region Speech Contest and Anita winning the Writing Contest - Fiction.


                              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.

                              Friday 9 March, 2018

                              Pollokshields Club - Speech Contest 5th March, 2018.

                              On Monday 18th March the club held the Annual Speech Contest.   Everyone was delighted that "the Beast from the East" was finally over and that everyone could manage to get out to the club.   However, due to the weather conditions this meant that visitors were unable to attend.
                                                                    Contestants anxiously awaiting the start of the contest.

                              It was an excellent contest with the following subjects etc.

                              Brendan, (subject) ambush, (title) Ambush and Confrontation.  (purpose) to Entertain.

                              Grace (subject) Time waits for no man, (title) Time and Tide wait for no-one.  (purpose) to Entertain.

                              Anita. (subject) Travelling Light. (Title) Cataleya (purpose) To Entertain.

                              Carole (subject) Surprise (Title) Lost in Translation (purpose) To Entertain.

                              Iris (subject) Nature (title) The Birds and Bees. (purpose) To Entertain

                              Roz. (Subject) The time of your life.  (Title) The Best is yet to come.   (purpose) Current Events.

                              The contest ran smoothly and everyone was well entertained.

                              The Tellers/timers Ruth and Louise working hard with the five minute light  on.

                              Finally we had the result 
                              Joint Winners, Carole and Iris.
                              The Joint winners are joined with second place Grace.

                              The winners go on to the Council Speech Contest and hopefully to the Region Final in June.

                              The next meeting of Pollokshields Club is on10th March, 2018 and the Theme is "Hare Raising Stuff".    Friends and guests are welcome.

                              Tuesday 20 February, 2018

                              POLLOKSHIELDS CLUB - OPEN NIGHT.

                              Pollokshields Club held an Open Night on 19th February, 2018 in Pollokshields Burgh Halls.  Members from Stirling Club and Friends were welcomed.
                              President Roz Welcomed members and friends.
                               First on the Agenda was a Guest Speaker, Patricia Irwin from Renfrewshire Sound who gave an interesting talk on the worthwhile work of Renfrewshire Sound.

                              Following a delicious supper everyone was entertained by a quiz which was run by Hendry.

                              There was much hilarity but eventually a winning table was found.  The winning table received a cup and all the others mugs.  Everyone went home with a great "goody bag".
                              Following the Quiz Hendry ran an entertaining version "Just a Minute" with Carole and Brendan as the worthy winners.

                              The next Meeting of Pollokshields Club is on  5th March and will take the form of the Annual Speech Contest.  Everyone is welcome.

                              Tuesday 23 January, 2018

                              POLLOKSHIELDS CLUB - 22nd January 2018..

                              Pollokshields Club met in the Burgh Halls on 22nd January.

                              Theme:   Difficult People.

                              President Roz Keenan opened the meeting and welcomed our guest May-belle she then handed over to the Chairman for the Evening - Louise.  Topics - all on Difficult People were given to Iris,  Roz, Scilla and Liz.

                              The Education Session was given by Brendan 
                              Brendan is a talented artist and illustrated various Difficult situations with paintings.

                              Following the tea break there was a short Business Meeting to discuss various matters.

                              The members were entertained to two excellent speeches by Grace and Anita.

                              The Evaluation of the meeting was given by Iris.

                              Closing thought and Vote of Thanks was given by Anita.

                              The next meeting will be held on 5th February 2018 with the Theme of "Out the Window".

                              Future Dates:    19th February - Open Evening with guest speaker etc.  All Welcome.
                                                         5th March - Speech Contest.   All Welcome.

                              Wednesday 6 September, 2017

                              Rovers Carlisle Weekend - 1-3 September 2017.

                              Members met at the University on 1st September for our annual  Training Weekend.
                              The first thing on the Agenda was dinner in The Cava Bar on the Campus.

                              Saturday morning started with the installation of the Board by the Region President.
                              during the Business meeting the Delegate to Convention gave her Report.

                              Iris Gibson, Speech Contest Chairman.
                              There were six contestants in the Speech Contest. Due to Lack of time the winners were not announced until later.
                              Saturday lunch was at the Devil's Porridge Museum where we had a very interesting visit.

                               Following Dinner on Saturday in The Halston, the Speech Contest Winners were announced. Evelyn and Diana were presented with the cup by the Chairman of Judges Marjorie.

                              Members at Dinner     Topic Leader Ruth
                               Sunday Morning bought an interesting and very lively session by Marjorie called "What, Why and Where"

                              A group Discussion was then led by Evelyn on the future of our club and the organisation.

                              The final item on the Agenda was a presentation with slides on a Utah adventure by Iris.

                              Members ready to depart.   Everyone agreed that it had been an enjoyable weekend and that the new premises were a success.

                              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


                              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 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 https://office.microsoft.com/en-us/word-help/open-a-word-2007-document-in-an-earlier-version-of-word-HA010044473.aspx


                              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
                              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

                              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.

                              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.

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