Creative commentary plus crafty composition

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Making Words Come Alive

Stories have a better chance to come to life when we construct and deliver descriptions which the listener’s mind’s eye can see.

Stories may be the essence of the message being presented.  Stories might also be part of the construction, such as in support of the theme of a speech.  The latter example is part of the formula discussed in an article in the October issue of Toastmaster magazine.

The article makes use of comments from three current or previous members of Toastmasters International, who have graduated into the hierarchy of professional speakers and communications coaching.  Their insights provide a cumulative blueprint for putting together a well-designed speech; by extension, these guidelines can apply to other variations of communications, such as writing dialogue or presentations targeted for certain audiences.

Here is a synopsis of guiding insights discussed under the heading of speech-writing:

  • With how much detail a speech should be written depends on one’s comfort with using a script, although an underlying goal should be to whittle it down to an outline, ultimately delivering without dependency on notes
  • Developing content is often like sorting out a jigsaw puzzle, in that ideas to be included may not occur chronologically; indeed, often one has an ending in mind (such as with jokes) and one works backward to some extent to the opening; with longer projects, focusing on the main body is generally first priority, before the opening or the closing
  • Especially in a speech or with dialogue, establishing and maintaining a conversational tone helps connect with the audience; however, this is not a conversation per se, and the use of more formal terminology or thoughtful word choices may be appropriate for a given audience
  • When it comes to choosing words, simpler may be better, but not at the expense of clarity, or specificity if needed; however, be wary of using jargon
  • Clever and suitable inclusion of humour is typically welcomed by an audience; incorporating wit or funny stories is more advantageous than jokes, as the latter depend more on ‘high stakes’ conclusions or punch lines
  • As noted above, speeches benefit from including stories, which ‘pull listeners in and keep them engaged’; making ‘flesh-and-blood’ characters the focus is easier for people to relate to
  • Making an opening effective means an audience becomes engaged, the more important if the main topic is one some don’t initially find absorbing; using a more natural and conversational approach may be less of an attention-grabber, but comes across as less of a ‘stunt’; asking a question which triggers the imagination can be effective; in any event, the audience needs to become intrigued within the first two minutes
  • The time frame will help dictate how many main points one tries to make; the plan is to make them stick, which may be easier with fewer main points and more supporting ones
  • Transitioning from one idea to another is important to maintain flow, and can be as simple as using effective pauses
  • Repeating or returning to key themes or concepts is of value for reinforcing and re-emphasizing messages; although conclusions should be ‘forward looking’, this can include rhetorical questions or even ‘circling back’ to the opening “to highlight the journey you’ve been on as a group”

Now, what words should I use to get this going…

The Insure Thing About Traveling

An article in the late summer edition of The Insurance & Investment Journal discusses a side of travel which tends not to be at the top of mind in planning priorities, but which, if not set-up, could have serious financial consequences.   The issue: travel insurance.

A recent survey of Canadians found that 89% felt they had at least a reasonable understanding of what they were getting in their policies.  However, it appears the greatest concern is the time it takes to process claims. (more…)

To Speak or Not to Speak

This week I heard a radio commentator refer to the time-honoured, greatest dread of people (supposedly): the fear of public speaking.  The host noted how importantly the skill of being able to deliver presentations could impact one’s professional opportunities.

He then alluded to a just released story of a teenager who has confronted his own trepidation, by sending out an entreaty to educational authorities that he be spared from having to make presentations to other students in class.  There has been reaction to this quickly in social media.  No doubt, ‘experts’ on both sides of such a debate are aplenty. (more…)

Cruising for Options – Part One

I imagine anyone who has experienced for the first time the temporary lifestyle of a cruise on the high seas (actually in this case, the Mediterranean), has numerous reflections.  Like with almost any vacation, ideally, the high points resonate stronger than the inevitable issues one encounters. (more…)

The Trail of ‘Dog Days’ 

It’s early August, well into the ‘dog days of summer’, a period considered to start early in July and run through the first third of this month.

The expression comes from long roots in history, attributed to the ancient Romans.  They associated the hottest, most humid days of summer with Sirius, the ‘dog star’, leading to the adage of ‘dog days’. (more…)

Life Lessons from ‘The Intern’

In September 2015 a comedy-drama film called “The Intern” was released in theatres.  Starring Robert de Niro and Anne Hathaway, it told the story of a retired, 70 year-old widower (de Niro) who returns to the work-force as part of a new senior intern program launched by a highly successful, internet clothing company, run since its start in her kitchen 18 months earlier, by its hyper-active founder (Hathaway).

The film’s overall box-office gross overall was close to $200 million (budget approx. $35 million).  It was a financial success, but tended to be overlooked by many in the industry because of its being tagged as something of a ‘chick flick’, and which didn’t feature IMAX worthy special effects. (more…)

Reserved Seating Not Needed Here

Our most recent taking in a movie, at our local cinema house, exposed a new wrinkle in the ticket buying experience.  Notwithstanding that my spouse and I were attending a less than half-filled show in the afternoon, we had to select our seats in advance, like choosing concert or airline tickets on a laptop screen.

Apparently, this has become de rigueur at least at some local screens in the last month or so.  One would have thought some warning or notification, if only for public relations sake, would have been justified. (more…)