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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.

Tuesday 26 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

Thursday 22 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.

                              Wednesday 7 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.

                              Thursday 6 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!




                              Monday 2 September, 2019

                              Rovers Training Weekend - Sunday

                              On Sunday morning the Rovers club continued our training weekend with a debate let by Margaret on the proposition "This house believes that pet ownership should be illegal". Everybody present participated. The affirmative team won.

                              Iris was quiz master with a fiendishly difficult quiz which saw Colin win with 20 out of a possible 60.

                              After an evaluation of the weekend the members and guests dispersed to journey homewards.

                              Monday 2 September, 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 2 September, 2019

                              Rovers: A visitor from California

                              Yesterday five members of Rovers met up with Stephanie Booth from California.   Stephanie was on a round Britain Cruise and was in Greenock for the day.   We met her and took her to lunch in Greenock.     As a surprise for her (it was the day after her birthday) we arranged a cake after lunch.  This just proves that the International Spirit of ITC still exists.

                              Saturday 4 May, 2019

                              Rovers Spring Weekend 2019

                              Rovers club had their annual spring social weekend in Dundee or “The City of Discovery” as it is known.

                              RRS Discovery with the V&A in the Background
                              On Friday night a few hardy souls drove up to the top of Dundee Law, a volcanic plug that overlooks the city. In the rain and wind Dundonian member Margaret pointed out a few points of interest.
                              On Saturday morning Margaret continued in the role of a tour guide as the rovers took the city centre circular bus. This was followed by a visit to the Discovery exhibition detailing Captain Scott’s explorations of Antartica.
                              Afterwards, the rovers dispersed to visit  other sites in the city such as the Verdant Works jute museum, the frigate HMS Unicorn and the V&A museum.

                              The evening meal was at  Dundee Contemporary Arts and as the rovers left, on foot or by taxi, there was a heavy downpour.
                              The Tay Railway Bridge
                              Penguins outside the Discovery Exhibition

                              On Sunday morning it was a bit brighter. Some headed home and some remained for an extended stay.

                              Tuesday 26 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 14 March, 2019

                              Heaps and Heaps of Gold

                              About 300 years ago, the British government was coping with the first Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, while away to the east, Peter the Great of Russia was receiving a fantastic treasure of gold objects of a completely unknown type. About 300 years later I was mesmerised in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg by the exquisite amazing artistic pieces of that hoard.

                              This gold treasure was found in Siberian and Ukrainian kurgans.

                              What is a kurgan? A burial mound. It looks like a replica of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, but it is very different in its contents. Kurgans contained heaps - literally heaps - of treasure.

                              And sometimes, the remains of wives and servants - strangled and buried alongside their master.

                              What kind of treasure? One kurgan revealed the skeleton of a woman, buried 2,400 years ago. Round her neck: a gold torque. Her veil held by gold bands. Her shroud glittered with 200 squares of beaten gold. Not to mention all the gold rings and bracelets.

                              And who left all this gold treasure? The Scythians - mounted nomads of the Russian steppes - for centuries Europe’s chief guard against Mongol hordes of the East.

                              Scythians were a byword for ferocity and daring.  But, in the end, they seemed to disappear from history. They left no written records.

                              Herodotus, the “father of history”, wrote about them – accounts subsequently confirmed by archaeology. But these people, who left such exquisite amazing gold artistic pieces, were also particularly brutal and barbaric in their customs and rituals.

                              Slaves’ eyes were destroyed to make escape difficult. Enemy prisoners were beheaded and skinned, then coats, capes and cushions made from these skins. Skulls of victims were sawn through above the eyebrows, cleaned, gilded on the inside and used as drinking cups.

                              Scythians were mysterious and paradoxical. Rough, warlike, cruel, but sensitive to artistic beauty.

                              When a king died, the corpse was prepared. It was slit open, cleaned out,  filled with aromatic substances, then completely covered in wax.

                              The body was carried in a wagon from tribe to tribe, then at the burial place, a great square pit was dug.  The corpse was laid down, surrounded by members of the king’s household:  a concubine, his butler, cook, groom,  steward, and chamberlain – all strangled. Gold cups and other treasures were also buried. On top of all, a mound of earth 50 or 60 feet high.

                              At the end of a year, another ceremony.  50 of the best of the king’s remaining servants, plus 50 of his finest horses,  were strangled, bodies gutted and stuffed, then buried.

                              In 1898, in another kurgan, 8 oxen and more than 360 horses were found buried, but no people.

                              But these same people produced exquisite gold articles such as a model of a bareback rider, less than 2 inches high, the end-piece of a torque (a collar made of twisted gold) fashioned in the 4th century BC.

                              Another item was a buckle, shaped like a stag, dated about the 7th century BC, found in a Scythian burial mound in the Caucasus.

                              Another model was part of a gold pectoral (breastplate) showing two men sewing a sheepskin to make a tunic.

                              Some carved models were so small you had to look at them through a magnifying glass.

                              The Scythians left no written records. Did they disappear from history? Some say they migrated westward and landed in Spain, Ireland, and Scotland. What do you think?


                              Фрагменты Пекторали
                              Gold Scythian pectoral, or neckpiece, from a royal kurgan in Towsta Mohila, Pokrov, dated to the 2nd half of the 4th century BC. The central lower tier shows three horses, each being torn apart by two griffins.Photograph: Д.КолосовCopyleft FAL 1.3

                              Monday 4 March, 2019

                              New Beginnings

                              How often do you wash your car?    Do you find that in winter you have to wash it more than in summer?   At one stage in my life, I found that washing your car in winter was not a good idea as the doors could freeze shut!   No, I wasn't working in the British Scientific Research station in the Antarctic, but I was in a town in the interior of British Columbia.    Back in 1967, I emigrated to Canada and there were many new beginnings to consider.

                              Still remembering the care of my car, as Merritt was a semi-desert area, nights could be very cold so every car had a block heater which had to be plugged in when parking the car for any length of time, especially overnight in autumn and winter.  Also, when you went to the supermarket on very cold days, you left the car parked with the engine running while you went in shopping.   A practice not to be contemplated in Britain, but a necessity there.


                              Merritt in Winter – Mascdman [CC BY-SA 2.5 (]

                              Another "car" new beginning, of course, was driving on the "wrong" side of the road, as it were, (i.e. the right).   I adapted to that quite easily, and yet, one day when I had been driving all over the province for almost three years correctly I came out on to the highway one morning and proceeded to drive on the left!  Luckily the road was empty of any other vehicles.

                              From films and television, we are all familiar with the yellow buses used exclusively for school children.   If you were driving along behind a yellow bus and it stopped, you stopped behind it.   You did not overtake.   Even if the bus was on the other side of the road you still stopped until it had driven off.

                              I also had to change my terminology.   The bonnet of the car became the hood, the boot became the trunk and petrol, of course, was gas.   At first, I had to make a conscious decision to change my words but then there came a time when I couldn't even remember which was British and which was Canadian usage.

                              Another 'new beginning' was recognising policemen!   The majority of police were Royal Canadian Mountain Police (RCMP).    Not dressed in the scarlet jacket worn on ceremonial occasions, but in brown.   To confuse me even further, some towns, such as Nelson, had their own separate police force with their own uniform.   But such places were few and far between.

                              Working as a teacher was more coping with change.

                              In Scotland, I was paid 1/12th of my annual salary every month.  In BC I was paid 1/10th of my salary from September to June.   So in July and August, no money went into my bank account.    Another change was that in Scotland my teaching timetable went from Monday to Friday, whereas in Merritt the timetable was organised in seven-day blocks, so if it began on a Monday, it ended on the Tuesday of the next week then the cycle began again.   Also, if necessary, all teachers were expected to be able to teach any subject to any class and not just their specialist subjects.    For example, in my first year there I had to teach General Business 11 to Grade 11 (the equivalent of our 4th year secondary) which was really the economic geography of British Columbia.   But it did mean I rapidly learned all about the province.

                              And I became used to the large helpings of food beloved of North Americans.   At one of my first meals, I spied lamb chops on the menu.   Well, I thought, that at least is familiar.   I ordered it.   It came on what we would call an ashet, a large oval dish, with three chops standing almost upright, with a slice of toast in between each, and a large baked potato with the obligatory ample helping of sour cream.

                              All these new beginnings were way back in 1967 but new beginnings at any time for anyone are to be thoroughly recommended.

                              Nancy Sanderson

                              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.

                              Tuesday 13 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.

                              Monday 3 September, 2018

                              Rovers Weekend Sunday Activities

                              The Rovers Training Weekend Sunday activities commenced with a presentation by Iris on “Getting by in Glasgow – A Rough (very rough) Guide”. This was a humorous explanation of some colourful expressions used in Glasgow.

                              Colin followed this up with a talk on the North Riding dialect including a little quiz in which we had to try to guess the correct definition of a dialect word.

                              After a coffee break, Linda had us try to pair up word and origin. To make this more fun we all had to wear a paper hat with a slot to take a piece of paper bearing a word or an origin of a word and we had to find a partner with the corresponding word or origin.

                              Ruth led a workshop on how to say ‘no’ when one wishes to refuse a request to do something.

                              Margaret brought proceedings to an end with a winding-up and evaluation session.

                              Monday 3 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.

                              Wednesday 8 August, 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 8 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.

                              Wednesday 23 May, 2018

                              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?

                              Monday 23 January, 2012

                              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


                              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.

                              Friday 10 May, 2013

                              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.

                              Saturday 16 July, 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).

                              Saturday 16 July, 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

                              Friday 9 September, 2011

                              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!

                              Friday 9 September, 2011

                              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.

                              Friday 11 June, 2010

                              Ten Top Tips Effective Delegation.

                              1. Choose the Right Person.

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

                              2. Give Compliments.

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

                              3. Define the Results You Expect.

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

                              4. Emphasize the Purpose of Achieving the Objectives.

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

                              5. Ensure There are Adequate Resources

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

                              6. Introduce Control Systems.

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

                              7. Establish a Measurement of Success.

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

                              8. Offer Support

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

                              9. Delegate the Responsibility.

                              But allow a margin for minor mistakes in judgement.

                              10. Empower with Sufficient Authority.

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

                              Tuesday 30 March, 2010


                              GREAT BRITAIN REGION BOARD MEETING.

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

                              Thursday 25 February, 2010

                              LISTENING SKILLS

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

                              Sunday 10 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

                              Sunday 10 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.

                              Friday 5 October, 2018

                              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.