No sex, No politics, No religion

Fellow public speakers,

I was at the Glasgow Speakers’ Club last night.

As usual it was rare fun.

I even managed to win the topics trophy for the evening – an even rarer treat!

The club is the oldest surviving in the UK and the first member of the Association of Speakers’ Clubs (ASC) – it is 80 years old this year.

It is also a fine place of learning: talent abounds. Glasgow is a city of speakers, debaters, and rich political ferment.

Like all clubs it has its rules and one of the most important is that there is no talk of politics, sex or religion.

The focus is on craft skills and creating an environment supportive of that.

But one of the key parts of speaking is a command of English language and the use of rhetorical tools and figures of speech. These elements are, at best, glossed over within the speaking club community.

And yet, even a basic knowledge of these elements can help to transform an ordinary speech.

No sex, No politics, No religion.

Non, Non, Non.

Education, Education, and Education.

Three examples of the same thing: anaphora, the use of a repeated word or phrase at the beginning of a series of clauses.

The great thing is, there are hundreds of figures of speech. Some are commonly known like metaphors, similes, and alliteration. Others like anaphora are known far less so but the idea of repetition is easily understood.

Making a speech should be fun.

Learning a new figure of speech every day is not that onerous a task.

But when you begin to play with these figures of speech something great begins to happen – a fresher, more professional sounding future speech emerges.

All you have to do is explore what rhetoric and the figures of speech have to offer you.

And it is a lot more than No sex, No politics, and No religion.

Every great speaker (or their speechwriter) understood rhetoric: Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Rev Martin Luther King Jr and Barack Obama to name but a limited few.

It is time you understood it too.

And if you want to know more simply get in touch with me.

Have a great week ahead folks,

Bobby

 

 

 

 

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Now is the time to Speak from the Heart

Today, more so than ever before, men and women around the world are speaking up.

Words have become their defence.

For some, it is all they have.

Every day these people experience gross injustice, horrible insults, media manipulation and political decision making by those with vested interests. And sadly, the truth is the first casualty of this manipulation.

Brexit comes readily to mind: ‘An extra £350M per week to the NHS’.

As does the notion of Mexicans paying for an American built wall.

Or that Nicola Sturgeon is ‘The most dangerous woman in Britain’.

Manipulation to win folks over is as old as original sin.

Once you have sold folks the biggest lie you can sell them anything there after; they’ll even defend your insanity and argue for you against those pointing out legitimate holes in your arguments.

Win at all costs: It is a mantra more prevalent than it has ever been.

And this is where the connection with public speaking comes in: To be a capable speaker, one who is able to truly inspire, requires heart, but it also requires sound knowledge of sophistry and rhetoric and how these devices are used by arch manipulators to win their arguments. It is only then that one can see through the mists of deception and be able to counter falsehoods and manipulation with confidence.

And so, if you want to have a fighting chance in this modern, manipulative world learn to stand up and speak from the heart: a well spoken truth shines light on lies, deceit and manipulation.

Learning to Speak from the Heart will be the best decision you ever make.

It will be the best decision for the rest of us too.

So dear folks, keep standing up and speaking up; but most of all keep Speaking from the Heart.

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Bill McLaren: “The Voice of Rugby.”

Fellow Speaker,

On Monday I celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. Today, just two days later, I find myself mourning the loss of one of Scotland’s favourite sons: Bill McLaren. Bill was a BBC legend, a rugby sports commentator sans compare, knowledgeable, passionate and totally unbiased over his 50 years of service. I never met the man in real life but like so many of you wish I had. Instead, I knew him through his television and radio commentary of international rugby, bringing the beautiful game to life with his fluent, vivid language: “As slippery as a baggy (a little fish) in a Border burn” – his poetic description of the then Scottish scrum-half Gary Armstrong. Quite simply for fortunate and successive generations Bill McLaren was “The Voice of Rugby.” Here is what Finlay Calder, Scottish internationalist, had to say on hearing of his death:

“He was “The Voice of Rugby,” and it was a beautiful voice as well, so easy to listen to. I think that was a huge part of his appeal.” (The Scotsman)

Despite the sadness I feel today I know there is so much as a public speaker to take from Bill’s life: his use of voice (gifted), his words and poetic description of play, his pace and pause in commentary, his overwhelming passion and the time he took in preparation. In death Bill McLaren reminds you and me of the key to success in public performance: God Bless “The Voice of Rugby.”

Bobby Livingston
Founder
The Speakers College

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I HAVE A DREAM

Fellow Speaker,

Today, 18th January 2010, is Martin Luther King Jr Day in the USA. His most famous speech is remembered as – I HAVE A DREAM.

You will understand why this day is observed if you turn back the clock of time to 28th August 1963 and set the co-ordinates to Washington DC where you will find yourself standing in the symbolic shadow of the Lincoln memorial overlooking the shoulders of Martin Luther King Jr. Shortly he will deliver the speech of a lifetime – I HAVE A DREAM. It is a balmy late August afternoon and legitimate grievance has bubbled, frothed,  festered for months, and in the intoxicating miasma of hundreds of thousands of protesters (black and white) emotions stir and peak and trough in response to the words of consecutive speakers. And with expectations sky plus high and with the weight of the world on his shoulders the final speaker Martin Luther King Jr now rises to deliver a truly awesome public speaking performance – I HAVE A DREAM.

Interestingly (and historically accurate), it isn’t until circa three-quarters of the way into his speech that he unleashes a paraphrased form of a speech (about a dream) he has given many times before in cramped church halls, on soapboxes, and in meeting rooms. Why does he do this? Simply, he is challenged from the crowd by Gospel singer and close friend Mahalia Jackson to “Tell them about your dream Martin” and in this instant he comes off-script and instead seamlessly follows her advice by regaling his audience with the story of his dream for mankind. In this precious moment when he decides to speak from his heart he becomes physically transformed – his notes go down, he has strong, bold arm movements and a powerful voice – and his speech, which in retrospect could so easily have been forgotten is lifted to new heights and transformed into the simply unforgettable. It is the speech of a lifetime: I HAVE A DREAM.

At The Speakers’ College the most important and cornerstone lesson in learning how to speak is not about how to hold your notes or construct your speech or use your voice (important as these elements are); instead it is for you to learn to speak from your heart as Martin Luther King Jr so brilliantly did in 1963. Or, if I may in turn paraphrase the words of the greatly lamented Martin Luther King Jr: “I say to you today, my friends, so even though you face the challenges of public speaking today and tomorrow – I still have a dream, a dream where all speakers will one day learn that magnificent speech only happens when you dare to speak from the heart.” I HAVE A DREAM.

Note:

Hear this fabulous speech via YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbUtL_0vAJk

Bobby Livingston
Founder
The Speakers College

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A Christmas Carol?

Fellow Speaker,

When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol he created one of the most memorable characters in literature – Ebenezer Scrooge, and consequently he hasn’t been out of print since his book was first published on 19th December 1843. 166 years later and you might wonder what this interesting nugget of wisdom has to do with you as a practising public speaker. The answer is simple: all great speakers have a message that is memorable. In Charles Dickens’s case he did this through the quality of his writing. In particular,  and central to his plot, he created Ebenezer Scrooge – a character so strong you can see, touch, smell and hear his every word and breath as if he were there for real in front of you. As a public speaker this is something you need to learn to do too – to use language that brings your message to life. In speakers clubs they call this using “word pictures” e.g. which is more alive to you, using the phrase “a busy crowd” or instead describing it as a “heaving cacophony?” The more you use language that brings your message to life, the more time you spend getting into the characters or emotions of your plot (message), the greater the chance your next speech will be remembered for all the right reasons instead of being forgotten for all the wrong ones. All public speakers can learn from great writers for this simple reason: all great speeches must first of all be written! So this festive season why not pick up a copy of A Christmas Carol, learn from the master, enjoy his craft, but most of all – next time you deliver a speech make sure you put your creative pen to paper first!      

Merry Christmas!

Bobby Livingston
Founder
The Speakers College

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SILENCE is GOLDEN

Fellow Speaker,

When you speak remember this: SILENCE is GOLDEN.

On Remembrance Sunday I attended Newlands South Church in my home town of Glasgow. The minister, Rev. John D Whiteford, conducted the morning service. In addressing the boys and girls of the Scouts and Brownies he explained why we wear a poppy in our lapel for Armistice Day. He told them we observe two minutes of silence and that in the silence we hear so much more than we do in the daily noise of life and thunder of war. He paused for effect giving me (and the congregation) a few seconds to question why this was the case. And in the silence I could hear my own mind working. I was aware of my feelings – the sadness, the anger, the utter waste of life and the fact it was still happening years after “the war to end all wars.” And as a public speaker I was thankful to the Rev. John D Whiteford for his deliberate pause, for reminding me in a very personal way that SILENCE is GOLDEN.

Bobby Livingston
Founder
The Speakers College

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Acting Skills for Public Speakers

Fellow Speaker,

Do you inspire others when you speak?

When a speaker inspires you you hang on their every word, you feel energised, refreshed, compelled to rise to the challenge for you know you too, through your words, can inspire. You’ve seen it in the eyes of a loved one comforted and the confident smile of a child once struggling with numbers and long division. You know you can inspire, you’ve known it for years, but what you haven’t known is how to convey your magnificent talent through your oral communication?

To achieve this requires you to learn the skill of the professional actor, though you need to be clear that acting does not mean pretending, instead, it is a method of externalising what is deeply held within. Acting for public speakers is in effect about working with your emotions, and in the process interpreting for others, connecting through your use of body movement, your facial expressions, hand gestures, and the resonance of your voice.

As a public speaker you become an actor the moment you are introduced to the podium. For many new to the experience of public speaking this is difficult to understand. Speaking and acting are surely different disciplines? Milo O. Frank said in “How to get your point across in 30 seconds – or less,” that a workshop participant once observed: “I thought I was here to learn how to communicate, not how to become an actor.” The truth, as this student discovered, is that inspiring public speaking is a form of acting in its own right.

Through SPEAK UP! you learn professional acting skills to: (1) ignite your hidden emotions and help interpret for others; (2) become more animated and compelling to watch; and (3) make your voice more powerful. When you have mastered this, just as Milo’s student learned, you’ll understand that through your acting skills you too are able to inspire others when you stand to speak.

Bobby Livingston
Founder
The Speakers College

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