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  • 08 Apr 2016 11:50 AM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    A refresher on Storytelling 101

    JD Schramm

    At bedtime, I tell stories to my godchildren, Anna and Noah, when their parents invite me to care for them. Their capacity for stories amazes me. They beg for “just one more” and then “just one more.” It seems we are wired to enjoy a well- told story. 

    And as we grow up, we do not lose our thirst for stories. I work with future leaders at Stanford to help them develop compelling stories that achieve their management goals — and I’ve developed a seven-part formula for storytelling success in presentations and business meetings. 

    Parachute in, don’t preamble. The best storytellers draw us immediately into the action. They capture our attention and set the tone for a unique audience experience. Avoid opening with “I’d like to tell you a story about a time when I learned...” Instead, drop us into the action and draw the lesson out later. 

    Choose first and final words carefully. We never get a second chance to make a good first impression. One needn’t memorize the story, but great leaders know the first and final words cold ... and can deliver them without hesitation. Take advantage of the impact of a powerful opening and conclusion. 

    Follow the “Goldilocks” theory of details. Give us “just the right amount.” If you give too many details, we get lost, or worse, bored. If you don’t give us enough detail, we may lack the context to grasp the story fully or to see ourselves inside your tale. If possible, test out your story with a few friends who have a similar background to your audience; let them help you discern the right level of detail. 

    Focus your delivery on "one person with one thought."

    When speaking to a group, focus on one person at a time, for four to seven seconds. As you tell your story, try to connect with each individual if possible. Don't wash you eye contact over the crowd like a lighthouse, but actually connect with individuals. Consider even ""casting" a member of the audience as a character in your story as you tell it.

    Consider the power of poetry. Use fewer words to carry more meaning. My high school English teacher, Mr. Wessling, used the analogy of the “magic grain truck” to educate us about poetry. He said “imagine if a magic truck allowed a farmer to haul seven times the amount of grain that a normal truck usually holds?” (Can you tell I grew up in Kansas?) We developed a long list of benefits such a truck would provide: fewer trips, less fuel, more free time, etc. Then he concluded: “Well boys that’s what poetry is. Using just a few carefully chosen and arranged words to carry much more meaning than their usual weight.” That imagery from over three decades ago reminds me of the power of poetry. 

    Use silence for impact and emphasis. When a composer writes the score for a symphony she places a rest in the music when silence is called for. That rest is as much a part of the music as the notes. Silence is a powerful and underutilized 

    storytelling tool. Matt May elaborates on this point in his recent HBR post. Intentional silence draws emphasis to what was just said or what is about to come and allows others to contribute their own interpretations. 

    Know your AIM. Who is your Audience, what is your Intent, and what is your Message? Using this simple framework from Mary Munter and Lynn Russell’s book Guide to Presentations assures that the message is clear, captures the audience, and motivates your desired action.

    A leader who deploys these seven strategies will deliver a more artful and meaningful story. 

    Here are two examples. Recently the noted author Jeffrey Kluger appeared on Late Night Live with Seth Myers to plug his new book on narcissism. He effectively uses these seven

    principles to deliver two concise stories in less than five minutes. One story is about his interaction with astronaut Jim Lovell while writing Apollo 13, and his second story is about meeting President Clinton in the oval office. In both short examples he provides just enough detail for us to grasp the setting. While many of us have never been in the oval office, Jeff makes it easy for us to imagine what it felt like and see why the President’s actions had such an impact on him.

    For an example of storytelling within a presentation, I’d suggest looking at Mark Bezos’s 2011 TED Talk: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter. Bezos tells a powerful story, complete with props, in three minutes. In particular his choice of final words, “Save the shoes” serves as a concise and poetic summary of his message. He also chose very deliberately which details of the fire to share, and what to ignore. We know the homeowner is outside, under an umbrella and barefoot; but we don’t know the street name or style of home that is ablaze. Bezos provides only what we need for the story’s point to be made.

    Stories can be compelling and entertaining. Stories can teach and influence. Stories make our messages memorable. Use these seven strategies to hone and polish your storytelling skills, and achieve the results you seek as a leader and communicator.

    JD Schramm is a Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (Blog post, October, 2014) 

  • 06 Apr 2016 10:30 AM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    Humorously Speaking

    Alison White 

    You want to present a humorous speech, but don’t know where to start? Many people are afraid of using humour and a lot of speakers, even some of the best and most experienced, are among their number. For the minority of people seemingly born with a well-developed sense of humour, read no further you lucky son-of-a-gun! However for the majority not so favoured, there is science and art that you can employ to help overcome any deficit in your humour quotient.

    For a humorous speech you can select a topic in one of three ways. You may have a true but humorous story which you want to expand into a speech, or you may have a joke or anecdote that you can expand to make a funny story. The third is to select a topic and then research material for a humorous speech. This is not unlike choosing a topic for any speech.

    Humour must be relevant to your audience. What went over well in the locker room after the game will probably be most unsuitable for the church ladies guild. It is also important that your topic can be understood by the audience. It’s no use having very funny material about quantum physics, unless you are speaking to a group of quantum physicists. Give your topic scrutiny on both points.

    I find that the most simple and everyday topics are the best for humour. Think of all the everyday things that you do, such as walking the dog, catching the bus or going to the supermarket. Because these events are so very common, there will be a lot of material available and your audience will be able to relate to the topic. Then ‘brainstorm’ the topic, writing down everything you can think about it, even the most seemingly insignificant. Include any phrases that you can associate with the topic. This will give you a ‘helicopter’ overview and enable you to make links.

    You can further refine this by taking a single word from the brainstormed list and subject it to the same treatment. It’s amazing what connections and interactions can come from seeing all your ideas in front of you.

    Creating original material might give you the ‘edge’ with a speech and you can develop one-liners, jokes and joke toppers from your assembled words and phrases. Scrutinise them and see if you can come up with an association of words and ideas to make a one-liner. For example, if your topic was about a Rostrum meeting, your brainstormed words might include speeches (long and short), and interesting/boring. Making a connection of association here you could come up with: What his speech lacked in interest, it gained in length.

    To make original jokes for your speech, start with a statement of fact (SOF).

    With Rostrum all speeches are critiqued and sometimes these do not give an accurate account of the meeting and speeches. This can occasionally result in an unrealistic appraisal - or a ‘whitewash’ critique. (SOF) Joke: The Critic gave the speech, not so much a whitewash, but a super enzyme bleach. 

    Joke toppers are another original joke form that you can develop. They are usually in three parts. Start with a statement of fact:

    Rostrum has something called The Pertinent Question. (SOF)

    Joke: Wow I thought, I have been asked many impertinent questions before, but never a pertinent one.
    Joke topper: For my first PQ I was asked what President Obama should do in response to Putin invading Crimea? Invade Canada was my reply. 

    Alright, a lot of the above humour might be viewed as corny. Well a lot of humour is corny if you examine it forensically. It is how it is used by the speaker that makes the difference. One of my favourite comedians was Bob Hope, the master of corny, but how good was he? I have seen speakers and comedians with great material go over like a lead balloon and those with relatively corny material bring down the house. It all depends on the delivery.

    The internet comes in great use. Get as many quotations, anecdotes and jokes relating to the topic as possible. Also look for jokes that are not related to the topic, but might be adapted. Just because a joke or anecdote is about air travel and your speech is about bush walking, does not mean that there isn’t the possibility of adaptation. Look at cartoons which are related, or can be adapted, to your topic for they are a pictorial joke and may contain usable material

    Humour owes much to plagiarism; however, any joke, anecdote or quotation that has a known author, should be acknowledged.

    Exaggeration is another way to add humour. When lifting a heavy object my back went so far out it required its own passport.

    Use self-deprecation where possible. Always turn the joke or the anecdote against yourself and make yourself the butt of the story. 

    Humour...should be gently blended into the material to give it some lightness,
    and the listeners an investment in listening to you. 

    In presenting a humorous speech there are several issues to keep in mind. First make sure that your voice is loud enough to be heard. This is good advice for any speech, but particularly important with humour. It’s no use having the best humorous material and jokes in the world, if no one can hear them. No one will listen if they can’t hear and the audience will start to get restless. You will note that comicsparticularly stand-upsusually have a loud voice. This is so as to be heard in noisy venues, and also as a weapon of audience control. Not only can he/she be heard through the distractions that come with a public venue, the comic can control any hecklers by drowning them out.

    Make sure that you leave sufficient time to pause in key places to give the material the most impact; a pause in the right place is invaluable comedic technique. A pause in other places allows time for humour to take effect and gives the audience time to laugh. If you don’t give sufficient time for audience laughter, you may go overtime. Practise the  material with your long-suffering friends and family and have them make suggestions for pauses.

    If your topic lends itself to costuming, go for it (visual humour). If you are talking about gardening, wear gardening clothes and carry secateurs. If the topic is about parties, wear a party hat and carry balloons and streamers. I do hope that no one is going to talk about their visit to a nudist colony!

    Exude confidence. This is good advice for any speech, but with humour you will lose your audience almost immediately if you are seen to be nervous. In an ordinary speech you have time to regain ground as your confidence builds, but with humour you are probably lost from the start as confidence and humour are blood brothers.

    Give your speech a humorous title, so that you can get people laughing before you even start your speech. I once gave a humorous speech about a serious operation I once had, which I called Tumour Humour. Another humorous speech I once heard, about sailing around the Mediterranean, was titled, Don’t Knock the Rock.

    I believe using humour in all speeches is a must. I think that every speech, even the most serious of topics should contain at least three items of humour, placed strategically at the beginning, middle and end. This is a minimum requirement and more should be used if possible.

    When using humour in an ordinary speech, many of the same research activities applyof researching jokes, anecdotes and quotations, developing original material, and in presentation. However, once again, it is very important that the humour is relevant to your topic. People will listen to a speech that contains humour even if it is a topic that is of little interest to them. Also, if your topic is controversial, what better way to get people to listen to a different viewpoint, but through humour?

    Using humour in a general speech is not about having the audience thigh-slapping, belly-laughing and rolling in the aisles. It should be gently blended into the material to give it some lightness and the listeners an investment in listening to you.

    Good luck and leave ‘em laughing as you exit the podium. 

    Alison White lives in Mandurah and is a former member of Rostrum Club 51 (Dongara-Dennison). She is the daughter of the late Freeman Ted Joll, who was a Rostrum member for over 40 years. She is the author of LOL (Laugh Out Loud) the Science and Art of Humour ISBN 978 1 84963 222 5 

  • 04 Apr 2016 2:10 PM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    In a variety of communication situations, less is better. For example, if you are using a PowerPoint presentation, don’t put 50 words on a slide. A PowerPoint slide is not the place to include the script of your message. Instead, create bulleted slides. A good reminder is the 6 by 6 rule: no more than six words in a line and six lines on a slide. That will ensure that you give more information than the audience will see on the slide. You remain necessary. Otherwise, your PowerPoint gives the whole message in a boring and tedious manner.

    Don’t give a lengthy answer to a “yes” or “no” question. When a person asks you a “yes” or “no” question, a “yes” or “no” is all the person is asking for. You can give a 30- second message when a question begins with “What do you think...”, “How do you feel...” or “How do you...?”

    If you are speaking impromptu, don’t say too much. A couple of minutes are enough to relate your opinion or directions that you have not thought through before beginning to speak. The longer you speak the more likely you are to make a statement that you’ll regret. In addition, the longer you speak impromptu the more likely you are to start to ramble.

    When you are near the end of a 20-minute presentation and you realise you have another five minutes of excellent material, don’t keep talking. Go to your conclusion and sit down. The audience will never know what excellent material you had yet to cover and will think you are a well-organised and effective speaker because you finished on time.

    When introducing a speaker, keep your thoughts under two minutes. Remember that you are not the headliner; the audience came to hear the person you are introducing, not you. This is not the place for a joke or what happened to you on the way to the auditorium. Tell the subject of the presentation, why the audience should listen, and what qualifies the speaker on that particular topic for that audience. Finally, give the speaker’s name with enthusiasm and sit down.

    Make every word count. Speak your message in as few words as possible. This will encourage you to concentrate on the message. We live in a society of words—too many words and often words that do not count. “You know” “and everything”, “stuff”, and “let me be frank”, are typical, and as a result you get lazy with your thought process and struggle to focus. Before you speak, think how to say your message as concisely as possible.


    “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out”

    George Orwell (1903-1950) British author ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    One of the reasons we remember the words spoken when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon is because they were brief and succinct. You can probably still quote them. “Houston, Tranquillity Base. The eagle has landed.” And then, “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.” There were no unnecessary words.

    [Former US President] Calvin Coolidge was a man of few words. A young woman sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party confided to him she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly responded, “You lose.” Often it is not the length, but the conciseness with which you speak that makes the message have meaning.

    Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky

  • 22 Mar 2016 9:46 AM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    Are you new to Rostrum or need a refresher on the basics?

    Speak up Speak out (SUSO) is a three hour short course designed to give new and prospective members an introduction to Rostrum and to cover the basics of speech preparation and presentation in a friendly and supportive environment.

    Date: 5th of April 2016

    Time: 6.30pm to 9.30pm

    CostFREE for Rostrum members and $60.00 for non-members with $50.00 of this payment being used towards Rostrum membership if non-members join within 3 months.

    Class size: 12 maximum.

    Venue: Wembley Community Centre, 40 Alexander Street Wembley.

    RSVP: 1st of April 2016 by replying to this email (Rostrum Information Centre).

    Need more details or are you completing your Advanced Development Program and would like to help with training delivery? contact Jo Turbett 0411 024 673 or jowanne@iinet.net.au.

  • 13 Mar 2016 7:55 PM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    SAVE THE DATE!   Tuesday, 10th May 2016

    ROSTRUM CLUB 15 is pleased to host its 3rd


    When?                TUESDAY, 10th MAY 2016   6.00 pm – 9.30 pm

    Where?               HOCKEY CLUB, CURTIN UNIVERSITY

    What?                 Comedy Speech Contest and Humorous Debate

    Bookings?           Details to follow                        

    We are seeking entrants in the Comedy Speech Contest.

    Great prizes - 

    First prize: $250        

    Runner up: $100

    Great fun!  Why not give it a go?


    Enquiries?            Ellita De Nardi at Club 15   elited@iinet.net.au


  • 03 Mar 2016 5:25 PM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    Being able to confidently speak on stage is one of the most rewarding and scary experiences you can have. Being able to hold the undivided attention of a large group of people as you share your thoughts and ideas is a massive privilege and a skill that takes work, time and effort.

    Here are a few Rostrum WA public speaking tips to help you confidently deliver your next presentation and keep your audience members engaged.


    1. Tell great stories 

    When giving a presentation stories are fantastic for engaging the audience and keeping them focused. Think of stories that you can tell which are both interesting to the audience but also have a lesson to be learned. Everyone has stories that they can tell, but not all stories resonate with the audience. Think about whether your story will relate to the audience? When you settle on a good one, deliver it with passion.


    2. Don’t read your presentation

    Whatever you do, when giving a public presentation, do not read you presentation word for word from a laptop, your phone or an A4 piece of paper. Speaking in front of an audience can be nerve-racking and you probably have put a lot of time and effort into your speech and don’t want to miss anything important. But there is no quicker way of sending your audience members to sleep. Give the audience members the respect they deserve and practice your presentation to make sure that you know what you are talking about. It is ok to have some palm cards with an outline of your speech in case you get lost and it all else fails give them a quick glance or check your PowerPoint slides so that you can get your speech back on track. The worst thing that you can do is sound like a robot in front of a crowd and fail to engage with the individual members of the audience.


    3. Video yourself before your speech

    We have cameras on all our phones now so getting your hands on some video footage is not hard. It might seem embarrassing but no one else has to see it. Lock yourself in your room if you have to, but set up the camera, hit record and practice your speech. This is the best way to self assess and see where you are falling down in your presentation. If you are feeling brave, practice the speech in front of your partner, or close friends and get their feedback as well. All else fails you can just show them the video.


    4. Don’t be a slave to stats and quotes 

    You have got something interesting and important to say. Don’t bombard your audience with boring statistics and quotes. This will also be a sure fire way to send them of to sleep and fail to get them engaged with your content. People want to hear your perspective, not statistics from websites or quotes from other people. One or two is fine to promote a talking point, but do not base your whole presentation around stats and quotes.


    5. Be energetic! 

    To keep your audience engaged you need to have a certain element of entertainment in your speech. If you are passionate about the topic you are presenting on, then the energy should naturally flow. Research your topic well enough so that you are full bottle and confident enough to feel as if “you know it all”. This self- confidence will make you feel like the subject matter expert and will translate into a higher level of energy as you present to your audience.


    6. You don’t have to tell jokes. 

    Engaging your audience with an entertaining presentation doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be telling jokes all of the time. Don’t try and be something that you are not whilst on stage. You don’t need to tell a joke to make your audience laugh. If you wouldn’t usually tell a joke in front of an audience, during your presentation isn’t necessarily a good place to start. If you do want to put a bit of humor into your presentation, it doesn’t need to be in the form of a blatant “joke”. It can be done through some topical humor or a self deprecating throw away line that will get a smirk ok your audience members faces.


    7. Be yourself 

    It sounds cliché, but this is the most important step in public speaking. It is absolutely important to remember to be yourself. You are unique and you have a unique point of view that people are here to see. If you try and be something that you are not, you will stumble and fall and the audience will see right through it. Just relax, do your research and speak from the heart. The more you act like yourself, the more confident you will appear and the more the audience will be able to relate to you.

    Hopefully these public speaking tips will help you prepare for your next presentation. If you want to learn more about how Rostrum WA can help you with your public speaking and communication skills, head over to the Rostrum WA Club page to find out where and when your local Rostrum WA club meets. 

  • 26 Feb 2016 11:10 AM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    The answers to each of the following clues are a rhyming pair of words, for example:


    Answer: COOL POOL

    12  ENROL LAD
    13  EXULT TALE

    The Answers will be published in the next issue of the Informer. Too easy for you? the next one will be more difficult!

  • 24 Feb 2016 11:05 AM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    Program Directions are ideas for more imaginative speaking exercises to enable members to develop their communication.


    Some of the most enjoyable and challenging exercises involve role-playing: inviting speakers to imagine themselves into different personalities, times or circumstances. In this exercise each speaker should present a speech appropriate to one of the following purposes or situations:

    1. Resigningfromanorganisation.

    2. Pleading guilty.

    3. Demanding immediate action.

    4. Calming an angry crowd.

    5. Laying down the law.

    6. Sacking an employee.

    7. Introducing unwelcome changes.

    8. Encouragingloyalfollowers.

    9. Issuinganofficialdenial.

    10. Dividing us into groups and telling us what to do next.

    Each speaker is asked to pretend that he/she is actually experiencing the situation while giving the speech. For the duration of that speech, the audience will be addressed as the jury, a sports team, a press conference or whatever else is appropriate to the occasion.

    These exercises work much more effectively if the speaker is encouraged not to ‘set the scene’ before beginning (‘Now, I’m a bank manager, and I’ve been very worried about this employee, so you have to imagine I’ve called him into my office...’). The speaker should go straight into character from the beginning and make the circumstances clear from the content of his/her speech.

    Themed Situationals

    A variant on the Situational is to program a number of these speeches into a common theme. This is a great way to build the sense of special occasion, and get speakers to co-operate and interact in their presentation. Some suggestions include:

    1. A wedding, in which members are assigned the parts of Bride, Groom, Minister, Best Man, Mother of the Bride and so on. This could be spiced up to include the jilted ex-lover or a former spouse (or spouses).

    2. AmeetingoftheCity/ShireCouncildebatingsome contentious issue relating to local government.

    3. Atrial,requiringajudge,adefendant,witnessesand lawyers. This scenario could be played out in any country (galaxy?), in the past or in the future.

    4. A mutiny on the International Space Station, where growing dissatisfaction with tasteless, pre-packaged food has erupted into rebellion with demands for a cordon-bleu chef to be sent aloft. Participants might include an International Arbitrator as Chairman, the CEO of the company supplying the food, the Station Commander, a representative of NASA ground control, and a French chef on standby for take-off.

    5. A meeting called by the AFL Executive to try to clear the air between newcomers the Tasmanian Devils, who have not lost a game, and the Players’ Association, amid rumours about performance enhancing drugs. The club maintains it has developed a special diet, exercises and training regime but refuses to give details. Participants could include club coach, club manager, Head of the Players’ Association, the longest serving coach and others. 

    The possibilities are endless. The important points are that the background and role of the various characters should be made very clear; all the participants are encouraged to immerse themselves (including dressing the part and bringing appropriate props); and the speakers should talk with each other beforehand to sort out the basic ideas so that everything runs smoothly. Ideally the audience should be given some kind of role to play.

    Role-playing exercises challenge speakers to step beyond any personal limits they may have set for themselves (‘I couldn’t possibly do that ...’), can involve everyone at the meeting, and they’re loads of fun!

    Compiled, with modification, from material originally developed by Rob Lock (49) and Pam Clarke (1/2). 

  • 22 Feb 2016 10:49 AM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    A new year begins and as we get back into work and other activities our Rostrum year gets underway. In my email message a few weeks ago I suggested ways in which you could make your Rostrum experience more meaningful. As well as enjoying your weekly meetings and taking on roles in your club, most people find it rewarding to venture outside the comfort zone of their own club.

    For a start, come along to the first Dais meeting of the year on Friday 19 February, 6 30 for a 7pm start at the Wembley Recreation Centre. Dais is the governing body of Rostrum WA and anyone is free to attend the quarterly meetings and hear what is happening. Only your club Dais representatives can vote, but anyone can speak.

    After the meeting we will be conducting a training session for club programme directors. The plan is to give PDs techniques for managing their role more efficiently, plus ideas for varied, interesting meetings. This is important not only to retain existing members but to attract visitors and convert them into members.

    The quality of meetings is absolutely vital in increasing our membership – our number one priority. We can have all the advertising campaigns in the world but if they succeed to the point of drawing in visitors, who are then put off by a boring or badly run meeting, then we have failed.

    As well, there is a critic’s training course in late February/early March. Make this the year you finally take the plunge and train as a critic.

    There are many other ways in which all members can support and improve Rostrum, including talking about it in your private and professional lives, directly or through social media. Club 2230 had six visitors at its first meeting, most of whom had come along through personal recommendation.

    Another of my more prosaic goals for the year is that everyone – members and club executives – becomes more familiar with Rostrum WA’s constitution and regulations. I know, it sounds utterly boring but the more knowledgeable everyone is, the more effectively (and cost effectively) the Dais Board and the Rostrum Information Centre can manage your affairs. 

    For instance, time has been wasted this year on clubs requesting exemptions for re-joining members, life members and older, unwell members. The rules are quite clear – everyone pays fees unless they are one of the very few people who are Rostrum WA life members. Clubs may make someone a club life member, but the club is then responsible for paying their fees to Dais. I’m sure it is obvious that these regulations are only fair to the vast majority of members who pay their fees every semester.

    I am really looking forward to the year ahead and I wish you all well.

    Freeman Sue Hart, President, Rostrum WA 

  • 21 Feb 2016 10:45 AM | Elliott Chipper (Administrator)

    Felicity Higgs (Club 15) was presented with the John Barton Trophy by Club President Freeman Wayne Passmore at the end of year function in December, for her win in Foothills Club 11's South of the River Speaking Competition in June.

    Felicity joined Rostrum early in 2015. She entered the competition for new Rostrum members to further develop her communication skills, particularly addressing a large audience, and admitted she'd never had had the courage to enter a speaking competition before joining Rostrum.

    Currently studying for her Master by Research degree in Education, Felicity went on to compete as a finalist in ECU's Three Minute Thesis Competition in September with her research pitch on student-teacher relationships. 

    Well done Felicity!

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