Category Archives: Featured

Tips on giving a reading at a christening, wedding or funeral

Wedding reading

At some point in our lives most of us will be asked to give a reading at a ceremony such as a christening, wedding or funeral. It’s easy to think that giving a reading is a simple thing to do, after all, it is just ‘reading’ isn’t it?

In fact, it’s not as easy as it looks – if I simply read the text to you, it probably wouldn’t have much impact. How do you make a reading engaging for your audience and more than simply ‘reading’?

Here’s my top 5 tips for giving a reading:

1. Know what you are going to read off-by-heart. If you do, you won’t always have to look at the paper in front of you and can look up, make eye contact and engage with your audience.

2. Look for areas that you can ‘bring to life’. There might be parts of the reading that you can read slowly or with a varied volume for more impact, just as you would if you were reading a storybook to a child.

3. Identify why your reading is important to the ceremony you are reading it at. It might then be useful to introduce the reading before you start. For example, ‘I am reading this poem today because it is Mark and Sharon’s favourite poem and is very relevant on this special day’. Such a description will add to your reading and set the scene for your audience.

4. Don’t be afraid to show emotion. If you are giving a reading at a funeral it is natural to worry about if you can hold it together and not be overcome by emotion. This is perfectly natural and illustrates the importance of the reading to you and your audience. Your reading isn’t meant to without emotion, so don’t worry if you unintentionally show some!

5. Be loud and proud. If your audience can’t hear you, they cannot appreciate the reading. Be sure to project your voice and let them know how great your reading is – your audience would rather you were slightly too loud than completely inaudible!

Good luck!

Want help giving your reading?

If you would like training or coaching in giving a reading, please contact Rich here. Rich is happy to work with you in person or via video link to ensure that you deliver your reading in a meaningful and effective way, whatever the occasion!

Analysis Of Ed Miliband’s First Speech As Party Leader

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A perfect use of the old ‘rule of three’ in a political speech by Ed Miliband last year.

The rule of three involves the repetition of a key word, phrase or point, or sometimes even the use of three words beginning with the same letter or sound during a speech.

Doing this helps to emphasise key points, increase impact and make your speech more memorable. Ultimately you want your audience to remember your key points and if your points are made easier to remember by implementing the rule of three, its more likely your audience will recall your message and spread the word!

Check out from 0:52 when Ed Miliband talks about the new generation of Labour being different: ‘Different attitudes, different ideas, different ways of doing politics.’

Then also take a look at 2:50 onwards – ‘Optimistic about our country, optimistic about our World, optimistic about the power of politics’. At this point the rule of three helps Ed Miliband to make a strong conclusion to his speech and leave a key message in the minds of his audience. Top stuff.

What’s not so great about this speech?

Ed Miliband is hidden behind a lectern – its hard for him to convey huge amounts of emotion or passion from this position using his body. Instead, he has to settle with bending forward slightly as he becomes more passionate, which ends up just looking a little odd and off-putting for the audience!

Ed’s hand is also a little all over the place. The free hand is traditionally used by British politicians to emphasise key points – Tony Blair was a master at this. In Ed Miliband’s speech his hand is used at some very random times – at points when he doesn’t need it to emphasise or back-up his words. For example on the word ‘be’ near the beginning of the speech. As the speech goes on the hand movements improve and are incorporated well into the ‘optimistic’ conclusion mentioned earlier.

Anything else?

Take a look at 0:30 in to the video and see how Ed states ‘some people think I might be more left wing than him’. Which way does Ed step after this? To his right! Coincidence, subliminal messaging, unconscious reaction? You decide.

5 tips for increasing audience participation in training workshops

Public speaking tips tick

This afternoon I ran a training workshop focusing on blogging and blogging strategy. The session was three hours long, and I was keen to break up a talk of this length with some interactive breaks to help promote thinking around the topic and the application of the ideas I was presenting by the audience to their business.

I was fortunate enough to have a quite responsive audience who were keen to throw ideas around and discuss the points raised. It got me thinking though – what if I hadn’t had such a willing audience?

Here’s five quick tips to increase audience participation in training workshops.

1. Give your audience the chance to participate. It sounds so simple, but so many speakers and trainers do not design their talks with supporting activities, materials or breaks. Make the interactive parts a natural piece of the talk to avoid it feeling stilted.

2. If the audience are struggling with a task, or are not vocal, re-ask the question, reframe it, or ask them to apply it to a fictional scenario. Often, not talking about themselves or applying ideas to others encourages an audience to air more radical, forward-thinking views and shake off what they see to be their own limitations.

3. Always have your own answers. If the audience isn’t forthcoming with answers to your questions, give example answers from your own experience to help fuel the discussion or activity.

4. Make an ally. There will always be one character in the room that is more dominant than the rest of the audience, use this character to start discussions, use them as a conduit to get others talking. For example, ask the character of the group, ‘what would (other member of the group) think about this, in your opinion?”. Once the character has given his/her opinion, the person in question will no doubt respond and a conversation begin.

5. Bring a thought provoker. If it’s not going well and it seems nothing will inspire your audience or get them animated, always have some relevant and thought provoking videos/images/concepts to present to them to really switch the whole atmosphere of the session and reframe the thought processes behind their thinking on your topic.

These were my first five thoughts after my workshop today – has anyone else any lessons that they have discovered in increasing audience participation in training workshops?

David Cameron’s speech 11th May

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David Cameron has been lauded for his ability to win over voters and project a personality through his speaking in a way that Gordon Brown could not. But how was this reflected in his first speech as Prime Minister on the 11th May 2010?

As the content of Cameron’s speech is difficult to judge without any form of bias (we all have different views on the outcome of the general election), lets take a look at his technique.

Cameron’s speech on the 11th May was an opportunity to use his body and voice to further illustrate the ‘personal touch’ that helped him to win the election over Gordon Brown and set the tone for the next four or five years of his reign. In my opinion, it was an opportunity missed.

Hands – Cameron clearly anchors his hands together throughout the speech. This is a great technique for the nervous speaker or a speaker who has a habit of fidgeting. Clasping your hands together in this way avoids them distracting your audience from your face and voice and avoids appearing nervous.

However, Cameron is an experienced speaker and so I would have liked to have seen him make greater use of his hands and arms to open himself up to his audience and involve them more. The most extravagant hand gesture we see in this speech is a movement of the left hand as Cameron makes key points.

By opening up both hands, and using slightly wider gestures, Cameron could have appeared more personable and opened himself up to his audience more. This isn’t to say I recommend that he should be flailing his arms widely, just expanding his gestures slightly to avoid his hands being concealed by the microphone in front of him.

Tone – Whilst on the campaign trail, we saw some inspiring videos of Cameron speaking to groups and varying the tone of his voice at key points to hammer home important and emotion-stirring points. This doesn’t happen so much in this speech and it is slightly weaker for it.

A strong, tone of voice even on one single point at the end of this speech could have left the media audience with an inspirational message to project in news bulletins across the world for the coming days.

Of course, after a long month of campaigning, negotiating and meeting the Queen, we cannot be too harsh on David Cameron, especially as his speech was very impromptu and probably prepared on his car journey from the palace!

It will be interesting to see how his speaking style develops and varies during the good and bad times to come over the next few years.