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Blogs October 2004

October 31, 2004

A few final thoughts before I take a break from blogging and hurl myself head first into National Novel Writing Month...

The best way to take on a large and seemingly daunting task is to break it up into small, manageable chunks. Instead of focusing on writing 50,000 words in 30 days, I can look at writing 1,667 words each day. By focusing on the small goals, I can pace myself and steadily reach my target.

Another way is to make the effort and not worry about mistakes. When I'm whizzing through getting as many words on the page as I can, I can't worry about typos and imperfect phrasing. I can go back and correct the changes when I have time to focus completely on them.

How many times have we been stymied because we feel overwhelmed by the goal we seek or get frustrated by the smallest mistake?

If you want to see an example of this, watch that new reality TV show on NBC, The Biggest Loser. That show makes a competition of losing weight, which is the worst possible way to do it. Last week, the contestants felt ashamed that their weight loss was not as great as the previous week, when they lost most of their water weight from starving and over-exercising. One man burst into tears when he gained three pounds. A better approach is to work steadily towards changing behaviors and let the end result take care of itself.

See, I've written 278 words in just six minutes! Proof that if you just focus on whatever you seek to do, you can get a lot accomplished in a short time.

October 25, 2004

When I didn't think SPAM could get any lower (if all the cheap knockoff Rolex watches and gray market software weren't low enough), I got an e-mail with the following subject line. (Excuse the language, but I had to show the exact wording so you can get the full effect.)

if your credit is shit, we can help you get a mortgage

Now, isn't that nice, professional language from a financial services agency? Doesn't this sound like some place you would entrust with your bank account and Social Security numbers?

Proof again that words build our image. Choose the right words to fit the right message.

October 13, 2004

Wipe your mouth, George.

I watched the third and final presidential debate (or what is labeled as a debate). There were several things that bothered me about the debate, regardless of the political point of view.

  • It looked like President Bush had something in the corner of his mouth for the first part of the debate. It may have been a reflection of moisture or some spittle, but it was a distraction. (Perhaps Michael Moore or those political bloggers with TIVO who claimed that the president had a radio transmitter on his back could think of some nifty conspiracy theory.)

  • Several times, the candidates didn't answer the question, but spouted off canned campaign speeches and attacks. George and John you can make whatever stump speech you want, just answer the question first.

  • Enough with the catch phrases: "I have a plan." "Freedom is on the march."

To score President Bush and Senator Kerry solely as debaters, Kerry did a much more effective job. He addressed the moderator and audience more directly. He also did an excellent job parrying the President's attacks. Bush was smart to go after Kerry's record in the Senate, but Kerry was able to answer all of the president's criticisms.

President Bush seemed defensive, especially during the first part of the debate. His kept his mouth cocked in a strange angle. His voice was loud and shrill. And if he is going up against a technocrat like Kerry, he should be able to deliver enough facts and figures to keep up. He shouldn't leave it to the bloggers to refute the details Kerry gives.

But does being a good debater make a good president? Some of our greatest presidents were mediocre speakers. Debates can help us evaluate the merits of each candidate, but we need to look at each candidate's track record and proposals as well as our own gut to determine who we believe should run our country. 

October 4, 2004

I was the test speaker at the Area G-3 evaluation contest on Friday night. I've always enjoyed performing this role. Where else can you give a speech in front of a large crowd and have five people work to give you the best possible evaluation?

As the contestants gave me their feedback, I took copious notes. I later reviewed them, and I noted the comments they made the most often and were the most useful. Here are some of them:

  • The evaluators liked how I gave my speech a rousing start. I chose a catchy title ("It's Good to Feel Bad") to grab audience interest. When I came up to speak, I moved the microphone to the front where I needed it and gave a dramatic demonstration of anger. The evaluators said that by doing this, I took command of the stage.

  • An evaluator liked how I dressed for the speech. I dressed casually in a dark blue shirt and black slacks. The evaluator felt the dark colors fit the dark humor in my talk. 

  • One evaluator liked how I answered the question I raised, "Is it ever good to feel bad?" I supplied the answer in the conclusion. But another evaluator said that I should refer to the solution earlier in my speech and repeat the title as a tag line to keep the listeners connected with the subject.

  • By using myself as an example, the evaluators were able to relate to the subject and feel a personal connection to my speech.

  • I've always had trouble with using a microphone. So, I used the microphone that was available to get more practice. An evaluator felt a microphone wasn't necessary, but with the acoustics and ambient noise in the room, the it was certainly helpful. One evaluator said I should keep it one hand through the speech, and that shifting it from one hand to the other was distracting. Another said I shouldn't shout so loudly during the dramatic parts of my speech. I learned that hall where I spoke sets the microphone to match the frequencies of hearing aids, so I needed to be more careful.

  • The evaluators noted my use of timing in the speech, especially when I used pauses for dramatic effect or to allow for laughter. An evaluator suggested that I use more variety in pacing, slowing down in some sections and speeding up in others. Changes of pacing keep audience attention and to add emphasis and drama.

I got some great feedback from all of the evaluators, and I especially congratulate winner Mark Risner and runner-up Ann Bush. If you want to see more great evaluation contests, contact your local Toastmasters district. If you are in Orange or eastern Los Angeles Counties, visit the Founders District Web site for upcoming contests. More info

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