Public Speaking Advice

Here's a brief Q&A on some of the questions public speakers need to consider, like: Should I write out my speech? and Should I use PowerPoint? and some good answers, some by Communication Prof Steven Beebe and some from Linda Blackman who runs an executive image company.


Dick Cavett on public speaking

Here's a clever piece on public speaking for politicians or anyone else.


Apology Apology Apology

I wrote this note on apologizing as I was revising my interpersonal text and thought it might be useful in class, perhaps as a topic for discussion, perhaps as a preview to formulating or analyzing apologies.

The Apology
In its most basic form, an apology is an expression of regret; it’s a statement that the speaker is sorry. And so, the most basic of all apologies is simply: I’m sorry. But, there are lots of variations and lots of differences of opinion.
In literature, an apology is an autobiographical work justifying the author’s beliefs or behaviors. Perhaps the most famous of all apologies is Socrates Apologia in which the great Greek philosopher (and teacher of Plato) defends (though unsuccessfully) his beliefs against charges of impiety against the gods. Socrates’ Apologia is actually Plato’s version of Socrates’ speech of defense. Some definitions include the idea that an apology acknowledges some wrongdoing to another on the part of the person making the apology, for example, I’m sorry I used your credit card without asking you. But, you might also apologize to yourself where you are both the one wronged and the one who wronged, for example, I’m sorry I didn’t study for that exam.
Other definitions do not include an admission of wrongdoing as an integral part of the apology and so you might apologize without having done anything wrong, as in, for example, I’m sorry for bringing this up right now but we have to deal with these rumors before they spread even further. In popular usage, an admission of wrongdoing is usually considered a part of the apology, sometimes acknowledged explicitly (I’m sorry I lied) and sometimes acknowledged only by implication (I’m sorry you’re so upset).
In many cases the apology also includes a request for forgiveness (Please forgive my lateness) and some assurance that this won’t happen again (Please forgive my lateness; it won’t happen again).
According to the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge website (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/archive/3481.html) apologies are useful for two main reasons. Apologies (1) help repair relationships (as you can easily imagine) and (2) repair the reputation of the wrongdoer. So, if you do something wrong in, say, your relationship, an apology will help you repair the relationship with your partner and perhaps reduce the level of conflict. At the same time, realize that other people know about your behavior (just think Jerry Springer) and an apology will help improve the image of you that they have in their minds.

Some Dos and Don’ts for Effective Apologies An effective apology, like any effective message, must be crafted for the specific situation. An effective apology to a long-time lover, to a parent, or to a new supervisor are likely to be very different because the individuals are different and the relationships are different. And so, the first rule of an effective apology is to take into consideration the uniqueness of the situation—the people, the context, the cultural rules, the relationship, the specific wrongdoing—for which you might want to apologize. Each situation will call for a somewhat different message of apology.
Nevertheless we can offer some general recommendations. Combining the insights of a wide variety of researches, seven dos and don’ts can be offered for apologizing effectively:
Seven Dos:
1. Do admit wrongdoing if indeed wrongdoing occurred. Accept responsibility. Own your own actions; don’t try to pass them off as the work of someone else. Instead of Smith drives so slow, it’s a wonder I’m only 30 minutes late, say I should have taken traffic into consideration. Or, to take a recent example: In a response to the government’s inept handling of Hurricane Katrina, Hillary Clinton said she apologized but then turned it into a criticism of others—I apologize, and I am embarrassed that our government so mistreated our fellow citizens….” Here there is no acknowledgement of personal responsibility but rather a shifting of responsibility to others.
2. Do be apologetic. Say (and mean) the words I’m sorry or What I did was wrong.
3. Do state in specific rather than general terms what you’ve done. Instead of I’m sorry for what I did say I’m sorry for getting drunk at the party and flirting with everyone. Recently, Eliot Spitzer, former Governor of New York, apologized for a series of wrongdoings but never really mentioned what they were. Of course, he was protecting himself and so kept his “apology” overly general. It was, as a result, both unsatisfactory and unacceptable to most people. Similarly, the apology of former Attorney General Albert Gonzales—“mistakes were made here”—wasn’t really an apology; it was an attempt to deflect any personal responsibility.
4. Do express understanding of how the other person feels and acknowledge the legitimacy of these feelings. You have every right to be angry; I should have called.
5. Do express your regret that this has created a problem for the other person. I’m sorry I made you miss your appointment.
6. Do offer to correct the problem (whenever this is possible). I’m sorry I didn’t clean up the mess I made; I’ll do it now.
7. Do give assurance that this will not happen again. It won’t happen again or better and more specific I won’t be late again.
Seven Don’ts:
1. Don’t apologize when it isn’t necessary.
2. Don’t justify your behavior by mentioning that everyone does it. Everyone leaves work early on Friday.
3. Don’t justify your behavior by saying that the other person has done something equally wrong. So I play poker; you play the lottery.
4. Don’t accuse the other person of contributing to the problem. I should have known you’re overly anxious about receiving the figures exactly at 9 a.m.
5. Don’t minimize the hurt or the problems that this may have caused. So the figures arrived a little late; no harm is done.
6. Don’t make excuses. I’m sorry the figures are late but I had so much other work to do. An excuse takes back the apology and says, in effect, I’m really not sorry because there was good reason for what I’ve done but I’m saying I’m sorry to cover all my bases and to make this uncomfortable situation go away.
7. Don’t take the easy way out and apologize through e-mail (unless the wrongdoing was committed in e-mail or if e-mail is your only or main form of communication). Generally, it’s more effective to use a more personal mode of communication—face-to-face or phone, for example. It’s harder but it’s more effective.

Britney Spears Reads DeVito

If you looked very carefully and I mean veeeeerrrry carefully, you may have seen a book on “How I Met Your Mother”—Britney Spears and others were reading it—titled The Power of Me by DeVito. Just to clarify: it isn’t me—and a quick check at Amazon.com shows no such title. But, it was a neat near brush with pop celebrity.


EEPS 3/e

To Users of EEPS 3/e
My apologies. On pages 135 and 136, I have a PowerPoint slide-show speech illustration. The explanations in the first column—speech title, the thesis of the speech, etc.—were positioned incorrectly. Please ignore these. This will be corrected in the next printing but if you’re using a first printing, please ignore these misplaced explanations. Aside from this, I hope you’re enjoying the book and finding it a useful aid. Again, my apologies.


Nonverbal Attractiveness Messages

Ten Nonverbal Messages and AttractivenessHere are ten nonverbal messages that help communicate your attractiveness and ten that will likely create the opposite effect. I’m drawing here on lots of different nonverbal researchers, for example, Peter Andersen’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Body Language (an excellent and comprehensive review of nonverbal communication findings) and R. E. Riggio and R. S. Feldman’s excellent edited collection, Applications of Nonverbal Communication.

1. Do Gesture to show liveliness and animation in ways that are appropriate to the situation and to the message. But don’t Gesture for the sake of gesturing or gesture in ways that may prove offensive to members of other cultures.

2. Do Nod and lead forward to signal that you’re listening and are interested. But don’t Go on automatic pilot, nodding without any coordination with what is being said or lean so forward that you intrude on the other’s space.

3. Do Smile and otherwise show your interest, attention, and positiveness facially. But don’t Over do it; inappropriate smiling is likely to be perceived negatively.

4. Do Make eye contact in moderation. But don’t Stare, ogle, glare, or otherwise make the person feel that he or she is under scrutiny.

5. Do Touch in moderation when appropriate. But don’t Touch excessively or too intimately. When it doubt, avoid touching another.

6. Do Use vocal variation in rate, rhythm, pitch, and volume to communicate your animation and involvement in what you’re saying. But don’t Falling into the pattern where, for example, your voice goes up and down, up and down, up and down without any relationship to what you’re saying.

7. Do Use silence to listen at least the same amount of time as you speak. Show that you’re listening with appropriate facial reactions, posture, and back-channeling cues, for example. But don’t Listen motionlessly or in ways that suggest you’re only listening half-heartedly.

8. Do Stand reasonably chose to show a connectedness. But don’t Exceed the other person’s comfort zone.

9. Do Present a pleasant smell and be careful to camouflage the onions, garlic, or smoke that you’re so used to, you can’t smell it. But don’t Overdo the cologne or perfume.

10. Do Dress appropriately to the situation. But don’t Wear clothing that proves uncomfortable or that calls attention to itself and hence away from your message.


Obama Speech

Just in case you missed this--tho' it's unlikely, given the press on this speech--here's a link to the full text speech.


Standing by your man, a Rhetorical Act

Dina Matos McGreevey—former wife of the former New Jersey Governor who came out as “a gay American” and admitted to hiring a sex partner for a job for which he had no qualifications—writes in the New York Times Op Ed page (3/12/08) that standing by your man is a “personal decision. There’s no right or wrong answer.”
It’s really not that simple. Yes, it is a personal decision and you have every right to stand by your man or not. But, by standing by your man you are engaging in a rhetorical act; you are giving credence and respectability to lies and illegalities that you know to be lies and illegalities.
If Dina Matos McGreevey—and Mrs. Larry Graig—didn’t know about their husbands’ gay activities—as they both claimed—then we really have no use for their opinions; they obviously have their heads in the proverbial sand and their perceptions of reality must be suspect at best.
Silda Wall Spitzer—like Mrs. Kennedy, Mrs. Roosevelt, and Mrs. Clinton, to name just a few—by standing by her man, made a rhetorical statement. To my mind, the statement went something like this: “Look, I’m really the most injured party here and I’m standing by my man and even holding his hand; it’s not all that bad. If I can be forgiving, you should be too.” And this is fine if that’s what she wants to do. But, it should be recognized that the act of standing by your man is a powerful persuasive, rhetorical act. And by doing so, you are part of the deception.

Endowments and Free Tuition

Well, Brown University has joined the list of those elite colleges—like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and Dartmouth—in “reducing” tuition. Students whose parents earn less than $60,000 annually will have free tuition and those whose parents earn less than $100,000 will receive grants (rather than loans). These 5 Universities, btw, have a combined endowment of $57 billion. And this is in addition to the real estate, equipment, publishing contracts, government grants, and whatever else they own. And so I want to ask 2 simple questions:
1. How many students will this help? How many current students at Brown, for example, have parents earning under $60,000? Is there anyone from Brown who’d like to respond? I suspect the answer would be zero or at least very close to that. If I’m wrong, Brown University, please correct me.
2. How much money will these schools be “giving up”?
The media are reporting these seemingly grand gestures but they don’t mention any specific numbers or amounts.
This is very similar to the advertisements that try to get you to buy their product by saying they’ll donate a portion of the purchase price to breast cancer research or to help abandoned dogs and cats. But, how much will be given to these causes is never spelled out—at least not in the ads I’ve seen. And so I’d like to know and to see in the ad, exactly how much money will be given to charity. Further, I would expect that a responsible charity would demand that an advertiser list the exact amount it will donate. But, then, I suspect, the charity would receive nothing. A sad situation.
Shouldn’t the organizations concerned with accuracy in advertisements and communication generally (like NCA and ICA, for example) be concerned with this kind of deceptive advertising—and I think it’s deceptive not because it makes any false claims but because it is designed to mislead people into believing that the amount to be denoted is significant when it likely isn’t (though I may be just overly negative here). Publishing principles for ethical communication—as NCA and ICA do—is a step in the right direction but certainly not sufficient for the premier organizations in communication. NCA and ICA and related organizations would serve a valuable service by pointing out such deceptions and raising public awareness.

Spitzer’s Speech of Apology, Again

Governor Spitzer—
If you want to apologize, you need to say, in clear and plain language, exactly what you did that you’re apologizing for. This would include every law you violated—for example, the attempt to hide the money trail and the interstate transportation of a prostitute. And, I’d like to know the source of the money you used to pay the call-girl service. I know you’re a multimillionaire but I want to make sure you didn’t use my tax money to pay for your sexual playtime. And I’d like to hear you say that you did in fact break the law and exactly how you violated your oath of office. And you certainly know exactly what these violations were. Of course, I know that by not saying this, you’re protecting yourself against prosecution. But, if you want to apologize, you need to admit what you did.
You also need to explain to the people exactly what you’re going to do to make up for what you’ve done, to repay the citizens of New York State for your betrayal. You and your family are millionaires many times over; you can start making reparations by donating your money to causes that would benefit the very people you betrayed. If you’re really apologetic, you’d want to make substantial reparations to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars.
I’d also like to know—though it’s probably not an essential element of the speech of apology—your mindset as you were so vigorously prosecuting prostitution when you yourself were part of it—to at least, it seems, $80,000. I’d like to know where you got the colossal arrogance that told you that you could engage in illegal behavior and at the same time prosecute those who did no more than you were doing. I’d like to hear you say that you deserve no better treatment than you gave to people who committed similar crimes.


Spitzer and the Speech of Apology

So, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer gave a speech of “apology” for paying for sex (reportedly, $4300) with a call girl. Funny thing was, he really didn’t apologize. The media are calling this a speech of apology because he apologized to his family and the residents of NY. But, he never said what he was apologizing for, which surely must be one of the essential elements of the speech of apology.
Let me clarify: Personally, I see no reason why prostitution should not be legal and if Spitzer wanted to visit a call girl, as far as I’m concerned, that’s fine and should be of no concern to the government. But, that is not the current law and certainly not the law that Spitzer swore to uphold. What is so reprehensible and so underhanded is that he presented himself as “holier than thou,” as a loving and devoted husband, and as a crusader who had these high ethical standards but at the same time never held himself accountable to the same standards. In fact, he not only committed a criminal act, he also violated his oath of office by engaging in behavior he knew to be unlawful. So far, no charges have been filed against Spitzer and there is no certainty that he will be held accountable or even forced to resign. If other politicians are involved in this same or similar call girl operation—and there seems reason to assume this, after all, it is based in D.C. and who else has the money to pay $1500 an hour for sex?—then they will likely make light of this and help Spitzer plea bargain, just in case they too are implicated.
What makes this speech of “apology” even more ludicrous is that he had the nerve to espouse ethical principles in this speech, as if he were in a position to teach others morality. Politics, Spitzer said, “is about ideas, the public good, and doing what is best for the State of New York.” Is he implying that he has been doing this or that he even tried to do it?
Toward the end of this speech he said, “I will not be taking questions.” Now, here is something the media and all persons interested in the ethics of communication should question. If he admitted to wrongdoing—as he did—then he should have to answer questions. After all, he’s a public official and is accountable to the people. I’m not suggesting that this should be a rule or a law but rather than we should come to expect a politician to answer questions; it should be the norm in a free democracy and when that norm is violated, it should signal an alarm.
And Mrs. Spitzer—just like Mrs. Craig, Mrs. McGreevy, and (let’s not forget) Mrs. Clinton before her—stood by her man, giving credibility to someone who held others to standards that he was above following himself. Spitzer not only needs to resign; he needs to be indicted and convicted.


Why Study Communication?

I just heard from Sherry Morreale that an article she wrote with Judy Pearson will appear in the next issue of Communication Education. The reason I mention this is that this article focuses on the role of communication skills as central to success, both personally and professionally. It’s based on an analysis of 93 varied publications. This article updates a previous one by Morreale, Michael Osborn, and Pearson that appeared in the Journal of the Association for Communication Administration in 1998. I’m sure it will provide just the information you need to counter the sometimes (though it seems to be decreasing; most students, I think, do recognize the value of communication competence) “Why do I need to take a communication course?” question.