Posts Tagged ‘public speaking’

How to talk with your hands

French Bartender Using Gestures and Expressions While Talking Behind the Bar

It was a July day in 1975, and Judge Rudolph T. Randa’s municipal courtroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was packed. As the defendant stood before sentencing, the judge asked if he had anything he wanted to say on his own behalf.

Needing to use his hands to speak his piece, the defendant automatically pulled them from his pockets … where he’d been holding up pants that were four sizes too big. His trousers fell to the floor. No underwear. Thus the defendant’s unplanned statement was to moon the crowded courtroom.

The poor man quickly pulled up his pants as the spectators tried to smother their snickers. But with the guard’s admonishment to “keep your hands in your pockets,” he probably found it even more difficult to come up with appropriate words for his circumstances.

A recent study conducted at the University of Birmingham in England found that talking with your hands triggers mental images that helps people solve complex problems involving spatial visualization. In other words, people who use their hands when talking find it easier to put things in mental order. Other studies have found that people tend to view those who talk with their hands as more warm, agreeable, and energetic … and those who don’t as more cold and calculating.

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Making people listen

Students Sitting in the Classroom

Dwight Wymer had something important to say. But his students simply would not pay attention. So he thumbed through magazine articles by colleagues looking for motivational tips, discovered what seemed an excellent suggestion, and purchased the necessary equipment. The pastor was ready that summer Monday in 1981 when the seven- and eight-year-old boys arrived to start Vacation Bible School at Immanuel Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, Mich.

When the children became distracted, Wymer simply directed them to take their place on his newly constructed “electric stool.” He admonished, “God warns us—if we can learn to listen” … then he zapped the unsuspecting kids with an electric shock. Following the article’s instructions, he’d lined the stool with wire screens, hooked those to a six-volt battery and a transformer coil, and connected the contraption to a push-button switch.

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Taming a rogue tongue

Staffordshire Bull Terrier Bitch Looking Up and Licking Her Snout

 Nooooo! Stopppp! I ran toward my friend, making wild arm gestures, desperately trying to wave him off as he unwittingly stumbled toward the precipice …

Too late. Crash and burn.

Okay … so my friend didn’t really take an accidental header over the side of the world then spontaneously combust. And my dramatic slo-mo attempt to save him was all in my head. I wanted to save him. The second he veered from his prepared comments into “I shouldn’t tell this story, but …” it was clear he needed saving. But I could only listen helplessly as he off-the-cuffed himself off the cliff. Later, as he tried to defend his inappropriate anecdote, he probably thought spontaneous combustion wouldn’t have been so bad.

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3 weapons to sink stage fright

Mister Roberts

Many naval officers did extraordinary things during World War II, including Iowan Thomas Heggen who served aboard the USS Virgo. But Heggen’s lasting contribution didn’t occur in the heat of battle. It happened in the quiet of his quarters as the 26-year-old penned his only novel, Mister Roberts.

Written at sea during 1944, the war classic was published in 1946, became an instant hit, and was later adapted into a Tony Award–winning play, an Oscar-winning film, a telefilm, and even a short-lived 1960s TV series.

Since the war had ended by the time his book rolled off the presses, Heggen’s publishers expected him to make public appearances to promote his work. Fighting the enemy in the Pacific Theater was one thing. But the shy Iowan was terrified at the thought of … gasp! … public speaking.

In The Almanac of American Letters, Randy F. Nelson recounts Heggen’s appearance at a formal luncheon in New York. Overwhelmed with stage fright, he stood speechless at the microphone. Finally, someone seated nearby whispered, “Perhaps you can tell us how you wrote your book.”

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