Saturday, January 18, 2014

In 2014, I resolve . . .

Happy New Year! Again?

 It’s nearly three weeks into a new year and I wonder how many of our resolutions are still intact? Or have you, like so many others, actually given up on making resolutions?

Over the years, I must say I have become quite cynical about the idea of 1 January being different from any other day of the year, with regard to its being able to re-make me. Still, I am too much of an idealist not to reflect on what has past or to think about what I would like to change in the future.

 I was at an ACT Club meeting this week when, in the middle of the Table Topics, I was suddenly inspired. The Topic master had given us a selection of pictures to stimulate our thoughts. They included objects of clothing – mine was a pair of red Hunter boots – as well as other hopefully thought-provoking items. The session had gone well, with everybody managing to speak, including the visitors. Then the final speaker held up a picture of a heart and a stethoscope.

 She spoke about keeping your heart healthy, but not only about the obvious aspects like water and air and exercise and healthy eating. What really impressed me was what she said about spiritual and emotional heart health. Keeping a positive attitude; giving back to your community; meditating, praying; being kind to others and to yourself, will all contribute towards the health of your heart.

 Not only did Aimee win the Best Table Topic award, but she gave me – and I am sure others too – a lot of food for thought. So, in 2014, I aim to practise heart health!

It’s been a while since my last blog and much has happened. End of year exams; going off to mark matric exam papers; the business of Christmas and the rest of the silly season, and now I am back at work and ready to pick up the reigns again.

 To that end, I thought I would spend some time offering tips for those of you who do presentations, either professionally or just as part of your work. I am basing this largely on a link sent to me by Toastmaster Joy Brittan. If you would like to read it, you can find it – and some other useful tips at 

 As we all know, it is not an easy task to win over an audience, especially one that is unfamiliar to you. What follows then is some advice to ensure that you don’t make things worse.

 1. Never apologize.

 There is nothing worse than telling your audience that you are feeling sick, or you are tired from traveling, or you haven’t had enough time to prepare. If you want to be perceived as a professional, then “get up, and show up”. That’s what you and they are there for.

 2. Don’t fiddle with the electronics

Preparation is vital. This includes having a proper sound check before you start. Make sure that you are familiar with the equipment and on good terms with the sound crew. If there is a problem, don’t fuss or draw attention to it.

 3. That goes for the lights too

If you need to see the audience, ask the technicians to turn up the house lights. Better yet, warn them beforehand that you might be doing so. If this is not possible, just smile broadly and carry on speaking

 4. Make sure your slides are easy to read.

An interesting tip I learnt is that the font size should be twice the size of the average age of your audience. So, for 20 year-olds it should be 40. You can do the maths!

A second tip is: no more than 7 rows; no more than 7 words per row. Even that can be too much.

If you want the audience to read a quotation, tell them and then leave ten seconds for them to do so.

 5. You are in competition with the electronic media.

All you can do is ask for phones to be on silent. These days you will be competing with laptops, tablets, Facebook or online gaming. It is up to you to be so good that your audience will not be distracted.

 6. Repeat questions from the audience.

So often, questions from the audience are not heard by other members, so before you go ahead and answer them, repeat or paraphrase so that everyone understands. Otherwise it is just a waste of time.

 7. Be conscious of your time allocation.

This is extremely important. Stick to your allocated time, and don’t let on if you have run short without saying all you wanted to say. When you run out of time, condense it, wrap it up and end well. Then go home and plan better for the next time.

So, in 2014 what do you resolve to do?

Until next time

Ricky Woods

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