Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Google only knows!

I didn’t grow up with television.  In fact, I was at varsity already before they became available.  The first four-function Remington calculators came out in 1974 –when I was in matric. At R74, that was a great deal of money at the time.  What I am trying to tell you is that I really am a bit of a digital dinosaur.
Because of my handicap, I used to ask my sons to assist me whenever it came to matters technical or scientific. They would help; but with mounting bad grace.  Until the day Gareth, my elder son, responded to yet another question of mine with: “Google only knows, mom!”

That was a defining moment for me – and the point of my speech:  I’d like to give you some ideas on how to do the research for your next speech.

Why do research?
  • It enhances your credibility. You sound more informed on the topic and your audience is more likely to trust you.
  • It provides useful information for you to share on your given topic.
  • It speaks to those people in your audience who are facts oriented; who need information to remain involved

Research begins with a topic.

Obviously, the objectives that have been outlined for your speech, will have guided you to explore in a certain direction. The usual rules of speaking on a subject that interests you, will apply, but you might want to fine-tune your knowledge on the subject or to explore in a different direction.  

Arthur Conan Doyle (as Sherlock Holmes) It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.

A way to determine where you want to go with your topic is to brainstorm it.
If you want to tell your audience about reflexology, explore a range of sub-categories in this field, for example: its history; the principles on which it is based and how it compares with more “acceptable” forms of therapy like physiotherapy.

There are a number of options for you to explore:
  • You could interview a registered reflexologist 
  • Check your library for books or other resources on the subject
  • Obtain a wall chart indicating visually how the feet and hands are linked to specific parts or organs of the body
  • Do a YouTube search for videos on reflexology in action.  
  • Use a search engine like Google, each time defining your search to encompass a different aspect of your subject matter
Your librarian is a veritable mine of information. Many of them have research degrees and would welcome being able to assist you in finding what you need.
Some points about interviews
  •  You can’t just arrive at someone’s doorstep and expect them to be happy to grant you an interview. Make an appointment. Tell the person exactly what it is that you will be asking and why. Also, how long you expect the interview to take. 
  •  Come prepared for the interview. Don’t expect the person to ‘entertain’ you. 
  • Specific, open-ended questions mean you won’t waste anyone’s time.
  •  Interviews mean you find out information first hand – and you get to meet new people.

.     Most of us want to use the Internet as our only source because it is so easily accessible. It should rather be one of your sources. Also, please note the following: 
  • Do you know who has published the site?  Can the material be trusted?
  • The accuracy of an article can usually be determined by the cross-references that they provide.
  • If you want to refine your search because you can’t find the material you are looking for, make use of the advanced search function of your search engine
  • Watch out for sites like Wikipedia.  Don’t avoid them.  They make excellent initial research tools. However, once you are looking for more specialised information, refine your search.
  • Make note of the sources where you obtained your information and remember to acknowledge any quotes, statistics or other information that you include directly in your speech.
Statistics – Most people feel the need to use statistics to lend credence to their speech. This may well be so, but do make sure that you have checked out the reliability of your source.
Don't be a novelist --- be a statistician. Much more scope for the imagination --- Darrell Huff (How to Lie with Statistics)

Once you have gathered all your information, you will find that you have far more than you need.  Now it is important that you sift and sort the information, until you have organised it into a logical order.

Begin with a catchy introduction.  Here you could use a quotation or statistics to grab the attention of your audience.
Then the body of your speech: three or four points only; each one well-substantiated by means of your research examples.
Finally, your conclusion.  Leave your audience with something to think about. Make them want more.

So, no matter how well you already speak, doing the spade work in terms of your research can only improve the content of your speech.  You might find yourself amazing the computer generation with your own research skills - and the fact that Google isn't the only one who knows!

Until next time

Ricky Woods