quote Quintilian, writing in the first century AD: ‘Rhetoric is the art
of speaking well.’ Presentation skills are particularly dear to my
heart at the moment as my colleague Margaret Zuppinger and I have just
had our trainers’ manual on this topic published by Fenman. Margaret
has developed, among others, the chapters on voice and vocal projection
and this month’s website is a real find for current work in this field.
and oh, how I wish we had known about it a year ago. And not just for
presentation skills either as this website will provide many useful
examples for those delivering writing skills training.
It is a
website that really exploits both the Internet and the capabilities of
the average PC by providing famous speeches online – not just in
written form but, often, in audio form too. This gives the trainer a
wonderful opportunity to play speeches to their delegates so they can
really hear how a great, or even a not so great, orator sounds. And
they can follow the speech with the written text too. Also, when a
speech is read by another, rather than the original speaker, there is a
guarantee that the text will be ‘substantively and stylistically
faithful to the speech as originally delivered’. Indeed, with Lincoln’s
Gettysburg address (that’s the one that starts ‘Fourscore and seven
years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation,
conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are
created equal …’) you can hear three versions from different speakers,
which is a wonderful way to show how contrasting speakers can subtly
change the message.
It is a comprehensive and intriguing
database, access to which is via the home page’s left-hand column,
through the Online Speech Bank link. Here are over 5,000 speeches,
sermons, legal proceedings, lectures, debates, interviews, other
recorded media events, and a declaration or two. All are available in
full text and many in audio and video form too.
The site has
been, and continues to be, developed and maintained by Michael E
Eidenmuller, who is an assistant professor of speech communication at
the University of Texas. However, this is no one-off database but one
that is regularly updated and amended to make it current, and it
includes examples from only a few moths ago. There is, for example, a
complete section devoted to Iraq war speeches, including Tony Blair’s
address to Congress accepting the Congressional Gold Medal.
you’re looking for a specific speech or simply need to remember a
phrase or two but not the whole speech, or you want to find specific
subjects and speakers, you can use the site search tool (on the
left-hand bar again), which will take you to a website search powered
The database shows clearly which speeches are
available in text only and which are also in audio. Provided you have a
sound card and a media player (RealPlayer, for example), you’ll find
that most of the speech downloads are extremely quick and of excellent
quality. If you don’t have a media player there are links on the
website to enable you to get a free download. My recommendation would
be to go for RealPlayer as it offers far more functions than Windows
Thankfully, it’s not just political
speeches. There are Oscar acceptance speeches, legal proceedings,
lectures, debates, interviews, sermons and so on. I found some
wonderful stuff, including a speech by my favourite science
fiction/fantasy author Ursula K Le Guin; one from William Faulkner
accepting the Nobel Prize; and one from Maximus (from the movie Gladiator)
giving his opening battle address to the Roman cavalry. In fact there’s
a whole page dedicated to movie speeches, which is well worth a long
look. (A new movie speech is added every two to three weeks.) Another
page considers Christian rhetoric (always fascinating to see how
religious leaders whip up their congregations) and yet another is
dedicated to the rhetoric of 9/11 where you can find a transcript of
bin Laden's video discussing the attacks on the Twin Towers.
favourite area of the website is ‘Rhetorical Figures in Sound’ (not a
particularly engaging title, I admit), which is a compendium of over
200 brief audio clips illustrating 38 different figures of speech. Most
of these so-called ‘figures’ were constructed, identified and
classified by Greek and Roman teachers of rhetoric. They are rhetorical
devices used to induce an audience to co-operate with a speaker’s
persuasive purpose. For each device there’s a definition and several
examples, both written and audio. Audio examples are taken from public
speeches and sermons, movies, songs, lectures and oral interpretations
of literature. I had no idea that there were this many devices. I was
familiar with alliteration and onomatopoeia, but most of these words I
didn’t know existed.
For example, the wonderful conduplicatio,
which is described as a ‘figure of repetition in which the key word or
words in one phrase, clause or sentence is/are repeated at or very near
the beginning of successive sentences’. And, if you too didn’t follow
that then here’s one of the examples: ‘This afternoon, in this room, I
testified before the Office of Independent Council and the Grand Jury.
I answered their questions truthfully, including questions about my private life - questions
no American citizen would ever want to answer.’ This, of course, was
Bill Clinton making his famous denial about Monica Lewinsky.
you look at nothing else, do spend a few moments considering a
fascinating exercise on the use of language that is accessed by
clicking the ‘Rodman and de Ref’ link under ‘Cool exercises’. You are
provided with two versions of the same incident written in very
different ways. It’s salutary to see how each, by the strategic use of
metaphors and other devices, creates a very different effect on the
reader, although the facts in each remain much the same. A couple of
other exercises also worth doing include a rhetoric quiz where you can
test your knowledge of famous and familiar quotes.
There is an
extraordinary list of links under the heading ‘News & Info’,
divided into News Sources, Newspapers, Magazines/Journals, Search
Engines and – as if that wasn’t all-encompassing enough –
Miscellaneous. Here, too, are links to ‘Polling data’, (that is, social
and economic surveys such as Harris). While mainly US-based, this is
still a remarkable list.
For those who like an intellectual
challenge, there’s some scholarly material on the techniques of such
masters as Socrates and Aristotle to attempt to answer the question:
‘Does rhetoric impart knowledge or merely belief, and thereby
constitute a false, or at best an insincere, way of knowing?’ This is
an interesting question for all of us to consider in this age of spin.
warned, this website can be irritating at times. Pages have been added
without much consideration for the user getting back to where they
started. There’s a distinct lack of ‘home’ or ‘back’ or ‘top of the
page’ buttons and at times I got completely lost with pages that were
dead ends. This meant that occasionally I had to feed in the main URL
again to get back to the home page and I used the back button on my
browser a great deal. Other oddities affect screen resolution which is
sometimes recommended at 800 x 600 and sometimes at the more modern
1024 x 768.
On at least one occasion, for no discernible
reason, I found a flash page (you know the sort of thing, a fancy
‘entry’ screen with a film feel which you have to bypass to get to the
page you really want). You get the feeling with this website that it
has had a number of web editors over the years who have decided to
stamp their own mark without much thought for what has gone before.
Alternatively, Michael E Eidenmuller has developed his web page
building skills and likes to try out new techniques every so often.
These are minor irritations though and, overall, this is a great
resource and most trainers will find it invaluable.
Our sincere thanks to Clare for this month’s ‘Netcheck’. Garry Platt returns in the May issue of Training Journal.
Presentation and graphics **
Downloads and freebies *****
Links * ****
are a couple of great articles here on PowerPoint. One is a humorous
look at some of the ways PowerPoint slide design goes wrong in the
hands of the unwary. It’s also a practical guide to making slides to
enhance a presentation. The other is a review of how and why good
grammar matters even on slides, and how new grammar rules are evolving
in the bullet-point format. There’s also some interesting links here to
articles on the use of multiple choice tests.
Straker, a UK-HRD contributor, led me to this hilarious and marvellous
site (thanks Dave) which takes a side-swipe at those motivational
posters you see on business walls everywhere. I quote: ‘For longer than
most can remember, motivational speakers, authors and publishers have
championed the idea that within each person exists virtually unlimited
potential. Now think about it - what hidden potentials exist within
YOU? Perhaps you’re a wholly reasonable person, with the potential to
become an irrational fool? … Or perhaps you’re a dreamer, within whom
lives a potentially disillusioned grouse, simply waiting to take flight
on the wings of bitterness? ... No matter who you are, you have the
potential to be so very much less.’ Here’s one of their poster strap
lines: ‘If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to
motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will
be doing soon.’ I think that gives you the flavour. Great site!