Posts Tagged ‘public speaking’

My High School Address As a Returning Famous Alumni

January 7, 2017

       I’ve fantasized ever since high school about returning as a famous and/or accomplished alumni and delivering an address to the assembled senior class.  I doubt that I am alone in this dream.  Also I am not alone, I believe, in not being asked to speak.  But, being in the arts, I am well used to this.   And perhaps we have trained to handle this better than many in the other professions.  Artists, especially I would think poets, know that life burgeons without audience, and for example a fish or a flower (and maybe even a poet) actually does better without us around.  And poets have continued to thrive like weeds, and to produce poems like dandelion seeds, even in those arid locales empty of audience.  In short, I am warning you that I plan to deliver this high school address nevertheless.  Because I feel I have something to say, but more importantly, because I want to.  Poets know that what you want is surely the most compelling reason for anything. More important than sex, fame or money – or perhaps one in the same.   it’s like breath.

WAR & CONFLICT BOOK ERA:  WORLD WAR I/PATRIOTISM

Dear Seniors:

I am limiting my remarks to two nuggets of advice I would offer the young person heading out into the world.  This first nugget is not something I came up with myself.  Most of the best advice you won’t come up with yourself, just like the best words or phrases, or the tools you loan to a friend.  You loan them because you’ve found them to be handy.  So it is with this first bit of advice on contentment:  Don’t try to get more out of something than there is in it.

 I have seen this bit of advice violated all of the time and have even do so on many occasions myself.  Right off the top of my head, the first subject under this heading to discuss would be marriage.  But since you’re graduating seniors I will start with something I had to learn which is much closer to home: your parents.  Stories of parents who pressure their children to either be like them, or to achieve better than them, or to find some destiny denied to them, or simply to continue ‘being’ them after the parents own best years pass are legion.  And almost as legion are stories of parents, especially fathers, who do all they can to prevent their offspring from usurping their glory, or even imagined glory.  You all must know what I am speaking of.  You know it’s wrong.  They may or may not know.  But what it amounts to is trying to get more out of their children than is offered.  What hadn’t occurred to me for many years was that the maxim turns counterclockwise also.  Children often stubbornly demand that their parents offer more than is available: more love, more support, more understanding, more assistance, even more understanding, more knowledge or experience, or even more support.  I wanted mine to be an artist – or at least to value art.  The list is longer than the squalling.   Right away, whether you are the parent or the child in this drama, you can halve your frustration immediately by simply giving up.  Or as one of Arthur Miller’s characters says in a play, “The secret to wisdom is to stop.  Whatever you are doing, stop it.”

Marriages are ruined, tarnished, and impoverished all of the time by a failure also to acknowledge this maxim.  Your partner cannot make you successful.  They cannot keep you from failure, work, or illness, or any of “the thousand Natural shocks. That Flesh is heir to…,” or supply you with discipline or character.”  Don’t expect it.  Don’t demand it.  Things will go better.

My second nugget of observation would be that humans are natural problem solvers, and that this world is rife with problems.  We’re a natural fit.  So when you go out into the world wondering what you should do, what you should become – ask yourself what problems there are which you enjoy working on?  it’s said that the best boss is the one who wants to hear your problems.  The best physician wants to hear what’s wrong.  The best actor asks, “What causes this character to move?”  The best inventor wonders how we could do this easier?  What is it you like to fix?

No one hires someone to enjoy the salary, or the perks, or the status or the adulation.  Everyone is paid to solve a problem.  What problems do you like to solve?

Start solving them.  You are writing your ticket.

That’s it.  That’s all.

Thank you for offering me this opportunity.

1967 Alumni, Carl Nelson

If you would like see published work by Carl Nelson, please visit:  http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html

The Unauthorized Use of Something I Read

September 16, 2016

business-school-presentation

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Guide-Business-School-Presenting/dp/0857285149/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474034530&sr=1-1&keywords=the+complete+guide+to+business+school+presenting

 

A Facebook friend, Stanley K. Ridgley, PhD., has written The Complete Guide to Business School Presenting.  I was so taken by an excerpt of the book on the speaker’s use of the ‘Pause’, a teaser which Stanley had posted online, that I purchased the book.

The author mentions in his introduction that he has: “resisted the pressure to water down this book, to move its focus from you, the business student, and to “connect” it to a broader spectrum of people”…   So.  My use of this book is entirely unauthorized, and whatever calamity ensues is entirely of my own doing but has probably already happened in the poetry world.  It’s a crazy place.   Nevertheless, I figure I could find some of his tips useful for emceeing The Serenity Poetry Series which I run out of a Vienna, West Virginia coffee shop.

Since I am suspicious that life is largely a business situation and that poetry is just life in clearer focus – what have I to lose but some ignorance?  And perhaps I might gain some audience!  Poetry is about as hard a place to draw an audience as West Virginia.   So we’re doubling down here.

Right out of the chute the author quotes the words of Communication coach Lynda Paulson that,” what makes speaking so powerful is that at least 85 percent of what we communicate in speaking is non-verbal”.  She also notes that, “Most people can read and comprehend more content in half-an-hour than you could ever get across in the same time through speaking.”  In other words, as Ridgley notes, a presentation is a “show”, the star of which is “a project or idea (that) has a champion who presents the case in public”.   So it’s not the information so much as the impact of a “personal presence” which makes your presentation.  You communicate, Stanley continues, in “words and actions designed to make your audience feel comfortable – and heroic.”

 “Yes, heroic.  Every presentation – every story – has a hero and that hero is in your audience.  Evoke a sense of heroism in your customer, and you win every time.  Evoke a sense of heroism in your presentation audience, and you win every time.”

Bad presenters Stanley notes, “act as if your words carry the message alone.  A part of you actually believes that it is the force of your argument, your compilation of facts, your detailed spreadsheet that will carry the day.  Because that’s the way it should be, right?  As a result, you push the presentation outside of yourself.”  Doesn’t nearly all of the boring poetry you’ve heard read have poets who believe this?  That their words have created a little machine which just needs plugging in?  While the audience watches – supposedly enchanted – as it achieves nothing?

rube-goldberg-machine1

A little later on in the book our author writes, “…you are there to persuade your audience and call them to action.”   These are troublesome words to the poet, if they are to believe as Auden says, that “poetry makes nothing happen.”  What can a poet persuade our audience of?  And once he/she’s persuaded them, what is she/he to ask them to do?  And how should they go about doing it?

Well I’ve pondered this, and here is a thought.

I would suggest that the action of a poem is to provide insight.  As the poet William Carlos Williams famously summed it up in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower:

“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.”

And I would suggest that this is also how we should interpret Auden.  That the essence of insight is in making ‘nothing’ happen; that insight is ignorance giving birth to realization.

 Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, wrote that his years in the world of business were useful to him as a cartoonist in many ways.  One was that it taught him to distill an idea to its essence, which he says is crucial to cartooning.  Well, distillation is important to poetry also.

There’s a saying that “poetry is memorable speech”.  I would call memorable speech which carries insight that demands action –  a slogan.  So I would suggest that the poet reader needs to find the slogan in each poem and urge their audience to consider and embrace it, until those words turn themselves on to glow like a light bulb.

robet-bly

Robert Bly is held by many to be a mediocre poet.  But as a reader and speaker for poetry, he has probably been the most successful poet/personality of his generation.  From his performances you might rightly think that he has read Ridgley’s book.  He speaks proudly and  energetically, building to his goal which are the poetic lines bearing the insight of which he’s spoken.  He recites these lines almost as if displaying a glowing Arc of the Covenant overhead for all to behold.  He insists on their power.  He invites his audience to feel this power of insight themselves, to hold it and to project it.  His job, as he discharges it, is to charge his followers with the joy and power of insight.   He performs the task well.  Whether the insight is up to Robert’s claims is where the poet/critics come in with their knives.  But for the time being, Bly holds the stage, the poet is a heroic figure, and greater insight is the heroic task and joy of his audience.

 

For books by Carl Nelson, visit:

http://www.magicbeanbooks.co/home.html


%d bloggers like this: