Posts Tagged National Trust

Speaking Without Notes

This week I went to a preview performance of ‘The National Trust Fan Club’ by comedy performer Helen Wood prior to the show’s Edinburgh Festival run. Public Speaking without Notes

The show is an energetic, light-hearted romp around one hundred National Trust venues. There is also much talk about gift shops, tea shops and cream teas. There’s lots of humour and anyone who’s ever visited NT properties will identify with the content.

But what impressed me most about Helen’s performance was the way she remembered all the words! She talked non-stop for an hour and a quarter without the obvious use of any prompt or notes. When I speak to groups I talk for around 45 minutes, 90% of that time without looking at notes. However, I do have four index cards which contain quotes that I read to get the wording correct. I also have the comfort blanket of an A4 sheet containing a list of bullet points which I can glance at, should my mind go blank and I forget which section comes next (rarely happens – touch wood!). Helen had none of this but she did reel off dates, names and statistics.

So, what’s the best way of minimising the use of notes during a talk?

  • Do NOT learn the whole speech off-by-heart. Doing this can mean your delivery will lack emotion and if you lose your place, it can be difficult to pick up the thread again.
  • Use a list of bullet points to provide a pathway through the speech. If you will be using a lectern, these can be typed onto a sheet of A4. If the notes will be held in your hand, use index cards because they are less obvious than waving a piece of A4 around.
  • Memorise the gist (not the exact wording) of what you will say to expand each bullet point. The actual words you use may vary each time you deliver the speech. This gives you the ability to more easily tailor the speech if time requirements change. Plus you are less likely to panic if you forget a sentence or two.
  • Practise! It’s time-consuming but always leads to a better performance.

Public Speaking for Absolute BeginnersThere are more tips on all areas of public speaking in Public Speaking for Absolute Beginners.


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Staunton Harold Bells

The picture shows the ringing chamber at Staunton Harold church in Leicestershire. The church is cared for by the Staunton Harold Church Ringing ChamberNational Trust and has 8 bells – these haven’t been rung since 1998 due to worries about the structure of the church.

When the volunteer guide discovered that I was a bell-ringer he offered to show me the ringing chamber, which isn’t open to the public. We went up the usual spiral staircase and into a chamber that time forgot. The blue sallies (the furry bits) on the ropes were thick with grey dust and the room seemed to have become a dumping ground for anything and everything.  There were a couple of peal boards on the wall recording the ringing successes of earlier generations but what I found most interesting was the ‘music stand’ in the centre of the room.

I’ve been ringing since I was a teenager but have never seen a ‘music stand’ in a ringing chamber before. The ringers would place notes on it to remind themselves of what they were going to ring (usually the ringers have the pattern of changes in their heads or it is shouted by the ringing master). In the picture you can see candle holders on the stand that would have been essential on winter practice nights before electric lighting.

I was very grateful to the volunteer guide for allowing me this peek into history.

What has this got to do with writing? Nothing directly, except that I found it interesting and wanted to bring it to a wider audience – and all my attempts to get an article on bell ringing published have failed.

But then I got thinking about all the generations of ringers that have stood in that ringing chamber – big burly farm hands, soldiers who perished in the world wars, the first women to learn to ring etc etc. Could there be a family saga set around the church and its ringing fraternity? Or maybe a short story about a mutiny amongst the ringers? Or a Midsomer Murders type tale?

So that abandoned ringing chamber could have a lot to do with writing…

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National Trust Poetry Competition

The National Trust sign at Lizard Point, Cornwall

Image via Wikipedia

The National Trust is calling for poems inspired by a special outdoor place for their Landlines Competition.

The prize is something money can’t buy – a special day with National Trust staff at either an outdoors location or behind the scenes at one of the NT properties in the winners’ chosen region. In addition the winners in each category will have their poem published in the autumn 2011 edition of National Trust Magazine. The winners and five runners-up will also receive a copy of Ode to the Countryside – the NT collection of poetry celebrating the British landscape.

The judge is the poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan. He says, “The open air, the layers of landscape, the endlessly changing weather and the way that buildings and places can evoke memory are all grist to the poet’s mill.”

So it should be easy to find plenty of inspiration to get you going! 

There are two categories – ‘Under 16′  and ’16 and Over’.  Only one poem per entrant is allowed and each poem should be no longer than 20 lines. There is no entry fee.

The closing date is 31 March 2011 and entry is by email or post. For full details of where to send your poems click here

And don’t forget, there’s only a week to go before I draw the winner of the Stieg Larsson books. Details are here.