The Andrometer – how do you measure up?

Sir William JonesSir William Jones (1746 – 1794) a linguist and hyperpolyglot who knew 13 languages thoroughly and another 28 reasonably well, was an Oxford graduate and lawyer who moved to India where he studied Sanskrit.

A recent article in Mental Floss notes that as a young man, while working as a tutor to English nobility, Jones developed what he called an “Andrometer”, or timeline, to check that a person’s moral and intellectual development was on track.

The Andrometer

(Click to enlarge)

Jones explained that this

…enables you to measure every man’s merit by looking for his age in the scale, and then comparing it with the other side, and seeing to what degree he has risen in arts, sciences, and ornamental qualifications.

I find it fascinating that the checklist includes early focus on the art of rhetoric (aka. oratory or public speaking), starting around age 16, continuing with exercises in public speaking and the study of Ancient Orators (presumably Cicero, Quintilian and the like).

Although the list might have been prepared tongue-in-cheek, the focus on rhetoric in a well-rounded education certainly featured in ancient Greece and Rome and continued through to the late 19th century.

According to Jones, by the time a person is in their mid-30′s they should focus on improving their habits of eloquence and start to publish their speeches. At age 38 the checklist states “Eloquence perfect”.

At age 62, we are to enjoy “a glorious retirement” (if only!) and, after three score years and ten, engage in “Preparation for ETERNITY.” Jones, unfortunately, only made it to 47, dying of overwork in Calcutta.

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How to use Google auto-complete to generate content

Google Auto-Complete
If you are stuck for a rhetorical question to use as a speech opening, or just want to see what is a popular about a topic, you can use Google to ask:

Why is [topic] so…

before pressing ‘Enter’ Google will kick in with an ‘auto-complete’ algorithm that predicts what you are searching for, based on how often past users have searched for a term.

The results are absolutely fascinating.

While Google might change over time, here’s the current results showing the first single word returned for a variety of places, people, pastimes and products that would be useful material for a speaker to comment on by noting that “People ask…I can tell you that in my experience…”:

Why is England so rainy
Why is Ireland so green
Why is Scotland so poor
Why is France so liberal
Why is the USA so hated

Why is New York City so big
Why is Dallas so boring
Why is Minneapolis so expensive
Why is Beijing so polluted
Why is the Equator so hot

Why is President Obama so arrogant
Why is John Lennon so influential
Why is Hitler so cool (!)
Why is Fox News so bad
Why is the BBC so good

Why is cycling so addictive
Why is chess so hard
Why is skiing so fun
Why is scuba diving so tiring
Why is cricket so popular

Why is sugar so addictive
Why is tobacco so popular
Why is lettuce so bitter
Why is Marmite so salty
Why is Vegemite so disgusting

Try it yourself and see. Simply enter the topic of your next speech into Google and let auto-complete suggest a word or phrase you can use as an opening.

Why is this so simple?

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45 years ago today, a speech never given

Apollo 1145 years ago today, on July 20 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the surface of the Moon.

In advance of the mission, anticipating the risks involved, White House speechwriter Bill Safire prepared a speech to be given by President Nixon if the lunar module was unable to return to Earth.

Thankfully, this was a speech that was never given.

To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire


Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.


The president should telephone each of the widows-to-be.

AFTER THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT, at the point when NASA ends communications with the men:

A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to “the deepest of the deep,” concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

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A low-salt diet: CEO’s tone it down

CEO CurseIn a recent study Bloomberg notes that CEO’s have toned down their “salty” language.

The frequency of four-letter words used by captains of industry on analyst conference calls shows a measurable decline in the past 10 years:

A kind of periodic table of salty words — the F-bomb, the blasphemous GD, the scatalogical S and derogatory term AH — shows that they were used 254 times by top executives in calls during that decade. They appeared 17, 34, 197 and 6 times, respectively.

The researchers argue that cursing follows the same up and down trajectory as unemployment and gross domestic product — when times are tough the tough get testy.

I find it fascinating that the reader is spared the specifics. Unlike the British newspaper the Financial Times which prints words that most adults freely use on a daily basis, American news reports resort to “periodic table” codes such as AH, S and GD.

Personally, I don’t see what’s so offensive about saying “Ah Ah!”, “Strewth” and “Gosh Darn”.

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Toastmasters International goes … international

Toastmasters Kuala Lumpur
For the first time in its 90-year history, Toastmasters is holding its International Convention outside of North America at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre in Malaysia, Aug. 20-23.

The featured presenters include Robin Sieger the former Head of Development at BBC Television who will deliver the keynote presentation during the Opening Ceremonies on Wednesday, Aug. 20. A former television executive and comedy writer, Sieger is the author of Natural Born Winners and a motivational speaker from Scotland who speaks about innovation to Fortune 100 companies around the world.

Astro Malaysia Holdings’ CEO Rohana Rozhan will be honored as the recipient of the nonprofit organization’s 2014 Golden Gavel award. The prestigious award is presented annually to an individual distinguished in the fields of communication and leadership. Rohana joins an illustrious list of Golden Gavel honorees, including Walter Cronkite, Stephen Covey, Deepak Chopra, Anthony Robbins and Zig Ziglar.

Other presenters include:

Jana Barnhill, Accredited Speaker and Toastmasters 2008-2009 International President from Lubbock, Texas. She is a five-time winner of the District 44 International Speech Contest, and has placed second and third in the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

Mark Brown, 1995 Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking. Originally from Kingston, Jamaica, Mark now lives in the U.S., in Lizelle, Georgia. He is a member of the National Speakers Association and delivers more than 200 presentations per year.

Douglas Kruger, Author, motivational speaker and presentation skills coach based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He delivers motivational presentations and training seminars for large organizations, including Old Mutual, Caltex and Vodacom.

Lance Miller, 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking. A resident of Glendale, California, he is a former executive for Nestle and Anheuser-Busch. Miller engages his audience with a unique mix of talent and life experience that bring his messages to life.

Florian Mueck, A speaker, coach and author based in Barcelona, Spain, who speaks three languages (English, German and Spanish). In 2010, he gave a talk for TEDxBarcelona titled Europe: How to Unleash a Common Spirit.

Rory Vaden, Entrepreneur, consultant and author from Nashville, Tennessee who speaks to audiences about how to say no to things that don’t matter, and yes to things that do. At age 23, he placed second in the 2007 World Championship of Public Speaking.

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Speechwriting — Success Behind the Podium with Barbie Tootle

Barbie_TootleBarbie Tootle is President of Left Field Consulting, which provides freelance writing services, consultation in communication strategies, and training in creativity and personal development. She researches and writes speeches for CEOs and senior officers in the corporate world, non-profits, and higher education. Barbie also writes scripts for large events and videos. She is story editor and researcher on the documentary film Song of the Soul: Stories of Hospice in South Africa.

For 15 years, Barbie was Director of Special Projects and Special Assistant to the President of The Ohio State University, working for three presidents. She spent a dozen years in student affairs after receiving a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Ohio State. Barbie has delivered hundreds of keynote speeches and facilitated hundreds of workshops and training sessions around the country.

Barbie is a member of the Board of Directors of The Ohio State University Alumni Association. She served as president of the Board of Trustees of Thurber House and volunteers in the Ohio Historical Society’s 19th-Century Base Ball Program. She is left-handed and shares a passion for baseball with her husband Jim, a baseball historian.

In this TEDx talk that was given at Ohio State University, produced independently of the TED Conferences, she discusses some of her speechwriting guidelines.

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On Demand: National Speakers Association 2014 Conference

NSA 2014 Conference Here’s a free On Demand archive of certain presentations from the conference. For speechwriters, I highly recommend Nancy Duarte’s talk “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences” and Giovanni Livera‘s “Storyboarding Workshop”. Both are listed in the tab for Monday June 30.

The Tuesday presentation by Jay Baer on the “Speaker as Media Company” has interesting material on how to best use social media to magnify the impact of speeches.

Expect more material to be posted after the event wraps up today.

Kudos to the NSA for sharing!

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Free Livestream: NSA Conference

NSA14I’ve just found out that parts of this years National Speakers Association (NSA) conference in San Diego are being livestreamed for free from Sunday June 29th at 5:00pm through Wednesday July 2nd 5:00pm.

Highlights include:

  • Monday 8:30am Nancy Duarte and Steve Forbes “Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences”
  • Monday 2:45pm Storyboarding Workshop
  • Tuesday 1:30pm Roundtable including Alan Weiss, Roxanne Emmerich
  • Wednesday 10:00am Million Dollar Positioning: How to Position Yourself as the Expert with Alan Weiss

Lots more on the Livestream Agenda that is hosted by Jim Cathcart.

Register here for the livestream.

Also follow on Twitter: #NSA14

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Lost tape archives

Blank on BlankMy experience of blogging is that it’s like waiting for a the bus — no material for days on end and then a whole bunch comes along at once.

Following my post yesterday on the Portland State University lost speech tapes, I found an article about the Blank on Blank project that curates lost tapes of interviews with famous people, mostly in the entertainment field.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Larry King’s hilarious story about his late night escapades as a young radio DJ, Janis Joplin on rejection, John Lennon on love, and Pete Seeger on writing ‘We Shall Overcome’.

These tapes are a great source of entertaining stories.

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Portland State University speech archive

PSU SpeakersA Portland State University archivist has uncovered a box of reel-to-reel recordings of campus speeches by figures such as LSD advocate Timothy Leary, Robert F. Kennedy speaking a few short weeks before his assassination, Nobel prize-winner Linus Pauling speaking on the effects of radioactive fallout a few months before the Cuban Missile crisis, and poet Allan Ginsberg.

The recordings had been stored in a warehouse after the format went out of use. Luckily, most were in nearly flawless condition and sound as clear as the day they were recorded. PSU has converted 275 hours of tape recordings to digital format. They are available on the web, starting with the most recent recordings from 1979 (when I briefly lived in Portland, but unfortunately did not attend any of these events) all the way back to the earliest from 1952. (Ignore the message on the website stating “This document is currently not available here” and scroll down to the image of the reel-to-reel tape deck to listen.)

These are full-length recordings and include the speaker introduction and audience questions. They are a fascinating and useful resource for speechwriters looking for content on a variety of topics as well as a record of cultural change in America from the 1950′s to the 1970′s.

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