Tag Archives: public speaking

Left Brain – Right Brain Confusion


I attended a 2-day training programme, about a year ago, by a company called Dramatic Resources, as part of a course I was attending. This 2-day segment was mainly on public speaking and leadership.

One set of exercises we had to do in the programme starkly showed how the interaction of the left brain and right brain can sometimes derail us if we are not careful. This has implications in the things we do in life so it is worth taking note.

Here’s how the exercises went. We paired ourselves up (to illustrate, let’s call the participants in a pair A and B) and did the following exercises:

Exercise 1

A and B say 1,2,3,1,2,3, in sequence alternating between A and B quickly (i.e. A:1; B:2; A:3; B:1; A:2; B3; A:1 etc)

This, apparently, is an activity in which the left brain predominantly, is used.

Exercise 2

A and B do the actions (clap, stamp your foot, flick your fingers) in sequence alternating between A and B quickly (i.e. A:clap; B:stamp; A:flick; B:clap; A:stamp; B:flick; A:clap etc)

This got us into a groove. We almost felt like we were dancing! In this mode, we managed quite well. This, apparently, is an activity in which the right brain, predominantly, is used.

Exercise 3

Combining the above, A and B had to insert the numbers in Exercise 1 after every 2 actions in Exercise 2 (clap, stamp, say 1, flick, clap, say 2, stamp, flick, say 3, clap, stamp, say 1 etc. ) in sequence alternating between A and B quickly (i.e. A:clap; B:stamp; A:1; B:flick; A:clap; B:2; A:stamp; B:flick; A:3, etc). As you can imagine, this drove us crazy!! It was really, really hard to do this quickly. This, apparently, is an activity using both the right and left brain and gets very confusing.

This really hit the point home for me and I found the exercise very insightful.

There are examples of this in real life. A child may get quite carried away in telling a story using her imagination (right brain activity). When an adult comes a long and chides the child, demanding an explanation as to why she is not doing her homework (left brain activity to answer this) she just freezes, going blank.

This could sometimes be what happens when we are talking to an audience, happily engrossed in the description of what we are saying and something triggers left brain activity (doubt for example – why is that person reading his blackberry instead of listening? Am I boring them?) This disrupts our right brain activity that was carrying on so nicely until interrupted.

I find it very useful to have this understanding of how our brains function. With this knowledge we can try to consciously tell the offending part of the brain to keep from interefering (for a while when we need this discipline) when another part of the brain is doing just fine.

Have you had such an experience you would like to share?

Book Review: Say it Like Obama – by Shel Leanne

Say it Like Obama – by Shel Leanne

I’m not one for “spin”; in fact I find it quite troubling how many people seem enamoured more by powerful oratory than by substance, hard facts and tested results – I have alluded to this in a number of my previous posts, e.g. “Narrative Fallacies Galore“, “Book Review – The Believing Brain“, “Book Review – Redirect“, etc.

Having said that, one does occasionally have to speak in public and it helps to maximise the impact of what one has to say. The author does a very thorough job of analysing Obama’s speeches in detail, giving very structured and well written explanations of each of the techniques used, with clear examples of how these techniques have been applied. Having been a member of Toastmasters International for almost 5 years, most of the techniques described in the book are quite familiar to me – voice and intonation, powerful imagery, anecdotes, repeating or using similar sounding words (anaphora, epiphora, alliterations, triads etc.), gestures and pauses at the right times.

My purpose of reading this book was to see if there was anything additional I could glean on this subject of public speaking, as practised by President Obama. There certainly were a few new ideas.

The first is on breaking down barriers – acknowledging the “elephant in the room”, such as his race or different name and achieving trancsendence by finding common ground and talking about shared dreams and visions. Tackling the “elephant in the room” head on at the beginning then makes for a more comfortable atmosphere with the audience during the rest of the time the speech is being delivered.

The second is on conveying admirable ethics (e.g. being gracious, even after being insulted or made to feel awkward by a previous speaker), in order to earn trust and confidence. This point may be more about leadership. By building a good ethical reputation, if and when controversy arises or accusations come forth, these attacks tend to bounce off rather than stick.

The third is on overcoming obstacles and weathering controversies or accepting responsibility for errors. (Again, this may have more to do with leadership.) These should be tackled at the beginning, with humility rather than defiance. After addressing this (and with the audience then in a more forgiving and receptive state), Obama would then go on to reiterate his beliefs and deliver tough messages.

For anyone interested in the subjects of public speaking and leadership, this book does offer a few good tips.

My takeaway from the book “Express to Impress” – by Darren Tay

Express to Impress – by Darren Tay

My friend, Darren, a 23-year old with many accomplishments already, invited me to his book launch, held yesterday, which I was happy to attend. Darren recently graduated with a law degree and was on the Dean’s list, he is a champion public speaker within Toastmasters International and is now an entrepreneur, having started his own ‘Public Speaking Academy’.

I hadn’t planned on buying the book before the event, as I already have many on public speaking. However, it was quite inexpensive, with an attractive discount at the launch event, only about 170 pages long, and well, what can I say, my curiosity got the better of me – I am always drawn to books.

What I like about the book is that it is refreshing and original. There are a gazillion books on public speaking and I had earlier thought – “what could be new about this one?” Yet, it is very much based on the writer’s personal experiences and perspectives. The stories, anecdotes and lessons learnt are uniquely the author’s and therefore to me, the book has been an interesting read.

The takeaway for me, and for any aspiring writer, is just that. No matter how beaten up a subject may be, an author’s own unique experience and stories brought to life somehow have a way of connecting with readers’ souls!