Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

Are we doing charity wrong?

Saturday, April 30th, 2016 | Thoughts, Video

At TED2013, Dan Pallotta made the case that we think about charities the wrong way. We judge them by what percentage of our donation goes to the ‘end cause’, and not on results. This prevents them from competing with for-profit business because they cannot spend big on hiring the best people, marketing and fundraising.

A number of these points resonate with me.

First, I choose to work in the private sector, rather than the third sector. I suspect I might enjoy working for a charity more than I enjoy my current job. However, just like Pallotta points out, it is simply far more profitable for me to do it this way round. By earning a good salary in the private sector I am able to feed my family and have enough left over to fund my foundation.

Second, in my time being involved in CWF, I know I have had thoughts, and probably conversations, along the lines of “how will that affect our charitable spending?” This means we have a great spending ratio, 93.8% in our last financial year, but essentially means that we could well have made some bad decisions in order to keep this number high.

Britain’s Coming Home

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Video

If this doesn’t convince you, nothing will…

Technically correct

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016 | Video

I miss Futurama.

Morality Explained

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 | Public Speaking, Video

My Toastmasters speech for Speaking to Inform project #5 “The Abstract Concept”. In this talk I discuss how morality and altruism can work within the context of natural selection.

The wedding speeches

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Public Speaking, Video

Our Leeds wedding was a fairly traditional sit-down affair, which included speeches by myself and my best man Norman. My brother-in-law Simon was good enough to capture it all on video.

I’m pretty pleased with my speech so I am now going to arrogantly offer advice to anyone who has such as speech to do. Perhaps it will even be useful for public speaking in general.

I opened with a few jokes. I think it set a good tone for the rest of the speech, which was mostly jokes. You have to go big or go home here. It’s scary yelling out “AH HA!” in front of a room of people who may or may not have seen Alan Partridge but you really have to go for it if you want the effect to work.

In terms of preparation, I started writing the speech as soon as I proposed. This gave me a year to work on it. I did not need all of that time. I wrote most of it mentally in the first few months, and metaphorically put ink to paper a few months before the big day. A month or two is ample time to write it but I recommend getting starting in advance for a number of reasons.

First, it is easier to do when you have plenty of time. Writing a speech to a deadline sucks. You are more likely to get writer’s block when you know you have to write, rather than when you can be relaxed about it. Also, doing it well in advance gives you plenty of time to go over it and nearer the day you will have other fires to fight. You can even write it, forget about it, then do a practice run a few weeks before.

In terms of practice, I didn’t do much. But then I was pretty relaxed about it (until I had to stand up and realised this was it!). Having written it mostly in my mind, I knew the lines pretty well anyway, and I did do some practice beforehand, so it wasn’t totally just freestyle.

I used notes, as you can see from the video. Always have notes to hand. They are a comfort blanket. When I am giving a competition speech, I do not have any notes. But when it is your wedding and you are already feeling the stress, the last thing you want is additional pressure. There is alcohol to factor in too. Best to have the notes there, just in case.

The Finnish bit was read word for word. I originally wrote it in English than had Elina translate it. Then I took that to my Finnish tutor and we worked on the pronunciation together. My script is actually annotated with pronunciation notes to remind myself.

Speaking of Finnish, try not to butcher the names of all your in-laws. It’s something that I, alas, was unable to achieve.

Emotion plays a key part in your delivery too. I choked up when I was telling the story about Elina’s dad. I was not expecting that. Looking back at the video it doesn’t look as bad as it felt, but it felt pretty bad. Worth factoring that in as something to be aware of.

I suspect the best bits are the most personal. Those are the most moving. And sometimes the most funny: the joke about my parents marrying for tax reasons got the biggest laugh of the speech.

Gestures, I still haven’t figured this one out. I need to find something else to do with my hands. However, I’m not sold on the idea of keeping them by myself the whole time. It looks and feels strange to me. This area needs more attention.

With the length, I came in at 22 minutes. This would have been too long had there been a third speech. However, given it was just myself and Norman, and we are both good speakers, I thought I could get away with it. Adding a bit of vocal variety (“20 years Leeds!”) seemed to help add some animation.

I sent my speech to Norman a week or two before the wedding. At which point he realised we were basically saying the same thing and quickly went on the re-write! He kept his notes on his phone which worked quite well. It’s small, like flashcards, so doesn’t get in the way.

Confidence is key. Norman’s strong and bold delivery sets a good base, and his appropriate timing and pauses around the jokes adds to the effect. You could take this even further: breaking out into song for the Tim Minchin lines for example. Not a tactic for the faint-hearted though!

Again, the personal stuff works the best. I loved the references to Stewart Lee, but it didn’t get the same laughs as the rest. Telling personal stories to your friends and family is being able to make an in-joke that everyone is included in.

Man tries to drive through a cone

Thursday, January 7th, 2016 | Video

road-cone

One of the roads near us was deep under water as a result of the recent Leeds flooding so it was coned off. However, one man decided that he was going to drive down he road anyway. Unfortunately he was not careful enough and managed to hit a cone, wedging it inside his front wheel. He then had to get out of the car and take it out.

See the video:

What this doesn’t show is that he got half way down the road, realised it was too deep, and had to turn round and come back.

The Assembly Line, November 2015

Sunday, December 6th, 2015 | Music, Video

At November’s Sunday Assembly Leeds we did two songs, Echo Beach and Stuck in the Middle With You. I also did a solo cover of Closing Time, but my camera died before we got to that. The camera was using a huge aperture, so half the band are out of focus.

Echo Beach

Stuck in the Middle With You

Hell in High Heels

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 | Public Speaking, Video

This is my speech from the recent Toastmasters 2015 humorous speech contest. I recorded it both at club level and area level, both of which I ended up winning.

If you want to watch one, I recommend the bottom one as the Area one is probably a little more polished. For the Toastmasters geek among you, I will go into detail about both.

Above is the club contest. My first contest in two years having taken a year out to be Area Governor. I was a bit nervous beforehand but felt fine once I got up there.

I did not mean to actually cause so a racquet when I kicked the shoes off, but I when it got such big laughs I would I would roll with it. Then on to the area contest…

Here I had taken out a lot of the history of the heel. This was originally the point of the speech, but it was a bit try for a humorous contest, so I replace it with some material about the number of pairs of shoes we often end up with.

I also kept the accidental ending in (though this time on purpose). At Division level I toned this down as I almost hit an audience member at Area! So I carefully removed the shoes and then pretended to slam them to the ground.

I did not record Divsion, but it was essentially the same as Area. a made a few subtle changes. For example I took out “as all women know, the first step is to buy loads of shoes” because I felt this was a bit sexist. I replaced it with “I studied my wife carefully and worked out the first step was to buy loads of shoes” as this makes the same identifiable joke without offending anyone (except perhaps Elina, who I cleared it with in advance!).

You might notice I am wearing the same outfit in both videos. That is not a coincidence. One of the feedback points I got from my advanced club was that I needed to show off my legs – so a well-fitted t-shirt and skinny jeans it was! They’re horrible, I don’t know how the young people put up with them.

Speaking of advanced clubs, taking the speech to Asselby Speakers was the best preparation I did. None of this being nice nonsense you get at regular clubs, they just gave me proper feedback. I came away with a one and half sides of A4 and it turned an okay speech into a multi-contest winning speech.

Trick plays

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 | Video

The line between insanity and genius is often wider than you think.

Verizon advert

Monday, November 9th, 2015 | Video

Life as Drew Brees’ backup.