Ooops. Be careful what you say in front of your Mac

I’m reviewing Dragon Dictate for and I’m spending a lot of time on it, really getting to know this dictation software. I’m especially interested because I didn’t believe it would work: I’ve seen voice recognition systems that promised the Earth and delivered maybe an allotment. Equally, while I am very much a fan of Siri, she does seem to have good and bad days so relying on that for writing work didn’t seem feasible.

Not to spoil the MacNN review as I’m not ready and still have much more to test but I have to tell you this.

I was writing a news article for The Blank Screen when the phone rang. It was one of those calls where they say they understand you used to work in industry with heavy machinery and did you know you could be eligible for compensation? (Wait. Do you get those or is it just me? They’re doing a punt in the dark just as much as the PPI callers or the “I understand you’ve been involved in an accident in the last three years” people are.)

I’m afraid I can tell you that I said “Am I bollocks, where do you get this information, do you actually pay for that database? Never mind, go on to your next one and have a nice day.” I have no idea why I said “have a nice day”.

But I know I did because Dragon Dictate wrote that whole line into the article. Actually, I don’t understand how I did this but it wrote all the way up to the word “bollocks” in the news article, then switched to an email I was drafting and wrote the rest there.

I’m mostly very impressed. I’m also aware that I could’ve click Post on the article or Send on the email and then where would we be?

Dragon Dictate 4 is available in various editions for Macs and PCs on its official site.

Learn structure from Obama’s script writer

By far, the best way to learn how to write speeches is to read the great ones, from Pericles’ Funeral Oration, to Dr. King’s Mountaintop speech, to Faulkner’s Nobel acceptance address. But if you’re looking for some quick tips, here are a few things to bear in mind next time you’re asked to give a speech:

1. Write like you talk. There is no First Law of Speechwriting, but if there were, it would probably be something like this: a speech is meant to be spoken, not read. That simple (and obvious) fact has a few important (and less obvious) implications. Use short words. Write short sentences. Avoid awkward constructions that might cause a speaker to stumble. Tip: Read the speech aloud as you’re writing. If you do it enough, you’ll start hearing the words when you type them.

6 Tips for Writing a Persuasive Speech (On Any Topic) ≠ Adam Frankel, TIME (12 January 2015)

Read the full piece.

Important presenting tip: don’t press buttons

If it’s a speech or a story, I like to memorise what I’m going to say so that I can look at the audience and perform rather than just read. Fine. But I do bring the speech and I bring it on my iPad where I will have been making changes along the way. Also fine.

Just be careful, okay?

I gave a performance last night reading from a script I had in Drafts 4 on my iPad. I’d changed the settings so that the text was extra large and that it was white text on a black background so that I didn’t have an unearthly glow about my chin.

All very, very fine.

But Drafts 4 is for writing and doing things with text, it isn’t for reading. And at one point, about a third of the way through, I smoothly scrolled down to the next paragraph – and my finger caught an on-screen button.

With two hundred people staring at me, this button highlighted half the script, ran a macro over it all, inserted URL links and pasted whatever in the hell I last had on the clipboard. I watched this thing doing rapid-fire editing changes in front of me and saw my script reduced to unreadable rubble.

I realise now that I could’ve picked up the iPad and shook it to undo but have you ever done that in front of a capacity crowd in a theatre? I’d look like I was twitching.

I’ve listened to the recording and I can tell you the moment it happened. But I did have the speech memorised enough that I could carry on. And it worked out. One woman from the audience told me afterwards that my speech had made her cry. I thanked her but I was actually thinking “yeah, me too”, though probably for different reasons.

Lesson: don’t press buttons. More practical lesson: lock your script early and save it as PDF rather than keeping it as editable text.

That inspirational Jim Carrey speech in full

Previously on The Blank Screen…

Reportedly actor and comic Jim Carrey just gave an inspirational graduation speech. He did it at the Maharishi University of Management and I’m sure the full thing will be online soon but already we get this [key excerpt].

This is one minute and two seconds from it in which he genuinely is inspirational. I think the top half of the minute is a bit cloying but it becomes sensible and good and strong:

A Short Slice of Jim Carrey – William Gallagher, The Blank Screen (11 June 2014)

It took longer than I expected but you can now watch his whole half-hour commencement:

How to start a speech, any speech

Well, maybe not a eulogy. But otherwise, if you’re standing up there giving a presentation, – “news and ideas for communicators” – has advice for you. Here’s their example and if the rest of the article gets a bit happy-clappy, the example sings:

I occasionally speak to a group of part-time volunteers who are working to reduce the number of injuries suffered in house fires. I used this opening for one of my talks:

“I’m only going to speak to you for one hour this morning. During our hour together, someone, somewhere in America, is going to be badly injured in a house fire. By the time you begin lunch this afternoon, someone, somewhere in America, will die in a house fire. By dinner, another person will die. By the time you go to sleep, another person will die. As you sleep tonight, two more people will die.

I’m here today because I want to prevent that from happening. And I’m going to need your help.”

Five great ways to open a speech – Brad Phillips, (14 July 2014)

Good, eh? Read the full piece for more.