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Public Speaking Course: 

No Brainstoppers!

I made up this term to define what can happen during a presentation that either adds or subtracts the attention of your audience. A "brainstopper" is what happens when you say or do something that causes the minds of those in the audience to stop and think about something.  Most of the time during a public speaking course I catch a student delivering a bad brainstopper.

Here is an example of a good brainstopper. You might say, "Take a
moment and think about the first toy you had as a child." A statement like this would take the audience's minds from where it is now to a distant memory. For most of the audience this would be a
pleasant experience, but for some it may be unpleasant. You might do this to illustrate some
point about how simple things used to be. You will learn how to lead the audience in this way during your public speaking course.

Here is an example of a bad brainstopper. You might say, "That man's
elocution is impeccable." For all of us extremely educated and brilliant
minds the word "elocution"  means fine form in speaking or
reading.

But if this word were to be used in a less educated arena, the instant it came out of your mouth,
the brains of the audience would be racing to figure out what the word "elocution" means. So their brains have essentially stopped because you used a word that was not easily understood. The audience member will not hear what you say for the next couple of minutes because they are still trying to
figure out what the word "elocution" means. Do this several times and they will completely tune out altogether.

Another way to create a brainstopper is to distract them by what you are doing on stage. You might display an unusual prop before explaining what it is.
This would make an audience member stop listening while they try to figure out what the prop is. If you were talking during this time, they wouldn't hear anything you said. 

Be careful of the words and actions you choose before you get up
on stage. It is hard enough to keep attention in today's short
attention span environments. Don't make it worse by using bad
brainstoppers. Carefully selected and cleverly used brainstoppers can
be a good part of your skills learned from your public speaking course.

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