Week five

Workbook activities

Notice talk

When it comes to talk, I am aware of how to speak on social terms and on professional terms.  I have a lot of work experience and find it easy distinguish when it’s appropriate to use social talk or institutional talk.  I have also found that, with experience, I can easily judge a person’s personality or how a conversation will flow by taking note of their talk skills early in a meeting.

In a work environment, I always greet people and ask how they are.  It’s not only polite but creates a professional atmosphere. I work for a state MP and engage with the public on a daily basis. The conversation would go as follows:

Constituent: Hello, I’m John Smith.

Me: Hi John, how are you?

Constituent: Yeah I’m alright

Me: That’s good. How can I help you today?

To sign off from another conversation, I would say:

Me: That’s great. Thanks for your help today.

Parliament contact: That’s ok.

Me: Bye and have a good weekend.

When dealing with awkward or uncomfortable moments, I find asking a question rather than using humour helps the conversation get back on track. In a professional environment, I often ask how they’re day has been or if they have a busy week coming up.  I find using humour more appropriate if I’m familiar with a person and they’re personality.

I find it important to use institutional talk when appropriate. Any form of casual talk, swearing or gossip in a professional setting (work, appointments, ceremonies) is inappropriate. However, institutional talk can occur anywhere, and by the same token, ordinary conversation can emerge in in almost any institutional context (Heritage, 2005). It’s all about knowing that right moment and situation.


Consider institutional talk in detail

Political interview – Laurie Oakes and John Howard 2011 -John https://pmtranscripts.dpmc.gov.au/release/transcript-11771

Entertainment interview – Richard Wilkins and Ed Sheeran

a. How was the interviewee introduced?

Oakes interview:  Very formal introduction. Oakes: Mr Howard, welcome to Sunday.

Wilkins interview: Very casual introduction. Wilkins: Ed Sheeran how are you doing?

b. What types of questions were asked?

Oakes interview:  Politically orientated questions. Example: Now how surprised were you by the West Australian result?

Wilkins interview: Questions about his short but successful career. Example: You couldn’t have wished for a better kick start to your career, could you?

c. How was the potential for conflict managed (if any)?

Oakes interview: Oakes actually pushes for confrontation and reaction in the interview with Howard. Example: You mention Peter Beattie, the polls suggest that the Queensland election next Saturday will bring more bad news for the Coalition. Have you steeled yourself for that?

Wilkins interview:

d. Was humour evident, and how?

Oakes interview: No humor evident, very serious.

Wilkins interview: There was a lot of humour about his career and personal life. It was also quite awkward in parts on Wilkins’ behalf.

e. How did the interview conclude?

Oakes interview: Interview ends abruptly and formally. Example: Prime Minister, we’re out of time. We thank you.

Wilkins interview: Mate, what a lovely guy you are. It was lovely to chat to you.

f. What were the differences, if any, between the types of interview?

There were no casual talk and friendly banter in the Oakes interview. It was all institutional talk the whole way through the interview. Whereas, the Wilkins interview was very casual, was structured like he and Sheeran were friends and had quite a lot of humor.


Interaction en Masse: Audiences and Speeches

Identifying the key point for speech writing

Performing an effective speech and successfully engaging with their audience are the main goals of an orator.  The political orator relies on the response of their audience to gauge the effectiveness of the speech and, ultimately, their popularity.

Writing an effective speech is structured with coordination and format. By using rhetorical language of incorporating contrasts and lists in a speech, the audience can easily identify the key points of the politician’s  argument or statement.  Generating applause using a three stage rocket is also an effective method of speech writing as it uses predictable persuasion to gain a positive response from an audience.

With contrasts,  in its most basic form, a negative statement is counterbalanced by a positive one (Hertiage and Clayman 2010 p.267). Contrasts are used by politicians to establish a negative point (often at the expense of an opponent) and then a positive point to boast their own side of the argument.  Heritage and Clayman (2010) mention contradictions, comparisons, opposites and phrase reversals are all common types of contrasting which are used for effective speeches. In an example, John F. Kennedy used phase reversal in a now infamous speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”.  It was a patriotic and grounding statement that the audience reacted well to.

Lists are effective in speeches as they emphasis and project the intended message to the audience in a simple format.  Heritage and Clayman (2010) suggest that three-part lists are also frequent in speeches, where they combine emphasis (by repetition) and the projectability that arises from the norm of response on the third item.  An accurate example of a three-part list is performed by former British Prim Minister Margaret Thatcher: “At a time of growing danger for all who cherish and believe in freedom this party of the soft centre is (1) no shield, (2) no refuge and (3) no answer (Hertiage and Clayman 2010 p.270). Thatcher’s statement was effective as it accentuated the incompetence of the opposition and the audience reacted well to it.

A combination of contrasts and lists is also a popular and effective format to gain a positive reaction from an audience.  Heritage and Clayman (2010) claim that the combination of contrasts and lists may help to shed light on the significance of the number three in lists of all sorts. As an example, many children’s stories use a three part list/contrast format, ie. Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  With politcial speeches, where combination formats were used, applause was fives more likely than speeches with  unformatted political claims (Hertiage and Clayman 2010 p.273) .

Another format Heritage and Clayman (2010) discusses it how to generate applause using a the three stage rocket. Politicians can use this format to effectively steer the audience the to applause by way of predictable persuasion. First there is the argument structure in which positions are staked out – often against those of opponents. Second, and within that structure, there is a level at which particular points are made and are rhetorically structured to build towards a specific slot. Finally, there is a micro-structural level of intonation, rhythm, timing, and gesture which guides the audience towards an exact opening in the talk where response can be initiated. Great speakers link all three of these levels into a seamless structure of argumentation (Hertiage and Clayman 2010 p.275) .



Heritage, J 2005, Conversation Analysis and Institutional Talk, University of California, Los Angeles, viewed 3 April 2016,  http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/soc/faculty/heritage/Site/Publications_files/CA%20and%20INSTITUTIONAL%20TALK_LSI.pdf.

Heritage, J and Clayman, S 2010 Talk in Action: Interactions, Identities, and Institutions, Wiley- Blackwell, West Sussex, pp. 263-287.

PM Transcripts 2001, Interview on Sunday programme with Laurie Oakes, network nine ,’PM ranscripts: transcripts from the prime ministers of Australia’, viewed 5 April 2016, https://pmtranscripts.dpmc.gov.au/release/transcript-11771.

Today 2014, Richard Wilkins interviews Ed Sheeran, ‘YouTube’, viewed 5 April 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUQkJ8TgGIs.