A great deal of work goes into ensuring each meeting has a full programme so that we can all learn from each other. We know that there are times when people have to work late, maybe caught in traffic or train delays or even on holiday. That is life, however if you find you are unable to attend for any reason, do send in your apology either to the Sergeant at Arms or the VP Education or even the Toastmaster for that evening. When you receive the grid make sure that you review it and should you find a date where you are allocated a role and you know that you will not be there, inform the VP Education immediately so that another member can be offered that role.
Oh what a lot of fuss you may say! Not at all, in business or other organizations it is courteous to advise if you are unable to attend. It is another skill that we are learning at Toastmasters to make us all confident in every aspect that we are aiming to achieve.
Each speech should comprise of an introduction, the main body and a conclusion and this is the structure of any talk. The introduction should be a maximum of two minutes as attention spans are very short. You need to make sure you have the attention of your audience and they have an expectation that you will start well, so make your introduction count.
The body of your speech gives the details which is better if you deliver it in bite size pieces. Break your content down into key points or sections, it will be much easier to remember that way and if you practice well, you will get everything in the correct order. If you have statistics or researched information, this will enable you to expand your subject. Don’t read your speech word for word as you will lose spontaneity and this prevents eye contact which means you will lose the attention of your audience. You know how much time you are allocated and this will allow you to set each section to time.
The conclusion should briefly sum up what you have said and should be strongly delivered rather than just trailing off to end your speech.
There are several ways in which you can put a speech together, you can sit down with a blank sheet of paper, write the topic in the middle then elsewhere note your formula (introduction, body, conclusion) and your approach (main idea, divide into key points, select supporting material etc). Rehearse your speech repeatedly, trimming it for timing and do it until it sounds more or less the same three times in a row. Any notes you use should be written big and bold enough to read from a lectern that is away from you, remember the light on the stage may be poor. If you are using visual aids, arrive at the venue early to set them up and make sure they work and are positioned to the best advantage. Use these to complement a speech and remember not to speak to them, you are speaking to an audience.
A speech is really you talking to friends in the audience. Remember that, make sure you are organised and your nerves won’t let you down.
It takes preparation and practice to create a speech before it is ready to be delivered at a club meeting. First you need a subject that will be suitable for the objectives you have to meet, you need to write it out and then start to prune it back so that it has an opening to entice your audience to listen to you, a logical flow of your subject and a strong ending which the audience can take away with them. Practice, practice, practice to yourself until you are comfortable with what you are going to say and make sure you will be in time. Record yourself and listen for the dreaded filler words such as ‘em’, ‘you know’, ‘actually’ and similar.
When it is your turn to walk towards the rostrum walk tall, take deep breaths, shake hands with the Toastmaster and make sure the stage is how you want it to be. For instance, move the lectern to your side at an angle if you are using notes or move it away if you are not. Give yourself sufficient room to enable you to use gestures and move around.
Start with a strong voice to engage your audience. Be expressive with voice modulation to add light and shade to your words and use gestures to emphasise points. Whether your message is serious or humorous, use facial expressions to create the feeling you want to convey. Don’t be afraid to be expansive in your movements and tone of voice, it all adds to the enjoyment for the audience.
Obtain advice and guidance from your Mentor and take note of the comments given by your evaluator, both oral and written, these will all help you to improve and enable you to give a better performance with each speech. It will also help you in your quest to become good at giving evaluations and also taking part in topics. Watch the video of your speech and relate that to your evaluation and work on the areas of recommendations to enable further improvement.
Remember you are performing in a very supportive atmosphere and all members will be encouraging you to do well and to keep improving, this will then give you the courage to speak outside the club.
What are your next two or three projects? Do you have ideas for these? Write them down before you forget and then start to work on your next project and give yourself time to prepare and practice, you will then be ready and comfortable to give a good performance which fellow club members will enjoy.
Each speech you give, whether a prepared speech, evaluation, impromptu, topic or general evaluation, is all an occasion for you to use your voice. As a painting has light and shade to give it interest, your voice has loud and soft, to help you to project and give emphasis to every aspect of what you are saying, rather than monotone which can be very dull for the audience.
Remember your audience, they want to listen to what you have to say so make it as interesting as possible, create a mood within your speech, whatever your subject. For instance, if talking about a sport, create the atmosphere of that particular sport demonstrate how the crowd may react to a football goal, a cricket run out, a tennis game, etc. If you speak about one of your particular holidays, bring this alive and use your voice to describe the colour of the sea, the different food, the peaceful surroundings, a crowded bar or any part of the trip that was different.
During an evaluation listen for the vocal variety and give demonstrations how the voice could have been used to improve the effect. Encourage the speaker not to be afraid to use their voice to make the speech much more interesting.
Practice in front of a mirror, record yourself and listen carefully when you play it back to see where you can add impact by speaking in different tones.
Exercise your throat muscles with deep breathing and stretching your mouth to the various vowel sounds.
Now, let us hear a speech with great voice modulation and projection!
Topics participants only have two minutes to give a mini speech therefore the Topics should be on subjects that everyone can say something about in that time. Firstly choose a theme i.e. recent news, sports, learning, hobbies etc. then break this down into say 8-10 different topics under the one theme creating a stand- alone topic. Think about what it is you want people to speak about and give it some thought and prepare well. The time allowed for your session will determine how many speakers you can get to take part.
Make your own notes and choose members from the audience who are not on the programme and try to make your first participant a longer serving member to enable newer members to see and listen to what is expected of them should they be called. There may well be times when attendance means you will have to ask those on the programme to take part. Please do not ask the Timekeeper or the General Evaluator, they have enough to concentrate on during the evening and do not need distractions. Give the timing required to the Timekeeper, state the Topic and introduce each participant stating what it is they are going to speak about. For instance, a theme could be “Unusual Hobbies.” The first could be ‘tell us how you play croquet’. The second could be ‘what is required to do patchwork’ etc.
Remember this is your session as Topics Master so it is up to you to introduce it well and decide which way you are going to call up members whether by using envelopes or calling them cold. If you call cold, state the topic first and then call on someone, that way everyone will have to listen carefully to what you are saying in case they are in the hot seat! When your session is finished, close it properly by calling on the Timekeeper for timings and then giving a resume of who spoke on what. It is then you request the audience to vote for who they thought gave the best topic. You then hand back to the Toastmaster for the evening.
Words are fascinating and we use them each and every day. The role of Grammarian is to listen to see how words and grammar are used in a speech, evaluation or topic and to pick out good use of phrasing, whether it brought pictures into the mind and also to comment on bad use of grammar.
The Grammarian should also listen for unusual words. We are advised to keep it simple and not complicate any speech with long words that may not be understood, but some unusual words may add to a speech.
The Grammarian really needs to listen well to enable them to report back to the members at the end of the meeting of how those performing provided interesting phrases and colourful words and where a presentation may have been improved by the use of different words or phrases.
Other items to watch out for are the continual use of ‘filler’ words, the dreaded ‘um’, ‘basically’, ‘actually’, ‘yknow’ etc. They can become very irritating and detract from the message the speaker is endeavouring to put across to the audience. Maybe some people do not notice these non essential words, however if you really listen they will become a blight to the message.
As Grammarian you can pick up on these aspects of speech and give feedback on how these have detracted from the speech and give examples of how not to use them, i.e. use the pause instead.
Your report should not be overlong, give examples of good and not so good grammar, words that you particularly liked and also how the use of unnecessary ‘filler’ words need to be curbed.
It seems Toastmasters place an inordinate amount of emphasis on how much a speaker moves around on the platform. We usually consider a lectern ‘off limits’ for any experienced speaker and expect them to move around, whether or not such movement contributes to the effectiveness of the speech.
Speaking without using a lectern can be very effective, bringing the speaker closer to the audience, however it can also be distracting. The purpose of gestures, expressions and body language is to reinforce the vocal language and should only be used if they heighten or intensify the message.
Some of the greatest speeches ever made were delivered from lecterns, John F Kennedy’s inaugural address is one. Avoiding the lectern proves to the audience that the speaker has memorised the speech and does not need to refer to notes – is that important?
Is our primary goal memorisation or is it effective delivery?
Using a lectern is a skill to be learnt and one that will aid everyone when asked to give presentations as the majority of speakers at seminars etc. use a lectern.
From Speakeasy 18 – September 2000
(An extraction from an article in the May 2000 Toastmasters Magazine)
Do you find your mind wandering during a club evening, or for that matter during any conversation or business meeting you are involved with? It can happen so easily with the least thing causing a distraction. What you need to do is completely FOCUS on the speaker and what they are saying. This can work in any situation and in our club environment we need to give respect to everyone who stands up front whether Toastmaster, Warm Up, those giving a speech, evaluation, topic, or General Evaluation.
If you do not listen to the Toastmaster, the Warm Up or Topics, how are you going to take part and respond? With the speakers, listen to their introduction and from the moment they start to speak focus on every aspect of what they are saying, how they deliver their speech and any message they are conveying. Write down a few points you gained from the speech and then you can speak to that person after to have a short discussion on what you gained from their tale. How would you have evaluated the speech? Listen to the evaluators and see if any points you put together were covered by the evaluator and listen to how they evaluated.
When you leave at the end of the evening, review it to yourself and you will be surprised at how this will help you to develop your own style of delivery.
Should you wish to use the flip chart during a presentation, ask the Sergeant at Arms to bring this along to the meeting. It is good to prepare in advance so you will both need to get to the meeting in good time. Once it has been prepared, close it down so that the contents cannot be seen by the audience.
Always use black or blue pens, red is a difficult colour to see as it bleeds which makes it hard to read, particularly at the back of the hall. Colours such as red, yellow or green are good for colouring in a bar chart or other designs drawn on the sheet.
If you decide to use the flip chart during your presentation, such as writing relevant points down as you go along, make sure it is legible and clear, write in large print, avoid upper and lower case. If you have sub headings under a particular heading mark these with a hyphen or star prior to each line to show the links.
When referring to items on the page, do not stand in front of the sheet but to the side and point with a pen or pointer at the line you are referring to and look at the audience not continually at the flip chart. Remember, a flip chart is an aid to your speech not a crutch!
Lastly, always remember to close the flip chart down when you have finished with it or alternatively at the end of your presentation.
In the first one or two minutes, the speaker has to hook the attention of the audience. So what makes a good speech opening?
Make a startling statement
Use an intriguing statement that will compel your audience to listen such as ‘Smoking Kills. More Americans die each year than were killed in the battles during World War ll and Vietnam together’. Arouse suspense or curiosity. Compare these two openings.
Hello I’m your speaker and I’m here to give some clues on what foods to avoid so you can have less disease and less stress.
Would you like to add twenty quality years to your life? Then think before reaching for your saltcellar. I am going to share with you ten easy proven steps to add these twenty years to your life.
Tell a story (or anecdote)
Telling an amusing tale or dramatic story or anecdote arouses interest and gets the audience involved. Keep the story relevant to the main points of the speech and personalise it whenever possible, for example instead of beginning ‘Two men were hunting in the woods’ say ‘My brother and I went hunting in the woods’.
Ask a rhetorical question
Ask a question or a series of questions that relate to your speech topic. For instance, in a speech about first aid you could begin by asking ‘Do you know what to do if your child starts to choke?’
Begin with a quotation
Using a quotation is an easy and effective way to attract attention.
The following are some “Don’ts” when beginning your speech.
Don’t use the opening to restate the title of your speech
Every moment counts in creating interest and suspense so don’t go over what is already known.
Don’t open your speech with an apology
Some consider this makes you sound friendly and not pompous but apologies can alert your audience to listen for weaknesses.
Don’t explain your presence
Don’t offer explanations about why you think you were asked to speak. Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe you anyway.
Don’t say how difficult it was to choose a subject
As far as the audience is concerned you should not doubt the importance of your speech and you should communicate its vital nature.
To summarise: A dynamic beginning is essential for a successful speech. Take time to create an exciting, imaginative beginning that will keep your audience focused on what you have to say. First impressions are very often the lasting impressions so make sure your opening will create immediate interest.