October 18, 2011

Toastmasters Speech #9 (CC Project 6)

I gave my ninth speech from the Competent Communicator's manual at tonight's Toastmaster meeting.  My evaulator was Steve, a guy who I've found to have extremely insightful evaluations.  The first time he was our Grammarian, I swear several member's jaws dropped when he gave his report.....I know mine did.  For a guy who professes to be tormented with the thought of public speaking, he gives the best evaluations.  Boise Club 61 isn't shy about awarding Best Evaulator awards to our Grammarians and Ah-Counters when they earn it.

For my last six speeches or so I have very deliberately waited until the morning of my presentation to sit down and write the speech, much less practice it.  Of course I spend free time a couple days before mulling things in my head.  It is too difficult to NOT do that, but I don't write anything down.  In my work experience most of the public speaking in the four to seven minute range is something I've not been given a lot of leeway on.  Long presentations get scheduled out in advance.  These short ones get an hour or a morning-of advance warning.  I'm not brave enough to venture into longer extemporaneous speaking yet.

The last two speeches I've tried to go with more of a story-telling approach of events from my past.  I know the material so I don't have to worry much about the details.  The issue really boils down to condensing the story into the allotted time period and making it relevant to the specific skills that speech project is trying to build.  Today was a difficult speech writing day for me.  I have the material down on paper.  It flows well enough, but it isn't handling the skills required for project six: vocal variety.  I'm able to slip in a small change in one paragraph, but that isn't going to cut it.  I'm essentially out of time and I've barely practiced my delivery.

I print out my speech and the introduction (in Boise Club 61 we have a rule that you do not get to speak if you haven't provided a written introduction) and start to get ready.  I tell my wife that Steve is going to "rip me a new one"....and I'm ok with that because it'll be a sincere and well thought-out evaluation.  This speech is probably a story I'd tell a little more casually after the meeting at the bar across the street (no....not that bar, the one in the hotel).  I keep turning in my head what I can do as a last-minute tweak.  I'm not going off of my writing like a script, so adding anything in really needs to be mental.

The meeting starts and I try to be done with it.  During the first portion of the meeting I re-read the first paragraph a couple times to cement that one small change I made earlier in the day.  When the break comes I try to let loose and BS with some of the other members.  I think this one little thing helped more than anything else.

I'm the first speaker and when I start my speech I swear that by the second sentence I've gone off track with my written speech.  The words coming out of my mouth feel natural and I'm taking a bit more time to go through my points because I'm adding a bit more material.  Somehow I interject a little humor and it seems to me that I'm getting back on track with the time.  I was wrong.  I've told the bulk of my story, but I'm running out of time.  One whole paragraph I summarize into a single sentence and I manage to change my closing statement and finish my speech with only a couple of seconds to spare.

I wish that I had recorded my words because the speech I gave wasn't that close to the speech I wrote.  A lot of the content may have been the same, but they were worlds apart.  Steve's evaluation was awesome and it seems my speech went over very well.  I was voted Best Speaker and my fellow Toastmaster's comments were positive.

The cynic in me wants to say that I got lucky.  I'm hoping that I'm simply getting better.

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