“You have to answer a question “Why”. Why are you delivering this speech?” That’s what I hear from a Malaysian girl and then she continues: If you do not have your “why”, there is no point to come with a speech on the stage. You have to know what do you want people to walk away with that evening. What do you want them to remember.”
I was staring at her a bit confused. Could I say that I just want to move one to the next step in the Toastmasters program? Or that I want to look like Marvellous Ms Maisel on stage? So I thought said: of course, of course, I understand.
Estee is my mentor in Toastmasters club (international organization of public speaking. I am a member of Utrecht club in the Netherlands). This is our first meeting face-to-face for mentoring, Estee will be supporting me in preparation for my three speeches. Estee shared her experience of starting her Toastmasters journey three years ago and she told me how she was a mentee. During her first meetings at Toastmasters she saw an Indian girl performing on stage and she thought: I want to be like her. This is how Estee found her mentor.
HOW TO CHOSE A TOPIC FOR YOUR TOASTMASTERS SPEECH
How to choose a topic for your Toastmasters speech is one of the first questions that I get when I talk about Toastmasters. I asked it myself to my colleague from whom I learned about existence of Toastmasters. And he told me: about anything, it does not matter. My last speech was “Why everyone needs to have a six pack”. Ok, indeed about anything – that were my thoughts.
As a person who delivered two speeches so far, I can definitely share my approach of choosing topics:).
And the approach is any topic about which I had thoughts in my head for more than ten minutes is a candidate for a speech. Very often I get these thoughts on the way to somewhere. The most important thing is to write them down.
HOW TO PREPARE A SPEECH WHEN A TOPIC IS CHOSEN
I don’t know. But it helped to discuss the topic of my speech in the circle of my friends.
My second speech has a title Arranged Marriage. When I showed draft of my speech to my mentor, she said the start is not really captivating, you know. And the end, mmm, there is not real end. And I had thought that my speech is already ready, just a matter of rehearsing:(.
I told my friends about speech that I have to deliver soon and during our relaxed conversation they told me story that I could have used in my speech and that actually became the captivating beginning of the speech. This is how it looked like:
I came up to the stage, looked at the audience and without any greeting said: “Is there anyone here who wants to marry me?” And that was not a cheap trick, it was a phrase that actually opens up a story:
Is there anyone here who wants to marry me? — that was a question shouted out on a crowded bus stop by a man 20 years ago. He was upset by a relationship with his girlfriend that they broke off…
The participants of the club will call this start of the speech brilliant and as per ‘text book’ and I also considered that to be a very spectacular way of starting a speech (after the delivery, before – I had been having doubts).
HOW TO FAIL A SPEECH AT TOASTMASTERS CLUB
What followed after the brilliant start? Unfortunately failing ending.
My speech did not have complicated content. It was about understanding and perceptions of traditional Eastern arranged marriages. In my speech I am in a dialogue with my India colleague, who himself had an arranged marriage.
Actually, this is a real person and a real dialogue (I did not even have to embellish it). I had a feeling that it is quite clear whose “voice” is talking during the speech (mine or my colleagues’s), but based on feedback that I got from the club members what I did was not enough. The advice was to emphasise more “who” is talking using space of the stage (be on one side when I am talking and on the other when my colleague is taking), use meta-words like “he said, I said”.
I did not manage to come up with a good conclusion for my speech. It was obvious weeks before the day I had to deliver my speech that the ending is very weak. My mentor said the same and the same was said by the evaluator, a club member who evaluates the speech by actually delivering a mini speech about my speech:). He actually did not leave a rag on my speech (and it was fair!) by saying that I had all components for a special and brilliant speech but I did not manage to do it. I completely agreed with this especially after I ran from the stage at the end of the speech in a very clumsy manner:). Also many people mentioned in their little feedback papers that my speech ended very unexpectedly.
When I was preparing my speech I could not come up with a good ending and it seemed to be impossible. I could say that arranged marriages were bad or good, right?
I was quite disappointed after the speech, I felt I missed a chance to be brilliant and it was not so much that I had to do to be (in that case).
HOW I COULD HAVE SAVED THE SPEECH
One of the club members approached me after that speech and said that he really like the speech and he understands that such topic can lead to difficulties with choosing the right tone and conclusion for the ending. He gave me a very good tip (which sounds like a solution for almost every speech). If you do not know how to end your speech, find a suitable quote of a famous person and use it for the ending. Such luxury like Google should be there for nothing? Immediately I thought how right he is.
So this is what I am going to do, finish this post with a quote:
Making mistakes is what everyone does. Learning from them is not.
* Toastmasters is a title that was chosen by a founder of the club hundred of years ago. Toastmaster is a person who is responsible for toasts and speeches at banquets and meetings.
** Evaluator – each speaker gets an evaluator assigned. Evaluator is a person who makes a short speech about the speaker’s speech pointing out its positive things and suggesting things for improvement.