‘Feed the full-bellied’ that should be the motto for any speech which is focused on sharing information. Our environments are full of information, that just a wish to share something interesting is not good enough and would not capture attention by default. And that was my last assignment at international club of public speaker Toastmasters: perform an informational speech about any topic your researched:
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to learn or review basic research methods and present a well-organized, well-researched speech on any topic.
Overview: Select a topic that you are not already familiar with or that you wish to learn more about. Be sure your topic is narrow enough to be an effective 5- to 7-minute speech. Research the topic and begin organizing the information, as described in this project.
I chose ‘figure skating’ as a topic and titled my speech ‘A sport’. Here I think some explanation is needed. No one in the Netherlands has any interest in figure skating, really-really no one. Dutch sportsmen did not perform at a high level for a long time and awareness of the Dutch about this sport is minimal or even absent. Not even knowledge is missing, interest is completely missing. This way I had to prepare a speech for an absolutely ‘cold’ audience.
Challenges and solutions for my speech at Toastmasters
My main challenges were:
- Create interest in the topic and do it very quickly
- Decide how much information I am going to share. What level of detail will benefit the audience? Talking about differences between types of figure skating for me was something as talking about types of public transportation. But I had to have my audience in mind. See below what I finally decided.
- Start of the speech: “Do you know a sport where strength, maths (I should have used a word ‘mathematics’ here as some could have heard ‘mass’) and make-up matters?” At that moment the attention is there and everyone wants to know what kind of sport is this?
- Create interest for the topic right during the speech: I wanted to talk about types of figure skating (the difference between pairs and ice dancing) and judging system. And that was my problem – why do the need it? Why people who never have watched any figure skating competition will be listening about types and judging? I decided to create interest by using provoking questions. The questions were formulated in a way as if they had an obvious answer, but in reality, the obvious answer was the wrong one.
- For example, I showed pictures of two couples: one from pairs skating and one from ice dancing and asked whether the audience can tell by looking at the photos whether these two couples competed in the same time of the sport. Everyone started to nod there heads. And then I said that no, even by looking at the pictures I can say they compete in different types of sports. This created interest from nothing and I saw that the listeners wanted to know the answer.
- Limited my speech to two points: I decided to focus on just two topics: types and judging. Originally I wanted to talk also about what type of competitions are there and where they can be watched. Finally, I dropped this part because I could not come up with a good introductory question for this. And this information is only useful if there is a need and desire to watch.
What went good
- the content and structure of the speech made an effect that I expected
- slides with photos were well-received based on feedback
What was went not so good
- My speech was three minutes longer. The number of words was not more than I had in my previous speeches. I probably did not take into account slides and switching between slides and questions to the audience.
- The conclusion of the speech was better than before but worse than that start of the speech. I am still good at holding the energy and attention of the audience and have to learn to finish speech on a high note.
With this speech, I finalized Level 1 of Presentation Mastery at international Toastmasters club and I still have to do four levels and about 14 speeches. Follow me on toastmasters tag.