“How to get from NOW to WOW?” asked the speaker. After a pause, she added an extra line for the word NOW in order to get to WOW. That was the only moment from her eight-minute speech in the public speaking club Toastmasters that I remembered. I did not hear anything more and did not see anything as I was supposed to be the next speaker after her.
How to survive your first speech?
How quickly should you do a speech after you joined the club? I would recommend it as soon as possible but there are no hard rules. You can join meetings, pick up supportive roles during the evening (Timekeeper, Ah-counter, Grammarian, Table Topic Master, etc) and take your time.
The first speech is called Icebreaker and it is not that difficult as you have to tell about yourself whatever you want, explain why you decided to join the club if you want.
WHAT QUESTIONS DID I FACE DURING THE PREPARATION OF MY FIRST SPEECH?
Do you need to write your speech in advance?
I have two answers:
- You have to write your speech – A spontaneous speech also can be cool and interesting but the expectations for the speeches are quite high (there is even a special person who is counting filler words during the speeches). The audience expects a structure in the speech, transitions (well, don’t get scared, for the first speech the only thing that is expected is that you show up). In my view, it is useful to write the speech down in order to be able to look at it with someone’s else eyes. It also allows you easily switch points in order and check how does it change the emphasis. And as a result, your first sentence will change from “Today I would like to tell you about myself” to “I was wondering what should I tell you today so that you will never forget”.
- Afterward through the written speech away – I decided not to be bothered to rehearse all the time from the fully written speech and not to come on stage with a paper in my hands. I condensed my written draft into a handful of ten bullet points and forgot that at some point I had a full-blown draft.
How did I choose to tell about myself?
My first idea was to tell a couple of my life stories that demonstrate my personality. Maybe about 6-7 stories (now I know that cannot even fit in a 6 minutes speech). And then I realized – stories from my life? How can it be interesting for people that are not even familiar with me? They do not know where I come from? Who would be interested in my complicated stories and there is no wish and curiosity yet? Should not this interest be first created? They are not my friends or colleagues who might be interested to know me better. They are just unfamiliar random people and I am random to them.
That’s why I decided to go for simplicity. If I would meet these people in real life, what basic things they would want to know about me? So I chose three basic questions that I expected I would need to answer during the first acquaintance with someone. As a result, my speech was called “Three Questions”.
How to finish your speech in time?
A standard Toastmaster speech in the club is about 6-8 minutes (for the first one it is 4-6 minutes). I was staring at the text and thinking how much it is? Is it enough? And still, when I rehearsed in front of my bed, the speech took ten minutes (!), second-time rehearsal took eight minutes. On the day itself, the speech took 5:45 minutes.
What was the most difficult?
The last half an hour before your speech. The closer you get to the speech, the less interesting and more silly your speech seems to be. The last minutes and seconds before the speech are full of these types of thoughts – would I be able to open my mouth? And I have to mention this very friendly atmosphere in the club. What it will be if it will not be that friendly?
What other difficulties did I experience?
Hands! There is no place for them. I think someone should write a thesis on this topic “Where should put my hands during my speech?”. Maybe it is written already. Anyhow that’s a good topic for a new speech – what to do with the hands during the speech.
How my speech was evaluated?
I am a very not confident person and not very easy with the critical feedback, but the whole process of the evaluation and feedback and set up in such a positive way, that I did not experience my issues.
After the speeches for the evening are finished, especially assigned people start the process of evaluation. An evaluator gives feedback about a specific speech that is centered around advantages and disadvantages. This was feedback for me:
- Do not walk and talk
- Don’t move with your side to the audience
- Don’t hold your hands in a closed position
Additionally, everyone in the room can write their own feedback about what they liked or what could be better next time. These small papers are handed to the speaker at the end of the evening. I got about 25 little papers with feedback.
The next is a long way from NOW to WOW to me, an amazing speaker. The way that I continue to describe here under the toastmasters tag.