Tag Archives: toastmasters

The Boy Who Found Fear At Last

This was my take on a Turkish fairy tale. There is a translated version of the original. This was for the first speech in the Toastmasters Storytelling manual, which has a simple goal: Tell a folk tale suitable for the audience!

My first challenge was finding a folk tale which met my own criteria:

  1. It had to be the right length for a 7-9 minute speech.
  2. I wanted something relatively unknown, so the audience would not glaze over at a re-telling of a story they had heard 10,000 times before.
  3. I wanted the story to have themes that an adult audience could relate to.
  4. I wanted some form of twist or darkness or other interesting storytelling themes.

I looked in all sorts of places, including sci-fi short stories! In the end, this story lept out of a long list of folk tales due to its title. The title alone is intriguing!

I did make some adjustments to the story. In particular, I stripped out the references to the bracelet. It pushed me over time and also did not seem particularly relevant to the story.

I really enjoyed giving this performance at Farnham Speakers, and was thrilled that it won Best Speech on the night. That said, there is always room for improvement!

  1. SPEED: In my practice runs, this was on the limit of nine minutes. My final delivery was closer to eight. More pauses would really have helped the power of this speech. Perhaps I should have cut it a bit more so I could relax?
  2. VOCAL VARIETY: Strong in some ways, although one comment I got which I fully agree with is that ‘the boy’ did not have a distinctive voice compared to the narrator.
  3. BODY LANGUAGE: Strong stage usage and presence. Some actions could be refined (Swimming? The doves diving?).

Perhaps one thing I am really happy with is that I gave this speech with total confidence. It flowed and I had a good time.

Having a good time when speaking in public. Now that is pretty cool!

Tips for a Timekeeper at Toastmasters

Ready, steady...
The Timekeeper is a pivotal role at any Toastmasters meeting. I’ve had the opportunity to see various Timekeepers in action over time (sorry!) as well as enjoy the role myself, be that at Farnham Speakers or elsewhere.

On paper, the role is very simple, isn’t it? Time the speeches and other activities and report accurately on the results. Oh, and cycle the timing lights as required if they are in use so that the speakers know what is going on!

However, here are a few tips to really make this role shine:

  1. TIMING IS IMPORTANT: We all know this. Be it for business, meeting up with friends, planning our days…. the list extends to the horizon. Why is that some Timekeepers are almost apologetic when detailing their role for the benefit of those present? This is a perfect opportunity to explain why timing is so important (got a good mini-anecdote?). The Toastmaster should be stressing this as well.
  2. EXPLAIN THE TIMING RULES: When do the lights go on and why? What are the consequences for ‘failure’? Now, the majority of people present are likely to know this inside out but a quick explanation is a good idea.
  3. BE BOLD WHEN GIVING THE TIMING REPORT: Be confident and assertive. The report is important: Speakers could be disqualified as a result of their timings! Convey it with the sincerity that it demands.
  4. SUMMARISE TABLE TOPICS: For Table Topics, it is a good idea to not just mention the name of each speaker: Give a very concise summary of what they spoke about. Typically this would be the topic that they were set. It is a good call-back to the session and it also helps out those who are struggling to remember a name when filling out their voting form. See, helpful!

I hope that you find these tips helpful and that you enjoy your Timekeeper role at Toastmaters! If you have any of your own in making the role your own, I would love to hear them.

‘Unicorn’ – My Tall Tale

This was my entry into the Marlow Regional Tall Tales contest in 2011. It was my first attempt at ever delivering a ‘Tall Tale’. A definite learning experience and I feel that next time I will go for more of a humorous angle as these were the speeches which tended to be the winning ones!

Audio only on this one. As a result, no use of body language to show off but some vocal variety to be listened to! I was going for an emotional story with a moral. What do you think?

I was representing Farnham Speakers and this all falls under the Toastmasters remit.

SEE ALSO: Speeches, Vocal Variety and Emotion.

Speeches, Vocal Variety and Emotion

At the last Farnham Speakers meeting, I was privileged to be able to evaluate a wonderful and emotional speech. The topic was the speaker’s experience at assisting at a home birth and the thrills and concerns that came with it.

I was asked by the speaker to pay particularly attention to Vocal Variety as she had been ‘pulled up’ on this a few times before. It was not the goal of the speech but it is good to be considering the whole package.

The speech was an excellently presented story of the occasion. It made me realise just how much vocal variety is key to the delivery of emotion. This was a very personal story, after all, and there was no doubt as to any of the sincerity. It was very clear just how much the occasion meant to her.

Vocal Variety allows the ‘highs and lows’ of an occasion to contrast with each other, which in turn will make the impact of any emotion so much stronger. As mentioned, the sincerity was very clear. However, what would have made the speech even stronger would have been more vibrant vocal variety with the descriptions of the more ‘manic’ parts of the birth: Suddenly everything starts to happen and there is scope for panic despite any preceding calmness. Reflecting this in the voice is very powerful.

The strong emotional feeling of a baby being delivered safely would contrast so very well against dramatic use of vocal variety in the preceding moments… the ‘Is everything going to be okay?’ effect.

Such contrasting is a classic story-telling technique. Think of all those ‘rags to riches’ stories! “Look at me, I’m confident and strong up here on the stage…. but…. it never used to be this way…”.

How have you used Vocal Variety or other techniques recently to really increase the level of emotional involvement that you have with an audience?

SEE ALSO: Delivering an effective speech evaluation.

Delivering an effective speech evaluation

I really enjoy getting the opportunity to evaluate speeches as part of my membership of Farnham Speakers and the world of Toastmasters in general. Speech giving is a real art and I have learned over time that evaluating in an effective manner is one as well.

I am going to share some of the ways that I like to give an evaluation. I am in debt to many of the great speech evaluators out there as I have certainly picked up some wonderful techniques from them.

  1. WHAT ARE YOU EVALUATING? Every speech has a goal so remember that the evaluation has to be mindful of this. This includes taking the time to talk to the speaker beforehand in case there is anything special they want commented on (“I keep fidgeting with my hands, can you check I don’t do it this time?”). Think of your evaluation as having a target.
  2. THE EVALUATION IS FOR EVERYONE. A common mistake is for the evaluator to just talk at the speech giver. This has the instant result of making everyone else in the room not feel welcome. Target your evaluation at the entire audience. You should still be sure to reference the giver of the speech though… you are not a robot.
  3. COMMENDATION / RECOMMENDATION / COMMENDATION. This is the cornerstone of an effective evaluation model. Start with the positives, then mention what could be improved, and round off with something positive. I won’t dwell too much on this one as it is a bit obvious!
  4. YOU ARE WORTHY. I sometimes see evaluators feel they are not ‘worthy’ of giving an evaluation! “I haven’t given many speeches”. It doesn’t matter: Your opinion has value!
  5. THE SPEECH WAS NOT PERFECT. Perhaps linked to the previous point. Sometimes evaluators will say a speech was pretty much perfect and that they have no recommendations. Seriously? There was nothing at all that could have been improved in the speech? Try harder and don’t be shy. As an evaluator you have a duty to evaluate fully.
  6. MAKE A ‘CALLBACK’ TO THE SPEECH. It helps show warmth if you somehow reference the content of the speech in your introduction. Combine this with humour and it will really help bond with the audience. It will show that you genuinely liked a speech if you did this, instead of a generic “I liked this speech”.
  7. WE KNOW IT IS YOUR OPINION. Avoid In my opinion…. There is no need for it as by definition your evaluation is your opinion. It can sound defensive and apologetic.
  8. CONCLUSION. Don’t forget this. In addition, please telegraph it as you will get the full attention of the audience for the ‘big finish’.

I hope that you have found these tips useful. If you have any of your own to share then please go ahead and post a comment. I would love to read them!

Going Commando

This was my tenth speech at Farnham Speakers. This meant that it earned me my ‘Competent Communicator’ award with Toastmasters International!

It had the goal of ‘Inspire Your Audience’ and is centred around the Commando Challenge that I did recently (17 km run including a Royal Marines assault course). However, there is also a personal journey involved…

I’m very happy with how this one turned out, especially since it is the longest speech that I have given to date. As usual, it was performed entirely from memory. It is easier to recall speeches based around personal experiences though!

It has just struck me that about a year ago, I would never have dreamed I would be able to perform a ten minute speech from memory…. plus thoroughly enjoy doing so!

How Geeks Won The War

This was my seventh speech under Toastmasters and given at Farnham Speakers Club. The speech goal was ‘Research Your Topic’.

This meant doing a large amount of research and showing this in the speech but at the same time making the speech interesting and easy to digest! I enjoyed giving the speech and am happy that it was well received. It was great to have some fellow Bletchley Park fans in the audience!

I am particularly happy with how the humour (some of it quite impromptu) went down but, as ever, there are things that I need to work on:

  • PACING – I’m at it again! Pacing for ‘no reason’ at some points. Looking at it again, this is sometimes when I am thinking about what is coming next in the speech. A bad habit.
  • SPEED / TOO MUCH CONTENT? – There was a lot in this speech and the official time was dead-on seven minutes. Some of it does come across as a little rushed but that may partly be due to me being so enthusiastic on the subject matter. Less is more?

My next speech will be an entry for the International Speech Contest. No pressure then…