TIPS from a toastmaster. Tackling project 4

Jeff McRaven discusses how he tackled project 4 of the Competent Communication handbook.

Title – The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

Project 4 is all about using correct grammar. That’s simple for me ‘cause I talk goodly.  In fact, I’m probably the bestest talker I know.  Like totally, you know?

In truth, my mother was an English major.  When I was naughty, she made me read Edmund Spenser poetry.  I was a VERY good child.

The main thing here is to watch your um’s and ah’s, pronounce everything correctly, and stay away from jargon and slang.  In short, use correct English.  The best piece of advice I can offer is to stay within yourself.  By that I mean don’t try to use words you don’t ordinarily use.  If it sounds odd to you, it will sound odd to your audience.

‘Slow down’ is good advice too.  If you talk fast, you are more bound to slur words together or clip the ends of words.  That’s a sure-fire way to turn “thrust” into “thruss”.

TIPS from a Toastmaster

Coming up with ideas for a speech is tricky. Sometimes it is helpful to have examples to spark ideas.

Or maybe you are considering joining Toastmasters? Part of being a member is working through the projects in the Competent Communication handbook. Each project has you focus on a different area to help build speaking skills.

See below for one Toastmaster’s experience with the third project–

Project 3 – Get to the Point


Title – The Difference Between Hard Drive and Memory

I have a degree in computer science.  I know.  You think I’m a nerd.  Well I’m not.  I have a couple exciting hobbies.  In my spare time I build electronic devices and I also read about U. S. history.  Ladies, the line forms to the left.

Anyway, the manual said I should give a speech with a clear and specific purpose.  As a computer support guy, I am constantly confronted with people saying they need more memory because it is full.  Or they need a new hard drive because they only have four gigabytes.  Riiiight.  So over the years, I’d developed a short lecture about the difference between hard drive and memory.  This one was easy peasy because I was explaining something I had explained dozens of times before.

So that’s my advice.  Everybody has something they explain constantly.  Explain it to us.

When writing the speech, try starting with a single sentence that is the point of what you are talking about (this is called a thesis).  For example:  “domestic cars are best.”  Then, get rid of anything that doesn’t directly relate to the thesis.  Make your points, but never get very far away from your thesis.

by Jeff McRaven

TIPS from a Toastmaster

What are the Toastmasters speech projects like? Are you a new Toastmaster and are stumped about how to handle your second speech? No worries! Here’s a brief note from a Toastmaster about how to handle your second speech.

Project 2 – Organize Your Speech


Title – The War of 1812

For this speech I needed to come up with a speech that had a logical progression. The United States had just finished the bicentennial remembrance of the War of 1812 and so there were a lot of shows about it on the various nerd channels I watch. I had just finished reading a couple books on the subject, so it seemed to me to be a logical choice. I would summarize the major events of the war, and present them in chronological order.

Chronological order is the easiest way to deliver a speech. Ideas could be what happened on a camping trip or vacation, or some event in your life. Just tell us what happened in the order in which it happened. Stick with what you know well.

Chronological order is simplest and easiest, but it is not the only way to organize a speech. You could advocate a position and give the three most compelling reasons for that position. You could talk about the decision process in your company, and talk about the layers of management the decision needs to go up before it is approved. Whatever. Just be logical and sensible.

Tips from a Toastmaster

Our first speech in Toastmasters is the Icebreaker. It can be scary! BUT, you — like all of us — can get through it.

Many of us when we’re starting out wonder what the Icebreaker speech is all about.

Here are some tips from a Toastmaster…

Project 1 – Icebreaker


Title – The Complete History of Jeff McRaven (Abridged)

I gave a short bio of myself. There were a number of embellishments. Nobody noticed or cared.

For a lot of people, public speaking is right up there with spiders and heights, so the whole purpose of this speech is just to get you started. For many, this is the most agonizing speech. But it doesn’t need to be. We all understand that you are nervous and you have to start somewhere.

Honestly, you could get up there and absolutely tank. Don’t worry about it! We get it. We’re here to encourage you.

We’ll like your speech. It won’t matter what you say. What you have to say is almost incidental to the speech. We are seeing someone work up the courage to try. We love to see that. The speech itself is icing on the cake.