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

Speaking Tip – Fit Your Material To The Time

Ever been in a meeting where one speaker turned what should have been a five-minute lecture into a thirty-minute monstrosity? We all tend to do this from time to time, and the number one reason it happens is because we don’t properly prepare our material.

Fortunately, there are some simple guidelines for speech preparation that will help us get our speeches in within the time constraints.

First, and most important, type your speech up on the computer. You don’t have to read from this for your presentation, but figure out what you plan to say! One page, 11-point font, single-spaced is somewhere around 5 to 7 minutes – depending on your reading speed. If all you have is 5 minutes, you want to be under that one page limit. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to actually read your speech and time yourself either!

Secondly, if you’re over your time limit, ask yourself some “trimming” questions. What in your speech is non-essential? What are the most important points? Could some of your supporting data go on a handout, with your speech primarily covering the highlights? Are there anecdotes that could be shortened or removed? Are you trying to cover too much in this one speech? What other things in your speech are taking up valuable time, and not contributing to the goal of your speech?

Third, if you’re really stuck, phone a friend! A third-party, unbiased opinion of your speech will help you determine what’s necessary and what’s not.

Fourth, once you have your own edits and/or your friend’s suggestions, re-work your speech on your computer. Make sure it’s within the timeframe you need.

Last, give your speech a practice run. Read it from the paper, moving at whatever the natural pace of your speech is going to be. Time yourself, and make sure you’re coming in on time.

If you follow these steps religiously, timing issues with your speeches will become extremely rare to nonexistent. Take the time to be on time, and believe me – your audience will thank you!

Speaking Tip – Your Audience Isn’t Your Enemy

When you’re up there beginning your speech, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the audience is as critical of you as you are of yourself. This is a natural human tendency – to believe that others know what we know, and think the way we think.

Fortunately for speakers everywhere, this isn’t true. The audience doesn’t know everything you know – otherwise there wouldn’t be a point in you giving the speech. Your audience is there to be informed by you, not to compare your delivered speech to the script you’re working from.

In reality, your audience will typically want you to succeed and will give you every opportunity to do so. If you make a mistake, nine times out of ten the only way the audience will know is if you point it out to them. So when you’re up there and you stumble, just keep going – it’s not a big deal!

Of course, there’s no better way to gain confidence (and the ability to recover) than by practicing. If you’d like practice speaking, in a friendly, supportive environment, there’s no better place than at a Toastmasters club!

Speaking Tip – Don’t Try To Emulate Others!

We’ve all seen speakers that were really good at what they did. If you’ve ever seen Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, or some other famous speaker give a presentation, you know what excellence in speaking looks like.

It’s great to watch and listen, and it’s great to have role models. The one thing that isn’t great, however, is trying to duplicate that professional speaker’s style and mannerisms.

That speaker didn’t become successful because their style and mannerisms are the only correct way to do things; they became successful because the style and mannerisms they’ve selected work well for them. If you try to copy them exactly, what you’ll wind up being is a poor imitation of somebody else’s success.

So why not be yourself? Rather than being a poor copy of Tony Robbins, why not be the best you? Focus your attention on your material and your audience, rather than trying to copy others’ mannerisms. Your speeches will be 100% better – without any extra work!