From Toastmasters to Real World

I would have never done my speech like that in the real world. Toastmasters’ is safe.”

That was the first thing I heard when I joined the conversation. A fellow Toastmaster had given a speech, received feedback and I thought nothing more of it until I heard that line later in the meeting.

The idea that speeches in Toastmasters are different from the real world is an understandable concept. Toastmasters is undoubtedly safe, and it’s that security that gives me the courage to push my own personal speech boundaries. Using props and costumes? I’ve tried that. Running around on stage? Yup. Breaking out into (horrible) song? Two weeks ago I was finally brave enough, and jumped in with my eyes closed.

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Choices

We are the sum total of our choices.- Woody Allen

That was a quote a Toastmaster read as part of his inspiration,  a quote that his mentor had passed along to him. This individual went a step further and added the phrase “although we may not always like those choices…”

How fitting, I thought. Unwittingly I started compiling a list of all memorable choices in my life.
– Choices that I had regretted.
– Choices that I still regret.
– Choices in which I had no choice, but after I had made said “choice” I was promptly informed it had been my choice all along.

I started to wonder what it would be like to go back and change all those choices. But then I thought about what kind of a person would I be if I had taken another road. Would I be nicer, meaner? Would I be more naive, or wiser? Would I be more positive or more jaded? If I “succeeded” and had made the choice I had wanted…would I view it as such?

Not so easy to re-envision, is it?

In the end, I have to sit back and accept the fact there will always be choices in my life I wish I could go back and change, or wish I had done differently. But for better or for worse, I am who I am through the choices I have made.

The Speed of Spit

A common occurrence for new speakers (yours truly was no exception) is the double whammy: speakers often speak too fast, and don’t make effective use of the pause.

The problem is understandable. You may have prepared a solid speech, but there may be one thing going through your mind when you stand in front of an audience: you want to finish your speech and sit down as fast as possible.

Throughout high school I participated in a number of school plays (disclaimer: I was anything BUT a great actress). My parents attended each performance and even videotaped some. What an eye opener! I thought I was speaking slowly enough but in reality I was a rambling chipmunk. Here are some tips I have discovered and used over the years.

Tip #1: Talk Too Slow
A great tip from my Theatre teacher: when giving a speech, try to be aware of how fast you are talking. Ideally you want to talk at about 75-80% of (what you think is your) normal speaking pace. If you feel you are talking just a bit too slow, you’re at the right pace. It is highly recommended you videotape your speech (or at least record your voice) to let you know if the rule (and what percentage) is effective for you.

Tip #2: Remember the speed of sound
One of the best pieces of advice I ever came across is to remember the speed of sound. While light travels extremely fast (299 792 458 m/s; thank you Google), the speed of sound is much slower at around 340 m/s (and if you were my Physics lab partner, the number we got came out to roughly 260 m/s).

Translated, it takes time for the words you have said to reach the audience’s ears. It will take additional time for them to listen, process, and understand what you have just said. My advice is to always look at your speech notes and determine where are the points you want to get across? When you are practicing your speech and get to that point, pause, and then continue on.

But how long should you pause? For years I used the very general rule of “pause until you feel it start to get awkward.” However, fellow Toastmaster Craig Hadden has written an article about the “1, 2, 3” rule. Personally I think it a much better guide in knowing how long you should pause.

Tip #3: Embrace the awkwardness
I can almost guarantee when you first start out and try speaking slower with more pauses, it will feel awkward. It will be awkward because it is counter-intuitive in getting you to end your speech sooner; we all know that thought dominates most new speakers. It will feel awkward because it won’t be something you are used to, nor will it be something that comes naturally to most of us: when we are in front of an audience and there is silence, your first instinct is to find something (anything!) to fill that silence. If you keep working on the speech pace and pause length you will be able to get a natural “feel” for what pace is right for you.

Introducing…

The other week a new member gave a speech. She engaged the audience, she was passionate about the topic and she educated us on something we knew very little about. There was just one problem: the introduction was short and she spent at least another minute on (additional) introductions before she really got into the meat of the talk. In my opinion, that was a minute she could have spent engaging and showing her passion, rather than on introductions. Continue reading

What I Learned from Watching Stand-Up Comedians

Laughter is the best medicine; that was a outlook on life my mother tried to instill in me from an early age.

To say I watched a lot of stand-up comedy on TV was (at one point in my life) an understatement. I want to quickly go over a few things I have learned from watching stand-up comedians perform, whether it is on TV or live. I don’t want to focus so much on their techniques on how to be funny; if you are interested, Darren LaCroix teaches these techniques extremely well. Continue reading

The Inner Face

This event took place a number of days ago, when a fellow Toastmaster posted a group shot of the EPIC Event with Ryan Avery on Facebook. Likes and comments were coming in when it was noted a particular Toastmaster was missing from the picture. The individual in question commented (to the effect of) how it was better she had not been in the picture, because she wasn’t very photogenic, beautiful, etc.

What followed was the longest series of replies, contributed by the greatest number of individuals that I have ever been a part of. Continue reading

Epic Weekend: Darren LaCroix

I think I have had a pretty Epic weekend (so much so I want to blog about all my experiences) but I need to separate it into multiple parts, to make it easier to digest.

Friday night was the anticipated Humour 101 Event with Darren LaCroix. He is known as the guru of humour. The guru that has the amazing “rags to riches” tale (he bombed during his first comedy routine, and has had to work to get to the funny platform that he is on today). Did I mention he also won the 2001 International Speaking Contest? Continue reading