Trusting in the Relatable

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

In my previous life as a Science major, that quote stuck with me. Our forefathers (and mothers) made major discoveries and obtained knowledge that we take for granted today. Often we use that gained knowledge to form our own experiments, make our own discoveries, write our own papers, etc.

Except I always had the thought of “everything that can be written about, has already been written about, how on earth can I come up with something original?”

I had the same approach when I first tried writing speeches for Toastmasters. In amongst trying to get a handle on my nerves, I was trying to find a topic I could “teach” to the audience. I was (and still am) considered young in comparison to the average age of a Toastmaster, everything I have experienced in my short life, my audience has already experienced, many times over. Continue reading

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Two Words for Humour

A few months ago at a club meeting, one Toastmaster asked another member the following question:

“In two words, how would you describe how you incorporate humour?”

The question spawned my own internal challenge. If I could describe my own take on incorporating humour in two words, which two would I choose?

After months of deliberation, I finally came up with my answer.

Continue reading

Poise of a Champion

Monday night I found myself attending the local Division L International Speech and Evaluation Contest after receiving an invitation from a friend. This was the first non-home Division contest I attended, and I was quite happy to see a number of familiar faces.

One of those familiar faces was a Toastmaster by the name of Chris Archer. We had never been formally introduced (I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t know my name) but I had seen his speech on Saturday when he presented his speech at the famous Just Pros Dragon’s Den. Both versions of the same speech were almost the same, word for word: a great speech then and a great one now.

Yet, something was different. Continue reading

Remembering: One Year Ago

It is time. Fall of 2013 and in the Toastmasters’ World, that means the season has started for the Humorist and Table Topics Contests. Thousands of Toastmasters will come together to compete; they will be trying their hardest to make you laugh your butt off, or they will be trying their hardest to answer thought-provoking questions on the spot.

It is almost one year to the day when I stepped in front of my own home club and delivered my own Humorist Speech. I could have never known how far I would get to go.

Before my reign comes to an end at the 2013 Fall Conference, I’d like to hog the spotlight for a little longer and take a quick stroll down memory lane. Please allow me to share the video of my speech at the 2012 Fall Conference for District 21 (Richmond, BC), a speech that would allow me to win First Place at the Humorist Speech Contest.

Ladies and gentlemen, my speech: Mistaken Identity.

I hope you enjoy it.

Exciting News: I’m Branching Out!

A lot can happen in such a short amount of time. If you had told me a year ago I would get to spend a year as the funniest Toastmaster in B.C., create this blog, and get to meet all the individuals I have met along the way, I would have tried my hardest not to laugh.

Yet, here I am.

I’m excited to say I have recently become a part of the How to Be a Speaker community, co-founded by Ryan Avery, 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking, and Dr. Randy Harvey, 2004 World Champion of Public Speaking. I’ll be contributing by writing articles and learning from other great individuals.

Click on the link below to visit the How to Be a Speaker Community!

How To Be a Speaker.com

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.

Take Your Time

“You have all the time you need. All the time in the world.”
– Allan Quatermain, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Shane West as Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer.

Shane West as Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer.

That quote is a line from the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Allan (Sean Connery) is reminding Tom Sawyer (Shane West) about shooting. Never mind the target is the villain running for his life. Never mind he is already miles away. In that moment (pictured above), Tom Sawyer aims, takes a moment, fires, and hits his mark. He is finally an expert marksman.

I feel a bit old (the movie came out in 2003) but remembering that scene reminds me of a piece of advice I want to share (especially) with newer speakers. It is advice I have only recently begun putting into practice. Continue reading

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 Toastmasters (Comedians)

“By the looks of it, the contestants at the District Humorist Contest must be funny enough to rival stand-up comedians.”

That was something I said to a friend of mine (at the start of the Humorist journey) as we looked down the long path from club to district. Never in a million years did I believe I would be among them. Over the years (yes, years) of trying new jokes and bombing those same jokes here is my vote for advice I would want to give to others. These are a few of the points I have learned from my experience in the Humorist Contest. 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