International City Toastmasters Open House - 5/21/2013
Steering Committee Meeting - 5/22/2013
JusticeMasters Coffee & Conversation Speak-a-thon - 5/25/2013
by Lynn Kaminsky, ATM
©1998 Toastmasters International
You've just joined Toastmasters and are eager to give your speeches. The first one, the Ice Breaker, is easy — it’s about you! Then you read ahead in your manual and you draw a blank. What to talk about? The following tips will help you get through the Communication and Leadership Manual while maintaining your excitement about speaking. Selecting the right topics is the secret.
Let’s look at each project — after the Icebreaker:
This speech challenges you to convince the audience of your sincerity or conviction on a topic. I did my second speech on “Unfinished Business” — someone dear to me had just died and I realized how much we leave unsaid to those people closest to us. It was an emotional speech for me, and it helped the club members get to know me better. Other great topics for this speech are political issues, social causes, relationships and anything else you feel strongly about.
I love this speech because it can be about anything. Its purpose is to establish a clear opening, body and conclusion. I encourage everyone giving this speech to make an outline. This will help organize your thoughts and ensure a logical flow. My third speech was called “Wine and Noble Motives.” I opened with a quotation and told of a lesson I learned through a personal experience. This was a funny speech, but it had a serious message — which was my conclusion.
The purpose of this speech is to explore different ways to use body language. While this speech can be about anything, be sure to pick a topic that allows you to move and use gestures to illustrate points. In my speech, “Stay in Touch,” I explored the different types of touch and how touch that is inappropriate for a situation can send a very wrong message. I used a member of the audience (with the member’s prior consent) to help demonstrate my points.
For this speech, it is important to pick a topic that will allow you to exercise your vocal range — voice volume, pitch, rate and quality. I have heard this speech given to demonstrate different accents, teen vernacular and unpleasant encounters. In my vocal variety speech, I told a personal story and demonstrated peacefulness, fear, frustration and relief through my voice. It has been my experience that this speech is most effective when used to describe people or situations.
The purpose here is to use the most appropriate words to communicate your message. Again, I have frequently heard speakers describe dialects, slang, etc. But I don’t feel as comfortable with that focus in this speech. I believe that at this point, the speaker should stretch his abilities and look for the most effective words to tell a story or convey an idea. I told about my experience of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the many new words that came into my vocabulary as a result of that diagnosis.
Here, again, you are free to speak about anything. This is a checkpoint in your progress as a speaker. It urges you to put all the skills you have learned up to this point — believability, organization, body language, vocal variety and effective word usage - into your presentation. My speech was called “The Polish Wedding,” and it told the story of my 40th birthday. I felt this topic presented and opportunity to bring the speech goals together with a humorous story to help the audience get to know me better.
The manual tells us we should “arouse emotional commitment to our cause” with this speech. Obviously, this is an excellent forum to speak about something that you believe in strongly — political agendas, social causes, good nutrition, anything as long as you believe it is important. My speech was called “HELP!” I was serving as Vice President Education for the club at the time, and I found the job more than one person could ably do — so I appealed to the audience for help. I opened with an example of people’s natural reluctance to ask for help, presented my case for help and concluded with a handout asking members to sign up for various jobs.
This speech should be written and delivered from a written text. In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult projects in the Communication and Leadership Manual. Finding a topic is not difficult — you can speak either about something you are expert in or research a subject that interests you. The speech must be written and rehearsed (and I cannot emphasize this enough) to get the timing and delivery just right. I gave my speech on “Speaking Well,” basically giving the audience a speech lesson from what I had learned at Toastmasters. It is difficult to read from a script, maintain eye contact, vocal variety and body language simultaneously. Practice is essential!
Often overlooked in life and in speaking are everyday occurrences that make life the tremendous, wondrous challenge that it is. These are the topics that win prizes and accelerate your growth as a speaker. Rather than speaking about world peace — though it is a worthy topic — tell the audience about how a reconciliation with an old friend brought peace to you. Rather than outlining a plan to lower the national debt, outline your strategy for juggling career, child-rearing, special interests, family responsibilities and house maintenance. Be a real person to your audience and share capsules of your real life — you'll have a winning speech every time!
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Lynn Kaminsky, ATM, is a member of West County Club 2905-8 and of Fru-Con Club 5042-8 in Chesterfield, Missouri.