Thursday, April 03, 2008

Competition Speeches
In Toastmasters International (now renamed Communicators) we learn to stop reading our notes sentence by sentence and to be able to speak without notes and walk about maintaining eye contact with the audience.

Planned And Perfect Sentences
However, a former club president advised me that when it comes to competition speeches, you are supposed to have written out and planned your speech so that every sentence zings. With alliteration. Metaphors. Similes. Rule of three. You should know exactly what you are going to say.

Rehearsed. Sticking to time so you don't see the red stop light before you've reached the end. Not getting side-tracked. Following a clear structure and making it clear to the audience.

Predictability Versus Variety
Some people go from club to club until they have given the same speech ten times.

But I like to give a different speech every time. Even if the same speech - different puppets.
That's my personality type, ENFP. Likes change. I am astonished when I hear a speaker give the same speech year after year at different venues. I feel short-changed, that they are lazy and boring.

As a teacher I have to make every lesson different to hold the pupils' attention. But as a workshop leader everything is new every time. The timing of a one hour poetry workshop can still be exact. That I speak for ten minutes as an introduction to writing a type of poem such as a haiku or limerick, five explaining its history and how you do it, five minutes reading out examples. The audience have 10 minutes to write. We have twenty minutes to hear the results and make brief comments. Finally I sum up in another ten minutes.

The first time I gave my speech on writing poetry one of the audience told me she liked the audience interaction. This can be kept to time if you allow a maximum of ten people to speak. Then have a transition sentence linking back to your talk. It should reflect on the audience and praise them but lead on. For example, 'I'm impressed. We have ten potential Nobel prize winners in the audience. Speaking of Nobel prize winners, ...'

I told my son this. He said that the difference between a good amateur and a good or poor professional is that the professional guarantees to give a product or performance which reaches a minimum and predictable standard.

Professionals And Predictability
For example, a group call on a speaker who has one speech. If all else fails, they can fill a programme with his speech. They know exactly what they are getting. It's boring for the committee but most of the audience will find it new and some people who haven't heard it recently and have forgotten it will be glad to hear it again. Over the years, the delivery and timing may have improved slightly, and any lack of clarity has been improved. The timing is exact. It's a 45 minute speech. The speaker doesn't need notes. It's his life story, how he changed tracks, and he's told it in that exact form dozens of times.

On TV recently my son saw an episode of Lion's Den or a similar programme in which a contestant wanted money for a show which he hoped would rival the money-spinning circus, Circle du Soleil. The contestant thought his show would be more original, different every time. But the interviewers were reluctant to lend money because they could not be sure whether each performance would be a success. They wanted predictability. What they were being asked was to sponsor a series of unknown events, as if it were a different production company every time.

So now I am going 'back to the drawing board'.

I tried to turn a poetry workshop into a speech. Still allowing some interaction with the audience.

How can I make my speech more predictable?

My speech has to be written out with the number of words I can speak in 7 minutes. This varies from person to person.

Last time I realized that if I am doing a poetry workshop and reading out poems, the sheets of photocopied poems or books must be numbered. No shuffling papers and props.

The props are marked in the speech.

When I get to the green light, I should know where I should be in the speech. Whether I am slow or fast.

Ending With Applause
When I see the orange light showing one minute to go I should have my three sentences planned and timed to deliver. On TV the show ends on time. No good saying - but I haven't finished and hoping they will cancel The News. They won't. Your camera and microphone will be switched off and the presenter will say goodnight as the audience claps.

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