Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Lessons On Props For Impromptu Speeches

I was in two competitions, table topics (impromptu speeches on a given topic) and the Humorous Speech contest. The event f the day was the vote on Scottish independence. At the last moment I looked around for a prop, in case I needed one. Picked up a hat with the England flag.

Maybe if I'd entered only one contest, I'd have put extra thought into my prop.

The winner of the topics contest was a friend of mine. I was happy for her to win because I won the other contest on the prepared humorous speech.

But the so-called unprepared speech is often partly prepared.

Her topic was a small masterpiece. She had a prop representing Scotland, to focus herself and her listeners on the arguments for voting for Scottish independence. Her other prop was the union Jack. By arguing for both sides she captured her entire audience. Her summing up said whichever way the vote went, she'd support both Scotland and the other countries and hope they would all work together.

The other thing she did well was to wear her prop. No fear of leaving it behind. Forgetting it. Dropping it.

But, better still, her prop was partly concealed until she spoke, then revealed as a surprise. So Well done Coralie. Thanks for teaching me about props and speech construction. 

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Thursday, September 18, 2014


Scotland and topical clothes for speechmakers

Coralie, member of HOD and past President of Watford Speakers, winner of the table topics (impromptu speech) contest. Ready for something topical, she was wearing a teeshirt and socks to suit any kind of question.

Here is winning contestant Coralie posing with Contest Chair Alan.

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Humorous Contest Winner Angela Lansbury with scarecrow

My Winning Speech

Feel the fear and do it anyway

Feel the fear and do it anyway was a book written by Susan Jeffers. 
I shall start with fear of Scarecrorw.
Are you afraid of scarecrows? Crows are afraid. Most adults aren't. Have you ever seen a scarecrow? If you haven't, you have now. My Scarecrow, Sarah the scarer, is designed to scare crows by looking like a human. We aren't scared of Scarecrows because we know that a scarecrow won't kill us. Let's look at four common fears, fear of giving a speech, fear of dying, fear of heights, and fear of flying.
Fear of giving a speech is like fear of a scarecrow.  It won't kill us.
We are afraid we will die on stage. Very few people will die on stage. Most people are afraid of dying alone. If you die on stage, you won't be alone. It's better than dying in a hospital. 
To ignore the reality of dying on stage, the metaphor means forgetting your lines. With a scarecrow, or a prop, you cannot forget your lines, because you have your speech pinned in the back of the prop.
If I turn the scarecrow, you can see my speech pinned on the back.
Actually I forgot to pin it on the back. Once I pinned it on, and in the middle of the speech I hunted for my glasses and found that on the back of my prop was a shopping list. I read the punchline of my speech, which was two pints of milk. People still come up to me asking, why did you end your speech two pints of milk.  
, but we are scared of people. We remember people who made us feel small. A crowd of strangers. Until you know people, you don't know if they are enemies or neutral or friends. 
At the beginning, the speaker is afraid of the audience and the audience is afraid of the speaker. How do you know the audience is afraid? 
How do you know the spider is more afraid than you are? Because the spider runs away.
How do you know the audience is afraid?
They don't sit in the front row.
Let's go back to the scarecrow. After a few days the crows get used to a scarecrow. It doesn't move or make a noise or follow them or try to kill them.
Same goes for your audience after you become a speaker.
Eventually the crows get bored and start ignoring the scarecrow.
The scarecrow has to move and make a noise. You attach ribbons and bits of metal which make a noise to get the attention of the crows. Create tension. They don't know what will happen next.
Do not run away. 
I've been told not to retreat to the back of the stage. Never turn your back on the audience. Have your assistant sitting in front of you.
Face the front and speak slowly. Usually the people with hearing aids sit in the front row to hear better.
Keep smiling.
My late mother came to a talk I gave to a local synagogue about the Rothschilds and my lunch with the Rothschilds at Exbury Gardens.
I kep smiling at my mother in the front row, and she smiled back.
Afterwards I asked what she thought of my speech. She said it was wonderful. I looked so happy and confident and everybody laughed at my jokes. I asked her what was the best joke. She replied, I don't know, dear, I didn't hear it because I forgot my hearing aid.
What happens next in my speech is that I put down the scarecrow and pick up the galloping horse.
Here's my neighing horse. His name is Harry, the hairy. I thought that sounded rude. I changed his name to Harry the hurry. If you want him to hurry off you press his right ear like this. (Gallopping sound.) To turn if off you press his ear again. I promise you it doesn't hurt. I asked him if it hurt and he said Neigh neigh. I asked if he wanted to speak but he said neigh, neigh. Press his left ear and he says neigh. Press again and he stops neighing. In rehearsal I kept pressing and it set the neighing off again. I thought the mechanism had broken so I threw the proper into a corner and tried to finish the speech talking over it. The audience was in hysterics. I won the prize for the funniest speech.
He talks. I asked if he wanted to speak but he said neigh, neigh. You see how easy it is. All you need to do is go into every toy shop, every party shop, every novelty shop, every souvenir shop, and ask Do you have a puppet or toy which makes a noise. Then you have to spend up to £20 on each one. Then you have to store them in bags labelled Ad- e-k, l-r-s-z in your spare room. I have twenty years of collected talking toys, about 20 years of collecting talking toys and puppets. Anybody can do it. Funnily enough, I'm the only one who does.

I once asked my son if he was afraid what other people thought of him, if he was afraid his friends might think was odd. 
He replied, "After my friends have met my mother who greets them with a talking toy and waved goodbye with hand puppet - my friends, they think I'm remarkably normal."  
Let's go back to the subject of the talk.
What is the relevance to the horse and fear? The first time I got on a horse I was afraid, it was so far from the ground. I got over that. I went on holiday and rode on a camel. That's even higher than a horse. After that a horse was a doodle. I wanted to bring a camel as a prop. My husband said, pretend this is a camel. Most of them won't ono the difference. I said what is the difference. He said, a camel is just a horse designed by a committee. 
I said, "I know what you mean, I'm on a Toastmasters committee, and we always try to design a horse and end up with a camel."
After I conquered my fear of heights, I thought I would try conquering my fear of flying. One component of fear of flying is fear of dying.
When I packed my trousseau to fly with my husband on our honeymoon, I confessed I was afraid of flying. My husband is a statistician and he reassured me, "You are more likely to die in the taxi on the way to the airport than in the air." I felt much better. I now had two things to worry about.
I had other things to worry about fear of heights, and fear of forgetting things. Like giving fear of giving a speech, fear of flying includes fear of forgetting the paperwork, the passport.
I got all the way to America safely. 
But - coming back to board the plane from the USA to the UK, at first all went well, I had my prop, my passport, around my neck. Unfortunately I had to take it off at security. I counted all my props, coat, brolly camera phone, got on the plane. Recounted. Phone, passport - I told my husband. "I've lost my passport!' 
"Get it back!' he said.
 I raced to the door of the plane. 
The air hostess said, "You can't get off the plane."
 I gasped, "My passport's at Security - if I don't get it, I won't get off the plane at Heathrow."
I ran back to security. They'd shut. I grabbed the nearest person in uniform. He said go upstairs to Lost property. I couldn't wait for the lift. I galloped up the stairs. (Gasping.)
I burst through the door. A lady behind the desk was dealing with somebody else.
She glared, "Would you mind waiting!"
I shouted, "The whole plane's waiting - you've got my passport."
She picked it up and demanded, "Have you got any identity."
"No - you've got my identity I said. That's my passport. Look at my picture."
"How long agao was this taken/" she said.
"It's me, blue eyes, blonde hair, short."
"Sign here, she said, and her, and here, and here Have a nice day.."
I ran down the stairs, align the corridor, tripped over the step onto the plane, raced back to my seat and flopped down. I thought my husband would say, "You poor thing. Don't worry, you've got it back. at least it'll make a funny speech. 
He said, "I'm always afraid something will go wrong when we take a flight. Don't ever do that to me again. I'm not fling with you again."
I said, "Feel the fear but do it anyway.'

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