Not two weeks ago I completed my 9th speech. And it left me stunned afterwards. I could hardly believe how well it went. For weeks I had been searching for a topic that would do the project justice. Convincing my audience and calling them to action. Nothing I came up with seemed to fit my diverse and highly intelligent audience. None of them are very technical so I had to search for gripping topics outside of my narrow Enterprise IT world.
It was Tuesday morning and I was about to despair when I read the paper and knew instantly that I had landed the jackpot. The wellywood discussion was flaring up again and final voting was about to start. Perfect ammunition to get everyone involved and push some buttons. The only dilemma was that I had less than 24 hours to write and rehearse my speech.
Normally I would have written and rewritten my speech many times over. But I had to instead rely on the skills I hoped I had gained over the past year.
I sat down and started writing. Soon the words flowed out of me as if of their own accord. I remembered probably the most important lesson of all. Start with a bang and conclude strong, convincingly and memorable.
When I had written enough thoughts to paper to cover ten minutes I spent time focussing on the opening and conclusion. There was no time to memorize the speech entirely in that short time. So I decided to sum up the main body into ten keywords and printed them in bold and large letters onto an A4 page. Spent some more time rehearsing the opening and conclusion and kept my fingers crossed.
The next day I read through my speech one last time and headed to my club. The nervousness of my first speeches was truly gone. I felt confident in the topic I chose. I used the ten keywords to stay on track and built in body language on the fly. When the yellow light came on I wrapped it up and finished on the red with my closing slogan and call to action. The audience enjoyed the speech and got involved. I found out the week after that nearly all had cast their vote and helped shape their home town.
Every single project from the ice breaker onwards came together to make that speech a reality. Gaining confidence to speak in front of others, structuring my thoughts, flow of the speech, getting to the point, body language, voice and pitch, eye contact, use of words, power-words, not using notes, opening and concluding, using visual tools even. It all was there. And I was ready to use them all.
Now I know beyond doubt that the Toastmasters program works. At first I was skeptical about the structure of the program. But without that structure and focus I would never have progressed to where I am today. Don’t get me wrong; I am still a rookie and have a long and arduous path ahead of me. But now I know beyond doubt that I have the basic skills required to become one day the public speaker I want to be.