Saturday, 19 November 2011

Toastmasters Public Speaking Group Post #3

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Toastmasters Public Speaking Group Post #3

I went to my third Toastmasters meeting a few weeks ago where I paid up and became a member. :-)

At this meeting I did speak - but it wasn't a prepared speech, I spoke at the part of the evening that they call Table Topics, which means people get chosen from the audience at random who are given a subject to speak on without preparation for 2-3 minutes.

What I learnt at this meeting was that it's one thing to prepare a speech and give it but it's another thing altogether to be able to talk fluently and confidently on a subject that's literally just been sprung upon you. They call it speaking extemporaneously which means composed, performed, or uttered on the spur of the moment. And I don't mind telling you that it's got to be one the hardest, most frustrating and infuriating things I've ever had to do. If speaking up in public is hard anyway, this just takes a task which is already difficult enough on its own and adds a whole lot more stress into the mix - just for fun!

Seriously, if I ever manage to crack the Table Topics I shall be a happy person indeed.

Anyway, the subject that I was given was whether it was right or not that Col. Gaddafi had been killed and whether or not it was the best thing for Libya. I had as long as it takes to stand up and walk to the front of the room to think of what I was going to say and somehow manage to sound coherent and compelling for two and half minutes.

Well, I waffled on for the allotted time talking mainly about the act of the killing itself and how the man that had killed him had obviously believed he was doing the right thing at the time. To my ear it was a very disjointed speech with me starting off with one train of thought and then going off on a complete tangent without really finishing off the first thought properly.

The Toastmasters group members tend to be very supportive in these situations and are not too liberal with criticism. This is a good thing I suppose because people tend to be pretty hard on themselves. Therefore the criticisms above are my own and the only criticism that I actually got was that I didn't give enough contrasting arguments. The praise I got was that I sounded natural and genuine, which is nice.

The thing is I had no clear concept of what I was going to say; my thoughts on the subject were entirely influenced by what I got from the media and I had no hard and fast ideas of my own. So in my opinion if I had been able to sound polished it would have been a miracle; but I suppose the challenge with these things is to do just that - sound convincing and fluent on a subject that you know very little about.

I hear with practise that it gets better but I am withholding judgement on that. I can't see how it can get easier unless you somehow create a format for the Topic to give your speech some sort of pattern - such as making them a mini debate:

1. Some say this...
2. Some say that...
3. The first lot argue that the second lot are wrong because...
4. The second lot argue that the first lot are wrong because...
5. Etc

Frankly I'm up for any ideas at all that will make the Table Topics easier - if anyone has any tips please leave them in the comments!

As for my next meeting, that is next week and I'm busy working on my Icebreaker speech which at least I get to prepare.

So no pressure then. ;-)

The Icebreaker speech is just that, your first speech in the programme (see below) designed to get you speaking on your feet in front of an audience and say a little bit about yourself. There are no other instructions or rules apart from that you must speak for a minimum of 4 minutes and a maximum of 6.

Speeches in the Toastmasters Programme

1. Introduce Yourself (The Icebreaker)
2. Organise your Speech
3. Get to the Point
4. How to say It
5. Your Body Speaks
6. Vocal Variety
7. Research Your Topic
8. Get Comfortable with Visual Aids
9. Persuade with Power
10 Inspire your Audience

One other very nice thing with Toastmasters is you get a mentor from the group who is there to help you. I had a practise run through of my unfinished speech with my mentor 'Bill' on Tuesday which was very helpful and made me even look forward to my speech a little bit. I will update this blog with how it goes. :-)