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Here are some pointers to help make your first speech more effective

  • Avoid repeating the title of your speech—When it is your turn to speak, the Toastmaster will introduce you, giving the title of your speech. A well-performed Introduction will have enlisted the interest of the audience before you've said a word. Don't blow it by repeating the title after the Toastmaster has just announced it.
  • Acknowledge the Toastmaster—Protocol demands that the Toastmaster remain standing until you acknowledge him or her by saying "Mr. (or Madam) Toastmaster." Only after you have said this key phrase does the Toastmaster sit down.
  • Speak up!—Your audience really is looking forward to learning a bit more about you. Make sure that even the people in the back of the room can hear you clearly.
  • Avoid fidgeting—Most novice speakers display nervous mannerisms the first few times they face an audience. Common ones include rocking on heels, clasping hands in front of the body, nervous pacing or repeating a word like OK or actually. Be aware of your favorite habit and start eradicating it early. You may wish to ask your evaluator to watch for a particular habit, so that after the speech you'll know how successful you were in keeping it under control.
  • Slow down—Most Toastmasters are shocked when they discover how long a four- to six-minutes speech actually is, so they try to cram their family history for the last three generations into that time. To cover the material, the poor speaker has to talk so fast, nobody can understand the message. The cure is simple. Pick three points you would like to share with the audience, tie them together with an introduction and a conclusion, and slow down so that everybody can understand you. A mentor once told me I should be able to hear the first and last sound of every word I speak. This simple tip helped me improve the pacing of my speeches.
  • Don't thank the audience—We often see stars on TV saying thank you, thank you," to hordes of applauding people. That's all right for them, but the proper way of concluding your speech is to simply return control of the meeting back to the Toastmaster by looking in that person's direction and saying: "Mr. (or Madam) Toastmaster." Your audience indicates their thanks by applauding at the end of your speech. You don't need to thank them for being there—they want to be there.

All these points may seem a lot to concentrate on—and they are. We haven't even covered eye contact, body language, or simple speech structure, but that's OK. Remember, don't try to get it all perfect—you have another nine assignments to go before you achieve your Competent Communicator award, and these projects will give you all the practice you need to craft excellent speeches.

First published in The Toastmaster, November 1996.

-- Erich Viedge 14:22, 30 Jul 2005 (UTC)

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