Yesterday marked the T-minus one month date for this spring’s club contest in my local Toastmasters club. I often fret about my weaknesses as a speaker, most notably:
- I have a tendency to be stiff and not particularly theatrical
- Before important speeches (particularly contests), I get this intense feeling of fear that ruins my relaxed speaking style and exacerbates by hand tremors
- I tend to focus on sounding smart instead of delivering a message
But when it comes right down to it, my biggest issue is that I don’t practice enough.
And the chief reason I don’t practice is because I have a really hard time getting my first draft of a speech down on paper.
My experience on topic selection and speech ideas has shown that there are basically three areas that need to be met to have an effective presentation.
- The topic should be something you have knowledge or experience
- The topic should be something that you are interested and passionate about
- The topic should be something of interest to the audience
(While this is certainly not the only source on the issue, Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes has written an excellent post on covering all three of these requirements called “The Secret of Choosing Successful Speech Topics”.)
I generally don’t have problems finding topics in which I am interested or competent, my issues are finding topics that I can add my personal stories to the topic and also have it be something that the audience truly cares about.
For some reason even if I have an idea for a topic, I have a really difficult time getting a structure or the stories I need down on paper for the first time. I had the idea and the title* for “I Hate My Wife’s Cat” for a few months before the contest, but never really got the three stories I ended up telling until a few days before the club contest. The same was the case for my most recent Humorous contest speech, when I had a topic idea and even a couple humorous anecdotes, but never really had the hook that was going to get my audience to care.
*It seems to be a big problem for me lately that I come up with a title, before I actually come up with a speech. While titles are important, it will not make up for a deficiencies in the body of the presentation.
Once again I have an idea for the upcoming International contest, but I am drawing a blank in how I can turn it into a seven minute speech. I have set myself a tentative date of having a first draft or at least an outline on paper of February 1, so I can get through the process of working out the inevitable issues that I will have in improving the connection I can make with my audience. Here is hoping the next month will be more productive than my last few contests.
Image credit: Mohammad Jangda, 2007
Question: How do you motivate yourself to write speeches?