Toastmaster Friday

Preparing my Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual early this morning I realized that this was my fourth formal speech. In less than seven months. One of the speeches was spur of the moment, given when one of the scheduled speakers called in sick.

All speeches have time parameters. One of the goals of Toastmasters is to learn to give your talk in the allotted time, give or take 30 seconds.

The speech I’d prepared was originally way too long at about 15 minutes. Researching brought up gems of history that seemed important to omit. It was the Persuasive Speech Project in the manual with the time allotment of 5 – 7 minutes. I’d taken on a behemoth of a topic that didn’t want to be easily tamed.

Signal lights are used to alert the speaker when time is running short. When the green light turned to yellow I panicked: 6 minutes had already passed and I wasn’t nearly to the end. Only one minute, plus that extra 30 seconds cushion, left to go. No way! I tried to wrap it up as quickly as possible while still getting my point across with a concluding statement.

It was way too long, 9 minutes, 27 seconds. Two minutes over! I have no idea how many votes I received, the other two speakers took the 1st and 2nd ribbons.

The woman assigned to evaluate my speech gave excellent feedback which I’ll implement next time.

Several told me to keep working on that same speech and give it again.  One of the great things about the program is that people are encouraged to give the same speech as many times as needed to polish it, to make it into a good speech.

Now that I’ve given it I have a much better grasp of how to improve it. Not only in condensing the content but use of space, and eye contact. Usually I remember to engage each person at least once during the speech. Not today. I realized that I hadn’t looked at several who I suspect would not appreciate, or understand my stance. None of them spoke to me after the meeting, not that I expected them too. Most have to rush off to work and don’t have time to hang around chatting when it finishes.

That early 7:30 – 8:30 meeting really is at a good time: our brains aren’t tired from a long day. Only two of the members are retired, everyone else works. Toastmasters focuses on self-disciple, not only in talking, listening, evaluating but in time management.

It is like a neatly trimmed, well managed tree.