Why would you talk about yourself, when one of the rules of being a good speaker is to get your mind off yourself? The answer is that one of the chief causes of self-consciousness is a fear that people will find out what you really are, rather than what you would like them to think you are. But if you tell people ahead of time who you really are, then you won’t be afraid of them finding out.
This is your opportunity to tell a little of your background, religious or otherwise; to state some of your likes and dislikes. Tell those things about yourself that would be interesting and helpful to the other club members and enable them to know you better. Introduce yourself – break the ice – get started.
“Be prepared” is a good motto; getting prepared is the work of living up to it. The person who is mentally prepared before the time of crisis is the profitable servant. So prepare yourself mentally and spiritually, and your battle will be better than half won.
First: It is going to be easier than you think.
Second: Don’t keep thinking, I’m going to have to “make a speech.” Rather, you have have the opportunity to let other club members know you a little better, to help them, and they in turn are going to help you.
Third: Don’t fear your audience. You can talk to one or two people without nervousness, and all of these people are in the same boat with you: as soon as this speech is over you’ll all be better friends, learning from and encouraging each other, growing and improving together.
Now organize. Write down the main points (three or four) you want to bring; be sure you have a logical arrangement of ideas or a story flow; choose a central theme, if possible; select a beginning point and an ending point (get each of these clearly in mind) and you have an organized speech. If you want to use notes, a small index card may be enough.
Practice makes perfect. That’s why you’re in this club. But the time spent in the actual program is precious, so rehearse your talk a couple of times at least, before you use it at the club. Go over it thoroughly, point by point, in your own mind, and you may find it helpful to rehearse it before some of your friends.
The toastmaster of the evening will introduce you. Wait until he or she is finished speaking, then rise quickly and stride with purpose and with a smile on your face, to the lectern. Look at the toastmaster and say, “Mr. (or Ms.) Toastmaster,” scan the audience and say, “and fellow club members.” Then talk to the whole group and tell them about yourself.
It will help if you know one or two in the audience well; bring your eyes back to them more than the rest and talk to them personally. Forget everything except your speech. Your hands will take care of themselves, your clothing will stay on without any readjusting, the speaking stand is in the right place, don’t move it.
Watch one thing in particular: the timer. When the final light comes on, quickly summarize and conclude your talk with the last point. Don’t end with “Thank you.” Although you are thankful for their attention, there is no need for every speech to end with the exact same words.
Then begins the most profitable portion of the entire endeavor – the evaluation. No matter what the evaluator says, remember you did give a speech, and that is an accomplishment. Now here is your opportunity to learn how to improve on the next one. Listen carefully, appreciatively (especially to the overall evaluator), take notes on good and bad points and do not attempt to justify yourself or make excuses. Just learn and do better next time. (Don’t talk back.) This is not a criticism of you personally, but suggestions for how you might come across in an even better way.
To the Evaluator
“Open rebuke is better than secret love” (Proverbs 27:5, King James Version). To be able to point out shortcomings in tactful love is an attribute of your heavenly Father. You now have the opportunity to practice that same attribute.
Remember, this may be the person’s first speech. Do not judge harshly, but do not “whitewash” the speech, either, as if everything were perfect.
First, make the speaker feel welcome, and that you really want to hear more.
Second, encourage the person by pointing out some good point that can be an asset in future speeches.
Third, bring out one or two (at the most three) points that need more work. One wisely chosen point, well explained, will be more effective than a list of faults a beginning speaker is likely to have. If your only criticism is a minor point, note that this in itself is a compliment, for all the major things are well in place.
Fourth, suggest how to overcome the weak points. Since you are allowed only two minutes, you can’t cover very many points.
Be concrete and help everyone feel confident that the person will improve.
2. Speak With Purpose
The first rule of success is to have a goal. This is true in making a speech. Pick one main point. Make it simple, useful, purposeful. Aim that one point straight from your heart to the hearts and minds of your friends in the audience.
Don’t lose sight of that goal. Know where you are going when you start and never deviate from that point. Drive that one point home.
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
Pick a subject you know well, one you have been thinking about a long time or one that has filled your life recently. The better you know your subject, the less you think about yourself (and the less you have to fight nervousness), and the more able you are to present that subject with earnestness and conviction to help others.
Perhaps you recently learned how to overcome a bad. Perhaps you had an experience that would help others. Don’t just wander through a story, though. Remember, your speech must have a definite point.
Select your subject. Write down everything that comes to your mind about the subject. Pare the subject down to the core (your one purpose). Omit all unnecessary ideas, thoughts and wanderings. Use only the essential elements needed to get across the subject. Draw everything you are going to say toward one point, like iron filings to a magnet.
If you need to, use notes – a word or two to recall important thoughts to mind. Lengthy notes can restrict you, make you look down instead of at the audience, and can tend to confuse you more than help. One index card is often enough for a six-minute speech. Print your notes, and make the words large and easy to read with just a brief glance.
Fix your beginning and ending well in mind. It is not absolutely necessary to practice the speech out loud, but this is usually helpful, especially to get a feel for the length of your speech. At the least, go over the things you intend to bring out, quietly to yourself. This will help you come closer to the time limit and also implant the subject matter more firmly in your mind.
After you are introduced by the toastmaster, walk to the lectern with eagerness. Greet everyone, pause just a little to gain their full attention and gain eye contact. Single out one or two people and talk more to them than to the others. Study their reactions and keep their attention rooted to your topic. Press your subject home, but don’t rush nervously. Concentrate on the importance of your speech and forget yourself.
To the Evaluator
Look for the one main purpose of this speech.
How well was it presented? Are you convinced? Was there continuity from beginning to end, or did the speech wander from the topic? How about sincerity and earnestness? Was the speaker self-conscious, preoccupied and nervous, or focused on the subject of the speech?
What good points should the speaker continue to develop?
3. Be Crystal Clear
Dull, dry speeches that put people to sleep are a dime a dozen. You must learn to make your point and explain your purpose with ringing clarity. Make it sharp and to the point.
Misunderstanding is a common ailment of the human mind. People often misunderstand each other because of a lack of clarity. People frequently don’t say what they mean, or say it in a way that could be understood in a different way. Speech number two brought to focus the purpose you should have. Now concentrate on making that purpose clear and plain.
Select a profitable subject and explain it clearly, with exactness. A “how to” topic is often useful for this assignment. Almost anything can be interesting if it is readily understood, from how to build a log cabin or tie fishing flies to how to get along with a non-Christian neighbor.
Avoid sarcasm and cynicism. Don’t use weak words such as: thing, etc., so on and so forth, deal, gizmo, this or that, really or something. Be definite. Be clear. If you mean ship, don’t say boat. If you mean cupcake, don’t say cake. If you mean woman, don’t say girl.
Try to use gestures in this speech. Relax and let yourself gesture. You gesture unconsciously when you talk to individuals or groups of friends. Don’t worry if your gestures appear a little forced at first, or stiff. As you gain more experience, you will gain confidence and lose nervousness.
Many times a gesture will convey much thought for you. Some gestures speak things words cannot say. Gestures emphasize and bring home to the minds of your audience the words you say. Remember to have your words and gestures agree. Don’t throw your hands down in a sweeping arc at the same time you say up, for example.
Be logical in coming to your punch line, which is the purpose of the speech. Proceed in an orderly manner, step by step, from the beginning to the end in a clear, understandable explanation.
When you have selected the topic you are going to speak on, ask yourself the following questions about it: What, why and who. Then answer these questions about your subject so clearly that everyone in your audience will understand without a shadow of a doubt.
Speak slowly enough so that each word is distinct and clear – rapidly enough that you don’t lose attention. Remember eye contact. Choose two or more individuals and use them as samples: If they are understanding your speech, the others probably are; if they seem puzzled, disinterested or confused, warm up to them and make them understand. You are learning to sense audience reaction.
Think on your feet. Don’t be embarrassed if you have to pause for a moment to get your thought, but don’t look to the ceiling or floor. Keep looking at your audience. Keep attached to them.
If possible, practice this speech in front of a video camera – and watch yourself on fast forward. This will help you see nervous gestures and other mannerisms that may distract people away from your speech topic.
To the Evaluator
Look for clarity in subject, in word, in gesture. Look for sincerity, purpose, profitability. Be clear yourself. Don’t mince words, but get to the point.
4. Add Color
An ancient proverb says, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” Your purpose in this speech is to draw a word picture so clearly and colorfully that a few well-chosen phrases will engrave your key thought on the minds of your listeners. Make your subject live. Be graphic. Be intense, vivid, picturesque.
Bring more gestures into play, add as much range of voice variety as you can, and spend action verbs and descriptive adjectives like a word billionaire.
Select a subject you have feeling for. Use your own experience. Perhaps you can tell of something that happened to you that carries a lesson for all. You may be filled with ideas from a book you read, or from current events or conversation.
You will notice one recurring point that will help you in all speech giving: Be filled with your subject. Ask God to use you as a tool in his hands so that you may effectively help the other members of your club.
If you decide to use a picture or a prop for illustration, use it naturally. Don’t bring too much attention to it. Just let it supplement your words.
A colorful anecdote or joke may help. But be sure to use one in good taste and one that fits the subject. An analogy may be helpful to clarify clouded meanings and vividly portray the point you want to get across. Keep the story short and purposeful. Make the point obvious. Appeal to your audience’s interests. Catch and hold their eyes.
When you get up to give this speech, don’t worry about choosing just the right words or trying to sound like a polished orator. Just try to make what you say as colorful and descriptive as you can.
Think of painting a picture. Draw each detail well. Don’t stop in your talk, but if you feel your first description was not vivid enough, say the same thing again in different words. But keep moving forward.
Whether you choose a subject that is brilliant, glowing, fresh and rich; or gaudy, florid, flashy and raw; or one that is mellow, harmonious, tender, supple and delicate; or sad, somber, grave, dark and deadly; make it flow. Pour yourself into description.
Avoid being too colloquial. Don’t use “kid, great, guy,” but find a more mature expression: toddler or child for “kid,” superior or distinguished for “great,” gentleman, hero, sailor, officer, student, etc., for “guy.”
Color is added by filling in the details. To say “The person crossed the river” has no color, but to say “The travel-weary old prospector entered with determined stride the rippling mountain stream, and the ice-cold, glacier-born waters cooled his sweating feet and lightened his step as he struggled up the bank on the far side” brings color and life to a flat statement of fact.
Try for total audience contact – look at everyone at least once. Strive to make the person with the most puzzled look brighten up with understanding. But don’t just make this a show. Endeavor to edify, profit, build and enrich.
To the Evaluator
Don’t merely look for color, descriptiveness and good gestures, but remember that this speaker should have purpose and clarity. Be straightforward and plain. Try to be colorful in your evaluation, but not at the speaker’s expense. Your goal is to help your speaker, not to make yourself look clever.