What You Should Have Said

The value of planned spontaneity.

Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and usually at the worst possible time. Therefore, as a speaker, you need to be prepared, armed with clever lines that prove you are not only in control, but you can think on your feet. As any good comedian would say, be prepared – with some witty lines in case something doesn’t go according to plan.

Scott Friedman, a speaker, author and past president of the National Speakers Association, says: “The key in delivering planned spontaneity is to pause for a moment after the incident or comment, look up like you are thinking, and then – boom – deliver the line.” Here are some samples, from an article in the Toastmaster magazine:

The microphone goes dead:

“Evidently, someone has heard this speech before.”
“Let me have a show of hands: How many of you read lips?”
“This is carrying Silent Night a little far. (Holiday time)”

Feedback from the microphone:

“If I wanted some feedback, I would have asked for it.”
Stare cautiously to the left, while listening to the microphone buzz. Then say in a concerned tone, “Whatever it is, it’s getting closer.”

When the lights go out or flicker:

“I’ve often had people doze off during my talk, but never an entire chandelier.” – Gene Perret
“I do my best work in the dark.”
“This lighting really plays tricks on your eyes. I’m actually a lot more handsome and skinnier than I look.”
“Everyone's a critic.”

Loud noises:

“Mom, can you be a little more careful?”
“That concludes the musical portion of the program.”

Fire alarm or bell:

“Time to take my pill.”
“So that’s what happened to my wake-up call.”

Slide is upside down:

“For those of you standing on your heads...”
“This is the Australian part of the presentation.”

Writing on flip-chart and you run out of ink:

“Obviously, I've come to the dry part of my presentation. “

Participant walks out:

“Look, my first walking ovation.”
“It gets better, I promise. I walked out of my first talk.”
Finding Your Voice

What to speak about and how to define your message.

Once you manage to stand behind a lectern without fainting, then what? You need something to say, and you want it to be interesting to the audience. The age-old excuse people have for avoiding public speaking is, “I don’t have anything to say. My life is boring.” You don’t have to have a life-and-death experience or be an Olympic champion to have a story to share. You may not think so at the moment, but you do have a message to share. And as Toastmasters’ 2006 World Champion of Public Speaking Lance Miller shares in an article for the Toastmaster magazine, the more personal and passionate your story is, the better.

How to define yourself and your message

Look at who you are. What are your passions and interests, what do you struggle with? What challenges have you overcome? Here is a list of questions to ask yourself:

What is your philosophy?

By what values do you live your life?

List the defining moments of your life.

Any special lessons or experiences that profoundly affected you? For example: learning how to ride a bike, moving to a different city, taking on a new job, becoming a parent.

What subjects and issues are you certain about?

The test of this is, How easily can you be convinced to change your mind? Have you discovered the best way to motivate a child to read? To make flowers grow? To create world peace? Then share your expertise with the world!

Find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

You won’t inspire an audience if you live a negative life. Find the blessings in life and bring them to life for yourself and your audience!

What makes you laugh?

Share your favorite sources of humor.

What makes you angry?

Share how you would change the world for the better if you could.

What are you struggling with right now?

Speak about what captures your attention at the moment. If you have “speaker’s block”, speak about your inability to come up with a speech topic. Don’t have enough time in the day for all your work? Give a speech on that topic! It will help you give a passionate speech and perhaps solve a problem.

So, what do you have to say? Challenge yourself and discover your voice!

The Habit of Courage

Act confidently, and soon enough you’ll feel confident.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin

Most people come to Toastmasters to overcome their fear of public speaking. So at Toastmasters meetings, what you’ll see – among other things – are demonstrations of courage. Standing in front of a group of attentive listeners makes most people feel vulnerable. It also adds a burden of responsibility, expectation and opportunity. This can be overwhelming and downright scary.

In Toastmasters, members acquire the habit of courage through encouragement and support. Just as Outward Bound programs teach the habit of courage by putting people in life-threatening situations, Toastmasters is a sort of “Inward Bound” program. As with sky diving or rock climbing, speaking before an audience becomes easier the more often you do it.

”Our members often face an internal demon that paralyzes them with fear. But we discover that when the fear is faced and conquered, we are propelled into a life with larger ambitions,” writes veteran Toastmaster Michael Landrum in an article titled “The Habit of Courage” in the Toastmaster magazine. He recommends the following four tips to alleviate that internal demon:

Become “other-conscious.”

Don’t focus on yourself and what the audience might think. Instead, replace your self-consciousness with other-consciousness. Try to focus on your audience! Find a single person in the audience and make eye contact with him or her. Stay with that person long enough to deliver a full sentence or complete thought. If you take responsibility for the audience’s understanding of your message, you will soon forget your sweaty palms and knocking knees.

Anxiety feels worse than it looks.

If you can refrain from calling attention to your fears and anxieties, nobody will know about them. “It’s a classic case of fake it 'til you make it,” Landrum says. “Act confidently, and soon enough you’ll feel confident.”

Make it look easy.

The audience wants to hear the speech, not worry about the speaker. Be humble: This is not about you – it’s about your speech! Your ideas and thoughts, and how they benefit the listeners are the most important part. Deliver these with grace, style and enthusiasm, but avoid ego-building enhancements. A speech easily delivered is gladly received.

Let yourself be encouraged.

Don’t be self-effacing or overly modest. Embrace the supportive atmosphere of a Toastmasters club and nourish visions of success! “Learn to give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you so easily would extend to anyone else!” Landrum says. “Persistence is the most useful virtue of the human heart. You are never beaten until you admit it.”

Consider the example of Eleanor Roosevelt, who was by nature timid, introverted and terrified of speaking in public. But because she was married to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, she had to speak in public often. She faced her fear and became one of the great speakers of the 20th Century. Let her words inspire you on your journey:

“You can gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’… You must do the thing you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.