Toastmasters

I gave my second speech at Toastmasters last night. I cheated…I took sections from my school visit presentation and reworked it into a 5-7 minute talk entitled, “Where Do Authors Get their Ideas.” (Which means I was able to get up and give my second speech with NO NOTES because I knew this material so well!) It’s funny…I can get up in front a gym full of kids and give my 45-60 minute talk without any problem, but I’m still nervous when I have to get up in front of my fellow Toastmasters. There are only about twelve of them there on any given day, and they’re some of the nicest people in the world, so I don’t know why I’m nervous, but I am.

In fact, I sort of lost my place and babbled my way through the second paragraph of my talk last night. Except for my introduction and conclusion, I’ve spoken these exact same words hundreds of times at school visits, but because of the new intro, I came at the information differently in last night’s speech. Plus, like I said, I was nervous (and I was trying to figure out whether I could be bold and actually use the word-of-the-day in my introduction, which would mean veering from my original planned introduction, which I DIDN’T end up doing anyway…), but I got back on track and it went fine. Except my speech was only supposed to go 5-7 minutes and it went NINE minutes! (How in the world did that happen??? It’s usually just under seven minutes!)

One person wrote in an evaluation that my material seemed more tailored to children…I was a little afraid of that. But, I’ve used this same material when I’ve spoken to teachers and librarians, too. (And I’ve wondered if I need some different material when I talk to grown-ups?) This is part of what prompted me to join Toastmasters in the first place…I’m not just going out and speaking to KIDS. I’m also being invited to speak to teachers/librarians, so I have to get comfortable talking to grown-ups.

Several people said I had “nice vocal variety” and/or “nice voice quality.” It always surprises me when people say that. But I was not at all surprised to hear/read that what I most need to work on is moving around, and/or figuring out what to do with my hands. The person who actually did my evaluation said I’m doing everything I need to do with my head — I have good eye contact, good facial expressions (this was a surprise, too??? I always feel like I’m really closed up), good voice, but I need to work on what to do with the rest of my body.

When I do school visits, I sort of wander back and forth in front of the audience during the power point part of my presentation. I don’t have to worry what to do with my hands because I’ve got a mouse or some sort of gadget for advancing to the next slide in my hand. And I’ve got props that I use for the second half of my presentation (for when the power point is done). But what do you do when you don’t have power point or props to lean on???

I did bring three of my books as props. Maybe I should have held on to the book I was talking about and walked back and forth in front of the audience? Though other Toastmasters have gotten comments about “wandering,” (i.e. don’t do it!) during their evaluations. So I got the impression that it’s bad to wander…maybe I should ask my mentor about that?

I’ve already got my third speech planned. It’s a humorous speech on “serious bike people,” (which I am not) and I’ll be bringing in lots of props, so I’ll have something to do with my hands. Hopefully I’ll be able to loosen up and have fun with it. (I had fun WRITING the speech!)

My Toastmasters group is having their officer elections pretty soon. I’ve been asked to take on the secretary role! I’ve only been in the group for 6-7 months, so I don’t know that I’m experienced enough to take on a role, but one of the other newer members was asked to take on a role, too. So maybe they like to really make the newer members a part of things right from the start? I’m happy to give it a try…I will be secretary of every organization I’m a part of next year (Toastmasters, Young Footliters (which is the local children’s theatre group) and the Friends of the library board).


3 thoughts on “Toastmasters

  1. Re: plant your feet

    Oh, I think I’ve got the “plant your feet” part down. A little too good, probably. I don’t move ANYTHING from the neck down when I give my speeches at Toastmasters.

    You’d think I’d have learned SOMETHING about movement on “stage” from Junior High Kid’s theatre experience…something that I can apply to my speeches, I mean.

    WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR HANDS??? I’ve always kept them at my sides, but I think that probably looks too stiff. So last night I made a point of folding them in front of me (and they stayed folded in front of me the entire 9 minutes, except for when I was setting up a new book on the table). But that wasn’t the right thing to do, either. I need to work on “purposeful gestures.”

    (BTW, speech #5 in the manual is “Your body talks.” Maybe I should skip ahead and at least READ that section even though I have a couple other speeches to give first?)

  2. Re: plant your feet

    What a great story! Thanks for sharing!

    (And it’s good to know that my instinct to not wander is a good one…I just need to figure out WHEN/HOW to move. It’ll come…that’s part of why I joined Toastmasters. I’m counting on Toastmasters to help with A LOT of things!)

  3. Re: plant your feet

    I thought about you last night at my Toastmaster’s meeting. Somebody else gave a speech and the evaluator talked about how all movement should be PURPOSEFUL. You do want to move during a speech, but your movements need to have PURPOSE. Now, where else did I hear that?

    BTW, I’m thinking of joining the Toastmasters’ Storytellers group when I can (you have to have six speeches under your belt first). Instead of “Table Topics,” (which is when you get up and give a 1-2 minute response to a question off the cuff) they do Improv. They give you a situation and you act it out. I can see how that would help me with movement.

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