I volunteered to participate as a speech contestant in a mock speech contest, officiated by Matt Peterson, during the Feb 15, 2014, Sacramento Toastmasters Leadership Institute training.
I had not prepared a speech – on purpose. My goal is to see how far my Toastmasters – and in particular, Toastmasters’ Table Topics – training can take me in an off-the-cuff 5-7 minute speech.
One hour before the mock speech contest was scheduled to begin, Matt asked if I could participate. “You bet,” I said. I purposefully waited until the last 5-10 minutes to figure it out.
First: DON’T PANIC! Stay calm. Look forward to WHATEVER the experience is going to be!
Second: what characters and stories REALLY stand out in my life?
- Mom hates beer so much, she only spells the word. So, I titled my impromptu 5-7 minute speech “B.E.E.R.”
- Because my Mom’s Mom was a doctor, she hated alcohol and it was never allowed into the house. Pretty vivid stories.
- These 2 characters (Mom and Grandma) and their life-long dialog of “no alcohol” and “no b.e.e.r.” were easy to remember. I’ve heard it my whole life.
Third: what advice am I going to give in this speech?
- Your parents are not the boss of you. At some point in your life you have to decide, for yourself, to drink beer – if you like beer – and damn the consequences.
- I shared the time me, my Dad, and my brother, Lance, all shared a Guinness Taster of 5 beers at a restaurant. We all agreed not to tell Mom, because we’d never hear the end of it.
- My brother, Lance, on the other hand, drinks beer and is not afraid to admit it to Mom.
Finally, a second set of storyline advice.
- Who actually influences your children?
- Bruce Lee is a larger-than-life positive role model in my life. The reason I did not drink or smoke had nothing to do with my Mom and Grandma hating and forbidding it so much. It was only Bruce Lee’s advice to not smoke and drink that I listened to. By the time I was 13, when it came to smoking and drinking, my parents had no influence over me. It was ALL Bruce Lee.
- I won the mock speech contest with a majority of votes, but lost by going over time. I’m totally okay with the outcome. It was a test of “could I do it”? and “how would I do it”?
- I really had to focus on staying calm and on what would I actually talk about. Finding the most vivid stories from my Mom and Grandma really helped. Their intense negativity surrounding alcohol and beer really stand out over time.
- I did not tell the judges, the Chief Judge or the other contestant that I had not prepared a speech and that I was “winging it.” It was purely for my own experience and knowledge.
- Half of the judges said they didn’t find a solid message. I agree with this. Another judge had a solid takeaway message of “at some point you have to decide to ignore your parents advice/upbringing.”
- Woohoo, the experience was friggin awesome!
Inspired by an article in Toastmaster Magazine’s April 2011 edition entitled “How to Write Your Speech in One Hour” (pg. 8), I set out with a similar goal.
My goal was to spend as little time as possible crafting this speech. And with no rehearsal at all – none. It’s my newest speaking experiment to become more comfortable with the fear of public speaking. For this speech I focused on topics that I knew well or experiences in my life that really sank in. My plan was to just flat-out make bubble-notes, block the order/flow, then write an opening line and a conclusion. And no rehearsal. None. Simply know the order/flow of the story. And stick the opening and closing!
The goal is to feel like myself on stage; like “it ain’t no big deal.”
Mon, Apr 23: Initial list of possible speech topics.
Time spent: 1 hour.
Tues, Apr 24: Narrow down to 2 topics (it was between “WordPress how-to” and “Juicing”). Draft final topic: “Juicing.” Public speaking tip: This was a topic I knew well, as I’d been juicing for the past 2.5 months and could easily discuss the topic. I first blocked out the “flow” of the speech by drawing 2-3 boxes next to each other. Then repeated this box-drawing process for at least another 3-4 rows. Next, I titled each box and added some basic text. Each row gets labelled with a letter (A, B, C, D), and each box within a row gets numbered (1, 2, 3).
Time spent: 2 hours.
Wed, Apr 25: Write 2nd draft of final speech. Change title of speech to: “What Does Kale Look Like?” Public speaking tip: This question of ‘what does Kale look like’ was a real turning point for me in my actual juicing experience and served as a strong memory/flow anchor. I wrote this final draft in a letter-paragraph, number-sub-paragraph format. The paragraphs switch back-and-forth between a “storyline” focus and a “product/how-to” focus. This helps to keep the speech easy to follow, relatable and sharable.
Time spent: 1 hour.
Fri, Apr 27: Presented model speech for the District 39, Div D Toastmasters Evaluation Contest. Location: Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 700 H St, Sacramento, CA.
Note: the title of this post is definitely a nod to Tim Ferriss and The 4-Hour Workweek
Title: “One Smile Per Argument”
Contest level: Area
Club: Capital City Toastmasters #142, Sacramento, CA – District 39, Area 51
Contest location: Sutter Cancer Center, Sacramento, CA
Date: Mar 24, 2011