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Giving A Toastmasters Speech With Only 5 Minutes To Prepare!

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!

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