Speech Writing – Foundational Phrase

In my mind, the term Foundational Phrase comes from the Toastmasters 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, Craig Valentine. I discovered Craig’s wealth of wisdom as I entered the Toastmasters 2013 International Speech Contest and competed at the Semi-finals level.

Now, in 2019, I’m revisiting how to craft a Foundational Phrase. Here are the resources I’ve found.

One of Craig Valentine’s famous Foundational Phrases is “Your dream is not for sale.” In his speech, Craig has his wife make this statement via dialog. Importantly, this also makes her the hero – not him.

In Darren LaCroix’s article How Sticky Are Your Stories? he says, “One huge mistake I see in the speaking world is the lack of an original Foundational Phrase. This is a big mistake. If you care about your message and your audience, make the time.”

“Don’t just take the time; make the time!”

In Henk van den Bergen’s article, Foundational Phrase, he asks, “Does your Foundational Phrase clearly promote your point or message”?

Aside: Story Structure by Henk van den Bergen

WIP 009 - MUSCLE MILK, ADAM WEIL, TOASTMASTERS

WIP 009 – MUSCLE MILK, ADAM WEIL, TOASTMASTERS

Popping in to Philz Coffee (hi Jessica Aliganga) & Insight Coffee Roasters (hi Avolyn Fisher) in Sacramento, CA. Packing a Muscle Milk ready-to-drink protein shake as part of the daily routine. Transferring CDs to the Mac. Interview with Websauce Studio owner Adam Weil. Getting stopped by Black Lives Matter protesters in front of the California State Capitol. Visiting the Toastmasters District 39 Area 52/53 International Speech contest in downtown Sacramento (congrats on the 1st-place win Tobias Stockler). And picking up multivitamins at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op.

Going Off Script Can Have Devastating Results

In a Toastmasters speech contest, you can disqualify yourself by going under-or-over-time! Toastmasters’ International (inspirational/motivational) speech contest allows you to speak for 5-7 minutes – with 30 seconds of leeway. IE: you’re technically good from 4-minutes-and-30-seconds to 7-minutes-and-30-seconds. But if you end your speech at 4:29 or 7:31, you’re disqualified. I’ve seen it happen to my competitors. And it’s devastating!

During last year’s 2016 District 39 Spring Conference in Stockton, CA, Donny Crandell won first place in the International Speech contest (I came in 2nd). He went on to compete and win at the Semifinals round, and was 1 of 10 people, worldwide, that competed on the big 100-foot-wide stage in the Finals round – the World Champion of Public Speaking contest.

This year, Donny and I chatted during the District 39 Spring Conference in Anderson, CA, where we were competitors again. He shared his story of going overtime by 6 seconds when he was competing on the big stage last year. “I blew it,” he said. “I went overtime by 6 seconds.” “Did you ad-lib anything,” I asked. “Yep.” he said. “I went off script and added the Serenity Prayer at the very end of my speech.”

The international speech contest season is from February to August. Seven months. It’s a lot of work, sacrifice, time away from family, extra time before and/or after work. And it’s not a paid gig. You volunteer. So going overtime by 6 seconds can be devastating – especially at the Final round in front of an International audience of 2,500 people. All that hard work, luck, time, and travel…

Going off script CAN work, but it’s such a coin-toss. You have no idea if you’re gonna land on heads or tails.

Losing vs Loser

Has your favorite sports team ever lost? Losing is part of the game. All hail the game!

I lost this weekend’s District 39 Toastmasters International speech contest at the District level (round 4 of 6). Didn’t even place. And when the top-three winner’s were announced, and I wasn’t one of them, I was immediately handed two options:

1. Bewildered

2. Be grateful

Rich Hopkins: “It’s ok to be both.”
Me: “As long as I firmly land on Be Grateful as soon as possible, then I can move forward with extreme freedom.”

John McCain: “In your opinion, what made the winning speech better?”
Me: “Keerthi Karnati‘s District-winning speech (at District 39’s 2017 Spring Conference) was simply a deeper, heart-felt, funny, scary, well-presented speech. And only Be Grateful allows me to see that clearly.”

Michael Stephens: “I don’t think it’s that you’ve “lost”; I just think it’s that someone else “won”… great job:)”
Me: “I firmly believe in meritocracy. I also believe in losing as a normal part of living – everyone should not get a trophy. That’s one thing I like about Toastmasters, there are clear distinctions between trophy and no trophy. Like winning, losing is equally a natural possible outcome of participating.”

Robin Robinson: “Next topic, sportsmanship and being a good player. Competing with dignity, and dealing with the outcome graciously, is a worthwhile skill. And you did that. Bravo.”
Me: “Sportsmanship is a big deal to me. I’m all for analysing my own loss, but pointing fingers is definitely not cool. So, yeah, sportsmanship has huge value.”

Losing vs Loser

Losing is part of honing one’s craft. The loser stops honing.

(To move forward) I must be willing to admit that I lost

I have to admit that I lost the speech contest in order to re-calculate my destination. Losing a speech contest and turning down the wrong street are the same. They both require self-realization and re-calculation. I feel a certain freedom when I look in the mirror and accept my loss. Owning it is liberating!

Patricia Fripp Answers: What To Do If You Freeze On Stage

One of my competitors at the 2017 Toastmasters Division-level International Speech Contest froze for an excruciating 45 seconds in front of everybody. Then they tried to regain their place, managed a few single-word restarts, but continued to sputter for another 15 seconds.

What Would You Do If You Froze On Stage?

Here’s what world-renown speaking coach Patricia Fripp has to say (timestamp: 1h, 33m, 40s):

Strengths Finder – What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Model speech for Toastmasters 2015 Area 45 Speech Contest.

As Cathy Davidson points out in her book about technology and education, Now You See It:

65 percent of children entering grade school today will have jobs that haven’t been invented yet!

And as my 4-1/2-year-old grandson, Tino, is currently inspired by Toy Story’s Sheriff Woody to be a cop, Cathy Davidson points out that job may not exist by the time my grandson is 20 years old. A better assessment of strengths is Tom Rath’s book, Strengths Finder 2.0.

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StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath[/lgc_column][lgc_column grid=”50″ tablet_grid=”50″ mobile_grid=”100″ last=”true”]

Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21s t Century by Cathy Davidson[/lgc_column]