CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – DECEMBER 3, 2020
#1-By the Book: This is the speaker that has all the fundamentals down to a tee: no filler words, strong eye contact, effective body language, purposeful pauses for effect. This is the type of speaker you watch where logically, you can’t help but judge their speech well — they check all of the boxes and the image that most people have on their minds for what good public speaking is squares up very nicely with this individual.
#2-The Singular Speaker: This is the speaker who has identified and perfected their own unique style of speaking. While fundamentals are still mostly followed, these speakers break norms in a way that is unique and empowering. One speaker in our club has a gregarious and energetic style and tends to bounce around the room and make excessive use of her hands. Another speaker has a somber and serious tone that draws people in and tends to be firmly planted in one place as he’s telling his stories. I tend to be somewhere in the middle, mixing in personal narratives with some humor and pacing around the speaking area. The Singular Speaker is the type that logically, doesn’t appear to be as polished as the ‘By the Book’ type. However, the value of finding your own speaking style lies in letting the audience into your head and having them feel what you feel. A common reaction I’ve felt when observing a Singular Speaker is “that style works incredibly well for that person, but I don’t think it could work for anyone else”.
I think for many in Toastmasters, there is a period of learning the fundamentals and incorporating them into your speaking style that temporarily involves adopting a “By the Book” style of speaking. This tends to be judged pretty favorably by observers, however, to take one’s speaking to the next level and truly connect with the audience, I believe it’s necessary at some point to make the transition to “Singular Speaker” and find one’s one style even if it may result in a temporary setback in how one’s speeches are perceived.
In the words of Picasso. “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist”.
#4-Two Ways to Speak Successfully
A concern I have heard from a number of friends on why they haven’t joined Toastmasters is that they are worried they’ll be taught a rigid and formulaic style of speaking which won’t resonate with them. In other words, they think Toastmasters will turn them into some sort of corporate, cookie cutter, 1950’s parody who starts wearing sweater vests and uses phrases like, “oh, swell!” Thankfully, I can say that this has definitely not been my experience. While there is no science behind it, my own theory is that there are two types of speakers that are typically judged well by others:
#5-How to Speak Off Script
If I’m being totally honest, I don’t consider myself to be especially good at speaking off script. I tend to be pretty effective at writing and delivering speeches, but when it comes to the off the cuff section of Toastmasters (where speakers are asked a random question and have two minutes to answer it), I often stumble. That being said, I have observed a number of members who are great at speaking off script, and two things stand out:
Strong Speaking Fundamentals: So much of effective speaking is not what you say, but how you say it, and in scenarios where you haven’t had a chance to prepare what to say, how it is said takes on even more importance. Things like minimizing filler words, maintaining strong eye contact, effective use of hand gestures, and use of vocal variety are all key factors in convincing the audience you delivered a meaningful message even if you thought it up a few seconds prior. Always remember that a large percentage of communication is non-verbal.
Re-Frame Questions: The best off script speakers I have observed are masters at re-framing questions in order to re-direct the conversation to their most comfortable subjects. For example, one speaker in our club was asked whether it was worth being a martyr in order to change the world. He’s super passionate and knowledgable about fitness, and his response was something to the effect of, “I think changing the world and making a difference is incredibly important, and since health matters to everyone on the planet, I have committed myself to changing the world by working in the fitness industry.” While this didn’t address the question precisely (no mention was made of being a martyr), there are so many things for a listener to observe when someone is speaking that no one will split hairs over this response.
In my experience in Toastmasters, I have learned a number of useful tips that have helped me grow and develop as a speaker. These include focusing on stories over facts, including two minutes of entertainment for every minute of content in speeches, minimizing the use of filler words, the value of finding my own speaking style, and working on speech fundamentals and re-framing questions to speak well off the script. I hope that you’ll be able to apply these lesson to your own speeches and become an even better speaker as a result.