The Division E Humorous speech Contest

The Division E Humorous Speech contest I mentioned in an earlier post was held on Wednesday, October 21st. Unfortunately for me, I did not win that contest.  I came in second to a very good speaker that just happens to be a fellow member of the Susquehanna Advanced Toastmasters club I attend. I don’t feel bad about the loss at all.  Susan apparently worked very hard on her speech and she executed it very well. I’m also happy with my own performance. All of the practice, came shining through, if I do say so myself. The reasons I didn’t win could very well come down to the luck of the draw, since Susan and I had to admit to each other that we didn’t know who won until the announcement was made.

One thing I may have been able to do better is stage presence.  I did use much more of the stage than I have in the past, but I may have been able to be more aggressive in how far I traveled from center stage. In general the more three dimensional your movements are on stage the better. You not only want to move from side to side on the stage in order to engage the entire audience, but you want to move back and forth as well. You move back during less important parts of the speech, so that during the more important parts of the speech you can move toward the audience. This will help to put emphasis on your point.

I don’t think the back and forth was a real problem for me, since there was not a lot of room for that, and what little room I had I believe I used well. My problem could have been the horizontal movements. Generally, unless the speech calls for it, you don’t want to go out to the edges of the stage, but you do want to move out close enough where you can directly engage the audience members on the periphery of the room.  I believe this is where I may have failed.  I did not engage the audience members on the very edges of the room as well as I could have and that may have cost me, since I think Susan did that.

There are a few other things I need to keep in mind as well; however I will not cover them in this post. I will be pondering all of the many lessons I learned during this competition season and do my best to work them into the international season coming up.

Advanced Communicator Series – The Professional Speaker – Part 2

I finally gave my presentation from the advanced manual, the Professional Speaker, although a week later than I thought I would. I was under the mistaken impression that the meeting would be moved to the 17th, but I was wrong.

The speech went pretty well, however my little experiment didn’t go as I hoped. If you remember back to part 1 of this two part series, I created a post on this site so the group could follow along, but no one was interested in going to the site on their I-phone as I hoped. I believe they felt it would be a distraction. It would be interesting to see if anyone has a different experience with this kind of set up. Give it a try and let me know.

Other areas I should look at is story telling. In retrospect, I should have made story telling my priority in this presentation. I feel I would have been able to convey my passion on this subject much better with a personal story and maybe a few stories of others who succeeded with dyslexia. In the future, I think I’d like to devote a post, or perhaps a series of posts to storytelling.

This is why I’m a Toastmaster. I can make mistakes and there are no real consequences outside of some friendly advice on how to make it better next time. I don’t remember who said it, but I remember a recommendation that was made to a group of the Toastmasters International leadership that our new slogan should be, “Toastmasters, A Great Place to screw up.” This is a sentiment that seems to be shared by many people. Many times over, I’ve heard the stories of how members practiced important speeches and presentations in front of their local Toastmasters clubs then where able to seriously impress their bosses or fellow volunteers. The reason is the Toastmasters members were able to tell the speaker what worked and what didn’t. With that information, the speakers were able to make informed changes using real information from a real audience. I have heard some professional speakers say they became members of Toastmasters, so they can test out new materials on a live audience, because they know they can make informed decisions from the feedback received. Others have said they turn chapters of a book they were working on into speeches to see how the information would resonate.

Whatever way Toastmasters is used, it can be a very powerful tool. I used it on Saturday to experiment with an idea that I had. If I used a real keynote address to conduct my experiment, the results could have been catastrophic, but because it was Toastmaster, I know not to do it elsewhere … Unless you can figure out a better way to do it.

Decoding Dyslexia: There Is Hope

The following are notes for the Toastmasters Presentation, “Decoding Dyslexia: There is Hope.  The Presentation is for the Professional Speaker advanced manual, Project 1: The Keynote Address.

House Resolution 456 introduced to the House of Representatives in Washington DC by, now, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. The resolution call, “On schools, States and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.”  This bill has 119 sponsors and at this moment is still sitting in the House Committee on Education and Workforce

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The following are some organizations which research dyslexia or lend support to dyslexics.

National Center for Learning Disabilities

The Mayo Clinic

Georgetown University

Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

Adult Dyslexia Organization

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Despite the wide variety of organizations and specialists, there are many who wish to convince us that there is no such thing as dyslexia.

Dyslexia May Not Exist, Warn Academics: article in the February 26, 2014 addition of the Telegraph.

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There is definite movement, although very slow, in the right direction to help students and adults with dyslexia. IDEA was passed in 2004 and has given parents some tools to help their children.

IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

The vast majority of the advances in dyslexia support and acceptance has happened outside our education and government systems. Because of the lack of knowledge of dyslexia and other learning disabilities by our schools and educators, they are reluctant to accept these advances.

Neuro-diversity

Write’s Law

Dyslexic Advantage

Dyslexia Quest

Those outside of the dyslexia and learning disability circle have a profound misunderstanding of what it means to be dyslexic.  Some associate dyslexia with being mentally challenged. There is a long list of accomplished people who have Dyslexia. You may be surprised by some of the names on this list.

-Business leaders:

Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab

Richard Branson

Richard Branson

Tommy Hilfiger

Tommy Hilfiger

-Scientists:

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday

Pierre Curie

Pierre Curie

-Artists:

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

-Politicians:

Woodrow Wilson

Woodrow Wilson

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

-Writers:

John Steinbech

John Steinbeck

Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie

John Grisham

John Grisham

Actors:

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruse

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopie Goldberg

Athletes:

Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow

Rex Ryan

Rex Ryan

Mohammad Ali

Mohammad Ali

Toastmasters:

Ed Tate

Ed Tait

Darren Lacroix

Daron LaCroix

(No Photo Available)

Me

Advanced Communicator Series – The Professional Speaker

This Saturday morning I will be presenting the first project from the Advanced Communicator manual, The Professional Speaker. I guess the first thing to point out would be that once I’m done with this manual, no one will expect me to go out and become a professional speaker right away, but I will have a small window of insight on what the professionals do to prepare for different types of presentations. I like this manual already, because it has forced me to really work on a speech, do some research and think very deeply about what I want to accomplish. I have been pushing myself more with this presentation than I have with any other I’ve done in recent years with the exception of the contest speeches.

I have also been forced to innovate a little. The advanced club I am attending on Saturday, does not have access to power point, so I’m going to try something a friend of mine told me about. He suggested using this blog to put up links to different things I’ll be referring to during the speech and at the very beginning have everyone take out their I-phones and come to this site. It’s an interesting idea and I am excited to try it out, although I don’t know how it will go over. I believe there will be no middle ground here. I think the audience will either love it or hate it. They may love it because they will be able to control the “slide show” as they wish. They could hate it because they may see it as a distraction.

Project number 1 is “The Keynote Address” and it will be a role play. I will be giving my Keynote to the imaginary version of the fall conference of the Decoding Dyslexia PA organization; a non-profit group which works to spread awareness of Dyslexia in our school systems and work places and also lends support to parents of dyslexic children. I chose this topic because I, myself, am dyslexic and would love to help spread awareness as well. In fact, four out of five speeches from The Professional Speaker will be on the topic of Dyslexia.

I must admit that in my dreams, or delusions depending on your perspective, I do see my future self as a dyslexia activist and a motivational speaker. I see these projects as a chance to test the waters in my own mind and heart to see if it could be a good fit. Ultimately the Holy Spirit has the last word in what I will do, but I hope to have some fun and learn a bit on the way.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone

Thursday night was the Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests. I presented my speech, “The Divine Origin of Beer,” and participated in the Table Topics contest as well.  This was possibly the best area contest I remember. There were three of us speaking and all three speeches were well prepared, well thought out and funny, if I do say so myself.  I realized that the voting could have gone for any one of us, but in the end I was able to walk away with the first prize and the honor of going on to the Division E 38 contest in Bethlehem, PA on October 21st.

The Table Topics contest was pretty much the same.  The answers I heard were very good and I wasn’t really surprised by the results. An old friend from Under the Red Umbrella, the Travelers Insurance corporate club, took home the first place prize.  He has always been a freak of nature at Table Topics. He has that rear talent of being able to make up a great story or putting together a great presentation at a moment’s notice and it shows that he loves to do it. He, too, will be going to Bethlehem on October 21st.

I was reminded of the importance of the contest seasons and how they help us get out of our comfort zones and help us push back our limitations; just the preparation alone for this contest was an exercise in leaving my comfort zone, because I had to find the time each day to practice, even though I didn’t really want to, most of the time. I practiced my speech in front of my own club twice and will be doing so in front of some of the other clubs in my area, I hope. Then being in front of a group in a high pressure situation like the contests definitely ups the ante and the pressure will get higher at the Division E and District 38 contests, if I make it that far.

Toastmasters provides many ways to get out of your comfort zone; in fact another name for Toastmasters could probably be ‘Get-out-of-your-comfort-zone-masters.” Some claim just joining was the craziest thing they did in years. Toastmasters provides increasing ways to step out, starting with the icebreaker speech and then continuing through the other speeches in the Competent Communicator manual and then all of the advanced manuals. On the leadership side of Toastmasters there are whole other sets of ways to push yourself out of your comfort zone starting with the Competent Leader manual, then club leadership, then district leadership and higher if you so wish.

I feel the Comfort Zone issue is an untapped resource for Toastmasters. We as Toastmasters speak about the benefits of public speaking and leadership, but maybe we should also be talking about the many opportunities to get out of your comfort zone and the benefits members can reap from it. But the benefits could be a whole other post.

Public Speaking is NOT Just Like Riding a Bike.

Soon after the Division E International Speech Contest in District 38 (Philadelphia area), I had to drop out of Toastmasters for a time because of family and work obligations. (Now you know why I abandoned this blog for three years.) I did finally return in September 2014, although with a different club: Community Toastmasters of Reading. I also wasn’t able to take the roles in Toastmasters like I had until recently. But, now I’m back.

I think the most important lesson I learned from my break is the importance of continued practice in public speaking.  When I came back after my three year break, I realized I felt like a brand new Toastmaster.  I probably sounded like one, too. I don’t have a job where I speak to groups often (Yet), but my difficulties in getting back into the swing of Toastmasters made me realize how important this organization is to people who’s job it is to give presentations or speeches only one or two times a year. If people with jobs like this were in Toastmasters or had another way to continuously practice their public speaking skills often, they would crush it when it comes to the rear occasion they are called on to speak.

Dale Carnegie Training is a spectacular speaking and leadership coaching company with well-trained instructors who bring their clients insights and skills that are unmatched by anyone that I know of, but the one thing, perhaps the only thing, they lake is a way of providing continuous opportunities to practice. This is where Toastmasters can come in handy for companies, organizations and trainers. Imagine being in a job where you only have to give one or two presentations a year.  Without continuous training, since public speaking is nothing like riding a bike, it will be a bit like going out in front of a group for the first time over and over again. With the continuous training of Toastmasters, you will be speaking in front of people up to 26 times besides what you do for work. Under which scenario do you believe you will exude the most confidence and be most effective?

Toastmasters often gets a bad rap, because it is an organization that trains without trained professional coaches.  Although this is true, some of the members of Toastmasters International have been members for years and even decades and most of these have made a serious living from speaking publicly.  They’ve seen it all. Even without these veteran members, Toastmasters is still a valuable tool, simply because it allows its members to get in front of people and practice, not to mention the leadership opportunities which I will not get into in this post. The practice opportunities by themselves are an extremely valuable attribute. This is why I highly recommend all professionals, especially those who only speak a very few times a year, join Toastmasters and practice.

The 2012 Division E International Speech Contest

On Thursday night, the Division E contest was every bit the challenge I thought it would be.  The two speakers I had to compete against, both, apparently, had thoroughly practiced there speeches during the three weeks between the Combined area contests and Thursday night; both speeches where tight and ready to roll.  Fortunately, for me, even though I had a very busy three weeks, I was also able to practice a lot.  The unknown candidate was also there.  From Area 16, the Scranton area was the one speaker in the contest I hadn’t seen yet.

I picked third out of four speakers.  Interestingly enough, out of the three speakers who had all seen each other’s speeches, I was last.  I was happy with that position, because it gave me a chance to relax and gather my thoughts after the speech contest started and to get a little inspiration from the proceeding speakers.

The first speech which Bonnie was giving was about her friend who had a son with a heroin addiction and ultimately died from it.  She hadn’t changed any of the words, but the whole speech was crisper, tighter and she was ready for the Division Contest.  Justin’s speech about Steve Jobs and some of the apps for the Ipad and Iphone which can help us be better Toastmasters, seemed to start strong but end weak at the Area contest.  On Thursday night, it was clear Justin worked hard on his speech.  He closed all of those holes and reworked the end to create a very strong and somewhat intimidating speech.

Then it was my turn.  I started my speech by telling the story of how Achilles got shot in the heel with an arrow.  I started just after the Trojan archer Paris had shot the arrow into the famous heel.  I quickly compared Paris facing an “invincible nemesis” to our own seemingly invincible problems.  Then I shared my story of how I lost my job and took nearly four months of job searching to find another.  I then showed how I used the same method to defeat my “Personal Achilles” as Paris did in the Greek legend.  The secret is patience coupled with persistence.

I felt good when I first started my speech.  I did the introduction to the speech and then started into the body.  Then it happened.  A slight stammer.  It happened in a portion of the speech I had trouble with early on.  I gave the speech in front of several groups and it appeared I had mastered the first couple of sentences of the speech, but I stammered.

After my speech was over, I sat down and I felt that little stammer was a hug problem.  The fourth speaker took the stage and gave a very entertaining speech about her brand new cat.  I sat thinking about my one slip and hoped the judges would forgive me.  At the end of the contest I listened to the results and I heard my name. But not at the position I wanted to hear it.  I came in second.  I was not entirely surprised to hear Justin had won first place.

I don’t really know if that stammer caused my loss, but I do know that with the level of competition that was at the Division E contest, that was all it would have taken to miss first place.  However, Justin’s speech was very tight and I had a hard time finding a weak point.  Justin is on his way to the District 38 contest and I sincerely believe he will do very well.  All I know is it would make me feel a lot better if he wins the district contest.