Last night, during the Reading Toastmasters by-weekly meeting, I gave the speech I plan to use for the upcoming contest season. Funny enough, as I mentioned in my last post, I wrote this speech back in 2008. I then wrote it again after losing my job and found a new one.
It’s funny how ideas for speeches can come along. One day I was listening to the radio and a Led Zeppelin song I hadn’t heard in a while came on. The galloping drums and bass along with the orchestral guitar work were instantly familiar to me, but I had forgotten the name of the song. I looked at the screen of my satellite radio and saw, “Achilles Last Stand.” I thought to myself, “That would be a great title for a speech!”
When I got home, I did a little research on how Achilles was killed. I looked for a message I could draw out of the story and use in conjunction with a personal story. After a couple of hours, I realized that Paris, the man who killed Achilles, used patience as a weapon. Paris lived a cursed life and was never able to do anything right. He stayed away from Achilles until he saw a small window of opportunity while Achilles walked with his back toward Paris. It was then Paris took out his bow and arrow and shot Achilles in his heal.
All I needed was a personal story to go along with this legend and I was sure I could make a powerful and memorable message. I did decide to use a story which turned out to be slightly prophetic. I used the story of how I started my job at the time and the pitfalls I had to go through to become proficient. After I lost my job at the end of 2008 and then found a new one in early 2009, I realized I had a much better story to use.
Since 2009 I had revisited the speech several times making changes and polishing it until I had a shining diamond of a speech. I began sharing it with audiences and had some great evaluations which I considered as I polished the speech even more. Last night was the first time I used the speech in this contest season. I had a great group evaluation. They told me the story of Paris and Achilles was blended very smoothly into my personal story and they also found that the legend helped bring my point across much more clearly.
I didn’t expect to have a perfect evaluation, so when a few people had a couple of areas for improvement, I was very appreciative. Apparently, I need to work on some of my body language in the beginning and there were a couple of times when I spoke too quickly and slurred some words together. One valuable suggestion was to go through my speech and simplify any long sentences, so they’d be easier to say without jamming up the words.
All in all, I had a very successful night and I believe it was a great start to a great contest year. The next time I am scheduled to give the speech is on March 19th. The day of the 2012 Area 13 International Speech Contest.