With the Area 13 contest being postponed for two weeks, I decided to take a break from my speech, which I have been practicing for months and practice another. I spent a week with my Speech “Wings and Chains,” and delivered it twice; once on Monday at Reading Toastmasters and once on Wednesday at Kutztown Area Toastmasters.
As you would know by now, I have my eyes set on winning the 2012 World Championship of Public Speaking and I am all in. In 2008, I won the District 38 International Speech Contest with “Wings and Chains.” Since then I have dreamed of delivering the speech at the Finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking. For the past four years I’ve broke out “Achilles Last Stand,” (Now renamed “Achilles Never Had a Chance”) and “Wings and Chains” to smooth out the rough spots and to practice them.
I’ve spent so much time with “Achilles Never Had a Chance” that I felt I needed to refresh myself on my 2008 speech if it was going to be successful in the future. After delivering it twice over the course of a week, I was back in the basement practicing “Achilles.”
A contest speech needs to be practiced and changed up until the last possible moment. That last possible moment is about forty-eight hours before the contest, (I’ll talk more about that later.) The speech needs to be practiced until you understand how each word, phrase and idea makes you feel. If you don’t feel your speech, your audience won’t feel it either. There is a subconscious connection between the speaker and the audience which I’m not smart enough to explain, (If you can, please, leave a comment.) The audience knows when you’re faking it. They may not know they know, but they know. (Don’t re-read that last sentence. It was hard enough to write.) Here’s an article by Craig valentine that spelled this concept out clear as day and also gives some great pointers for inner dialog.
The reason you want to practice up until forty-eight hours before the contest is two fold. First of all, you won’t be tempted to make any other changes just before you go on stage. Last minute changes are usually the hardest to deal with in your speech. The second and most important reason is, after you’ve taken a little break from the speech, it feels fresher to you, and if it feels fresher to you … remember that sentence I told you not to re-read?