In June 2011, I delivered a speech in my Toastmasters club which entitled me to the Advanced Communicator Gold (ACG) award. My learning journey included two Advanced Communicator manuals of five speeches, conducting a workshop and mentoring a new member. I worked through the Specialty Speeches and Storytelling manuals, conducted the Effective Evaluation workshop and mentored Lucy.
What did I learn by achieving this award?
Having an AC-Gold award does not mean I am a brilliant speaker. All it means is that I have prepared and delivered speeches and received feedback. I have improved but I am not perfect.
The biggest challenge has been finding topics suitable for the speech objectives then committing to the preparaton and delivery of the speech. Some topics are more suited to blog posts but I challenged myself to choose material suitable for the Toastmasters audience.
Another challenge was maintaining the momentum of regular preparation and delivery. I got sidetracked by speech contests and other personal commitments. I should have set myself a completion target with one speech every 2 months.
In order to make an action plan for my public speaking development in 2012, I reviewed the written evaluations in the manuals and summarised the key points for further development.
What things did I do well?
- Good use of stories in the speech. One evaluator described me as a natural storyteller. I can further develop this skill.
- Strong speech writing.
- Speaking without notes.
- Good use of humour, especially self-deprecating humour.
- Choosing topics that are relevant to the audience.
- Good connection with the audience in the form of laughter, smiles and head-nodding showing agreement.
- Good speech structures with appropriate opening, body and conclusion. Regular use of rhetorical questions to open a speech.
- I used vocal variety and gestures to denote different characters when I was telling a story. Being in character gave me the freedom to act and this is something I should develop. I am capable of using my voice well.
What things can I improve?
- Use more vocal variety and not be afraid of speaking really loudly or shouting if required.
- When I use voices for female characters (in my story of Mulan) think how I am going to portray this voices. Use a higher voice for female then make a deliberately deeper voice for the male character to distinguish from my narrator voice. Add more drama and vocal quality to build up surprise and excitement.
- Use more variety in pace of delivery and volume.
- Add more passion to my delivery. Choose topics that I am passionate about so my speeches are more engaging and meaningful for the audience.
- Add more detail to the story especially describing a person. Create strong mental pictures of characters.
- Further development of gestures to make them more natural and to make sure I don’t show the paralysed left arm syndrome as observed by Paul.
- Don’t be afraid to “ham it up” and act more
- Devise ways to get feedback from the audience – asking for a show of hands, or asking a question then looking at the audience closely.
- Beware of my finger pointing gesture
- Be aware that I often start a speech with one hand apparently paralysed and frozen. Practice in front of a mirror and become relaxed
The Chatswood Early Risers Toastmasters club is very supportive and I would like to thank the following people who evaluated one or more of my speeches: Stephanie, Eileen, Brian, Estelle, Jan, Melody and Lucy.
My development plan for 2012
I have three areas for improvment:
Voice. I attended a voice training course several years ago. I will review these exercises and practice daily. I have exercises for breathing, pitch, volume, rate of delivery and use of pauses. I will memorise and recite poetry and short prose as well as recording my voice and evaluating myself by listening to the recordings. This will be useful for my voiceover work as part of my E-Learning course development work.
Gestures. I need to have the mindset of an actor and lower my inhibitions in acting in front of a group. Don’t be afraid to act and “ham it up”. Other possibilities include attending an acting course or improvisational theatre courses. Tell more stories both dramatic and humorous. Volunteer for the laughmaster role in meetings. I will explore the Alexander technique which I am told is useful for public speaking. Michael Gelb makes reference in his Present Yourself book.
Storytelling. Practice storytelling out loud. Collect my own stories and write them out in full. Include descriptive language.
I am working through the Competent Communicator manual for the third time, and aim to complete the remaining 8 speeches by December 2012. I will enter the International Speech contest and Humorous contests utilising my improved voice, gestures and storytelling.
That is my plan for 2012. What is your public speaking goal? What do you want to achieve and when do you want to achieve it?
My next article will be on mentoring. I would be delighted if you asked me to mentor you on your Toastmasters journey.