Over the weekend I watched a DVD titled Speak. Although it is described as a documentary about the fear of public speaking, it is really about the journey of the finalists of the 2008 Toastmasters International Speech Contest. Along that journey we learn about the challenges of each of the speakers and how they fared in the competition.
Many of the speeches were about life-threatening challenges faced by the speaker including recovery from heart attacks, a foot amputation. There was a touching speech about a man who married his high school sweetheart after a gap of over fifty years. In order to reach this level of competition, speakers would have won a club competition, area competition, division contest and regional contest in the USA.
Although these speakers overcame many personal challenges, I still find the speeches too “formulaic” meaning that in order to win these contests, the subject matter has to be related to these life or death situations. The speakers have memorised every word, gesture and body movement, so the speeches look very staged. But in this contest, I admired the winning speaker’s achievement as she was the first woman to win this contest, and the first African American woman. She burst into song during the speech and I was very moved by her story.
At the end of the movie, a past champion Henry Flowers summarised the reason why you should consider entering this contest. I think this advice applies to our communication in general:
Your life tells a story. And there’s someone out there who needs to hear it. You may think your story is not sensational. But it does not have to be sensational – it just has to be sincere. And if your audience can relate to you and your life experiences – chances are, they will – then you need to tell them what you have been through, share your life, share your love and share your message to the world.
The DVD is available from the Speak – The Movie web site. My Toastmasters club purchased a copy which is available for club members to borrow.
Here is an excert of Lashunda Rundle’s winning speech:
Read an interview with Lashunda about her experience in the contest. This is hosted on the very useful Six Minutes web site (Speaking and Presentation Guide – your guide to be a confident and effective speaker).
Watch the trailer of Speak: