The educational program is at the heart of our Club. It is the means by which you develop your skills and achieve your goal of becoming a better communicator.
On an informal level, every meeting offers you the chance to practise. But Toastmasters also offers a formal educational program, which is divided into two tracks – a communication track and a leadership track.
Both offer training in the form of various projects that you can carry out, and which allow you to learn through experimentation and experience.
The communication track is the major emphasis for all new members. Most of us join Toastmasters for the benefits it offers. Some of us also become involved in the leadership track – you can do both.
The core of the communication track is the Competent Communicator Program manual, which contains 10 speech projects that allow you to gradually build up your speaking abilities.
The leadership track allows you to acquire and practise the skills necessary to be an effective leader. You can serve as a Club Officer, developing skills in planning, training, motivating, and managing.
Ian Harrison’s Top Ten Speaking Tips
To take you through to Competent Communicator
Tell stories. People love stories so use this opportunity to tell some stories about yourself and what is important to you. Because your stories are so familiar to you this will help you to control your stage fright and speak with confidence.
The key to success is your ability to visualize. Visualization is considered to be the most significant factor in becoming successful at anything you want to do. To be able to see beyond your current level of competence and conquer fear and doubts is a real differentiator of those who succeed.
If we visualize being congratulated for speaking and possibly even receiving a ribbon, lots of applause – we are starting to build the reality. So as you are preparing for your icebreaker speech visualize yourself doing it successfully and hearing the applause from your fellow club members when you finish.
2. Organize Your Speech
This is only your second speech so find a subject that you are familiar with so you don’t need to do much research. Find something that you believe will be of interest to your audience and work hard at organizing your material in a way that makes it easy to follow. It’s a good idea to pretend you are talking to people for whom the subject will be completely new. Is it clear? Is it logical? Do you move smoothly from one idea to another?
Put time into preparing your opening and closing remarks. You want to grab attention at the beginning and leave your audience with something memorable at the end.
3. Get to the Point
Get up with a Sparkle, prepare for that moment when you get up on the stage and add humour where ever possible.
Get very clear about the purpose of the speech – what do you want your audience to know or be able to do after listening to you? As always open strongly and close with something memorable. People will remember 2 or 3 things in the middle of your speech, plus the opening and close.
Along side doing your speeches from the Manual speak and get as much stage time as possible – do Table Topics as often as you can to help you think on your feet and speak fluently.
4. How to Say it
Be descriptive with your speech. Talking about a dog that appeared says nothing but saying “this huuuuuge, black, Alsation came bounding forward dragging its red faced owner behind it” gives out a much more vivid image.
You want to make people care about what you are saying. Don’t give dry information. To make it memorable and effective use colour and metaphor to add to what you are communicating.
Pause for 5-6 seconds after the key words or key message. So —- what —- I —- would like you —- to remember is —- the importance of pace and pause.
Speaking is a dialogue not a monologue.
5. Your Body Speaks
Make proper gestures not half hearted little arm wafts. Exaggerate facial and body gestures – they will feel bigger to you than they look to the audience!
Don’t be a stationary figure – move around and make use of the space you have available. Look good, feel good, and stand tall with shoulders back. Pause. Smile. Nod to encourage agreement.
You may not be aware of your mannerisms. Take notice of the feedback you get. Becoming aware of your mannerisms is the first step towards changing them if you need to.
6. Vocal Variety
Decide on the key points and make them standout by pausing, slowing down, speeding up and emphasising words.
Do not speak unless you are looking at people, do not speak to the floor, ceiling, window, presentation or flip.
Don’t read your notes and speak. Read your notes, look up and then speak. This will help you to focus on using your voice effectively and make your delivery smoother. Remember when you pause it will feel longer to you than it does to your audience. The audience members are hearing what you are saying for the first time!
7. Research Your Topic
This is all about preparation. Find a subject that is appropriate and relevant to your audience. Make your points clearly and support them with facts and figures. Organization and balance are important if you are to hold the audience’s attention.
Use previously learnt skills of vocal variety and body language.
Remember: always be willing to speak, never say no to an opportunity. If you wondered why all the experienced club members wish to do Table Topics, it is because that’s where you get the greatest experience.
8. Get Comfortable with Visual Aids
Walk the stage, get the room right, and make sure everything is where it should be. If you are using flipcharts make sure you prepare them in advance and that they can be read from the back of the room. There is no excuse for turning up with poorly prepared flip charts.
Presentations with Power Point must be well thought through with no more than 5 bullet points per slide. They are just a summary. You will know much more about your subject which will enable you to put the words and colour around the delivery.
9. Persuade with Power
Open the speech with a question or strong statement. The opening must gain their interest and get your audience hooked. Really work on finishing strongly.
Give a final line or image that your audience will easily remember. Ideally your close should get people thinking, acting and leaving with something to do.
Weave humour throughout your speech. Even with a serious subject some humour can be appropriate and make it easier for everyone to listen to and absorb what you have to say.
10. Inspire Your Audience
Talk with passion on a subject that you believe in and that is important to you.