In my almost three years as a toastmaster I have given 20 or more prepared speeches as well as countless table topics responses and evaluations. I have had a lot of club “stage time”. I have never really had a problem coming up with material. When the project was focusing on gestures, I talked about my experiences conducting a marching band. When the project was visual aids, I was able to pull items from my day to day life that meant a lot to me. There has always been something floating around me that was a starting point for each project. When I began my journey in this years international speech contest the speech that would eventually become “Family Picture”, started as a speech about what it felt like to be black man watching another black man be elected president. It then morphed into a eulogy to my mother, which then turned into reflecting on my anger at my parents for my dysfunctional childhood. The final version was a walk from my childhood through today and the realization that dreams do come true. It was a quite a roller coaster ride.
Now as I prepare for the next competition on June 27, I have to prepare a completely original and new piece. Seeing that I have several speeches under my belt, that shouldn’t be too difficult should it? Nothing could be further from the truth. After two weeks of work I have little to show for it accept lists of ideas and a few bad outlines. One of my problems is that I am trying to write a “finished” speech on the first draft, which I know is not possible but knowing what it takes to win a contest makes it hard to avoid this problem. My second problem is that my first speech did not fit the contest “formula”. Most championship speeches present a personal problem, relate it to the audience, solve the problem, and then move the crowd to action. My fist speech was not built that way at all. I created tension with a personal story but then I proceeded to travel all the emotions of that personal story and then tie it together with my life today. There was no action step and I didn’t try to equate my story to that of the audience.
My strength on stage is my delivery. I can evoke emotion and humor by using my natural abilities, gestures, and voice to make my points. My strength in my content is in the story. I have great stories about great people that were in my life and that is where my emotion and passion comes from. My speech won because it was not only polished but because it connected with the audience in a way that was sincere and heartfelt.
So I continue to work. I have a few ideas that I like but none that are pulling me into the bunker with them. I also anticipate the speeches evolving several times over the next seven weeks. I really love this creative process and see how it helps me to stretch and grow. I just wish it would actually start with a “big idea” so I can really get this speech going.
To be continued…