In preparation for the upcoming Region 8 Toastmasters speech contest I went back through my basic manual and reviewed all the speeches I did on the way through. I originally looked there for speech ideas but found myself getting so much more insight into my maturation as a speaker. From the earliest speeches in my manual I could see the beginnings of a future competitor.
I had comments like:
Smooth delivery-Good pacing-Natural humor-Nice body language
I had no idea what I was doing, but apparently some critical pieces to my speaking puzzle came naturally to me.
There are a lot of people in this world that have natural skills and abilities in one area or another. The playgrounds are littered with people that had college or professional basketball talent come natural but something never quite worked out.
As a toastmaster most of us strive to improve our skills as a communicator. The words of evaluation are meant to help expedite that improvement. I see many toastmasters that don’t do anything with the evaluation information. They hear it, read it, and then repeat the same mistakes in their next speech. From my earliest days in the club, I made a point of addressing the areas for improvement on the very next speech. My speech preparation may not have been top level, but I made a point of working on what I was instructed to work on.
That was the beginning of the process. Now as I work through crafting contest speeches, I am delivering them to different clubs and different groups and getting evaluations and feedback from so many sources. Now obviously I cannot take every comment and make a change to my speech but I am mindful of the things that I hear repeatedly. These are things I need to adjust. My district speech was good but I heard from several sources that my ending needed work. I eventually got an ending I liked at 2:15 am the day of the contest.
There is no substitution for stage time. That is where you truly improve your craft as a speaker. A close second to stage time is evaluation. The only way we can truly get better is if we listen to the people that are trying to help us get better.