Contest Season

Now that football is over with, I can move my sporting interests on to the other big thing in my life…

World Championship of Public Speaking

or

The 2010 Toastmaster’s International Speech Contest

The road has started to the international convention in August where one person will be crowned as the best for this year. Now this year I will not be competing, so I will be watching this years contest from the coaches seat.

I have the pleasure of working with a good friend that helped me a lot last year as he winds his way through the season. He delivered a very topical, humorous, and touching speech about our addiction to texting, tweeting, and smartphones in general. Now I know that non of you have ever texted in church, updated your Facebook status in the potty, or tweeted while waiting in line at the grocery but the fact is many Americans do and the art of communication is being lost.

Watching the contest from this seat is totally different. In some ways it is better and in some it is MUCH worse. One of the greatest things about being a toastmaster is learning to give effective evaluation of speeches. To my knowledge I feel as though it is the best way for someone to learn how to give feedback on someones presentation and it is a skill that an active attendee of meetings could get a chance to do on a monthly basis.

That evaluation practice is the foundation for coaching. Now, if you google “speech coach” you will find countless websites, blogs, products, videos, and face men for what basically stacks up to being people who are giving evaluations of speeches and oral presentations. I have several friends that are part of this google search and they are very skilled at what they do.

  • They can polish an accomplished speaker
  • They can help ceo’s craft stockholder presentations
  • They can help ministers improve and expand their ability to reach their congregation
  • They can help a virtual novice overcome jitters as they deliver their first proposal
  • They can help a sales manager perfect her ability to demo a product

It is a cool job!

So now I get to play “pretend speech coach” and try to help my friend get as far or farther than I did last year.  So how am I going to do it.

One of the biggest lessons I learned last year is to be myself.  I am not an expert in grammar, staging, speech writing, or visual aids.  What I am is that I am as good as anyone I have ever seen with vocal variety and pretty good with my use of body language.  Now, I have some skill in all the other areas but when it comes down to how I can help him the most is to help refine his already strong natural abilities in my two areas of expertise.

The other thing I learned last year was really how to listen to a speech.  Those that were around me will tell you that I listened to countless speeches.  In the beginning I just put them into the good or bad territory.  Which basically was, do I like it or don’t I.  As the year progressed I became a more critical listener.  Looking for both strength and weakness in every presentation I watched.  As I became more critical I also became more open to the grey area that existed between good and bad and eventually worked to a point where I filed everything I heard in the box of “good and how can I learn from it?”.

I hope the results tonight are in our favor and I can keep learning how to coach someone.  And even if it doesn’t I’ll still go to the contests and still watch as people get better and better.  And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll pull a Brett Farve and unretire and put my hat back into the contest circle.

Ciao

SK

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5 thoughts on “Contest Season”

  1. keep growing Stevie. Coaches can grow more than those they coach.

    BTW you didn’t win this week.

    Take the humor and dramatics out of a Table Topics some times and see what you can do with the content, the meaning, the lesson, the wisdom, your point(s) in your message in 2 to 2 1/2 minutes

    1. I was not very happy with my work today. In the end of the day, it was good enough to win and it fit in the formula but I can do a lot better.

      Table topics is a fun thing for me and I don’t know if I can ever fully remove the humor and dramatics from the way I perform. It is part of the fun aspect. Tonight was short on content aside from about 30 good seconds, the rest looked a lot better than it was.

      I’ll keep pushing and trying to get two or three levels higher.

  2. Hi Steve
    You mention your friend’s speech, which was “a very topical, humorous, and touching speech.”
    It’s the “touching” part that is difficult to get into speeches.
    I’m always looking for speech topics, which allow you to use humour but have a serious and important element, which will get to the emotions of the audience.
    If you can have the audience laughing and crying in the same speech, you’ve done a good job.

    1. Keith,

      A friend once told me about a selecting speech topics to think about the 10 things I would tell me son if I were on my death bed. I don’t live by that planning strategy, but I often go back to it when I am having a creativity lapse.

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