Posts tagged: singing

Nov 03 2009

Humour and audiences: learning from the Glasgow contest

Beginning of my winning humorous speech at Area 39 contest, Solihull, 20th September 2009, entitled Supporting the Masses

I didn’t win the Toastmasters’ Division E Humorous Speech contest in Glasgow. I wasn’t even placed. But I had a great time.

Several members of the audience approached me after my speech to tell me specifically how much they had enjoyed it.

I learnt that you have to be aware of the tastes and outlook of your audience. What’s funny in front of one group of people, doesn’t go down so well in front of another. Although my audience laughed at the jokes, they didn’t laugh very much at the linking story.

And the three ‘placed’ speakers all used movement across the speaking area, albeit not as frenetically as Michael McIntyre in his stand-up routines! Since I’m still in rehabilitation mode, I found it difficult to move freely.

I have to admit that I didn’t feel the connection with the audience that I’ve been used to. Perhaps I’d overdone the rehearsal, so that what came out seemed too well planned.

I think there is a difficulty with the concept of the contest. Toastmaster speeches are normally evaluated. In contests, they are merely judged. The speaker has no way of knowing exactly how the presentation could be improved.

Some Toastmaster clubs emphasize competition over evaluation, as I discovered on my visit to Toastmasters of Paris in June.

Success in competitions certainly raises the profile of the club, let alone the individual winning speaker. However, the chances are that the same speaker is always going to win every contest. I gather that anyone who wins the annual TI International Contest may not enter Toastmaster contests any more. He (it is usually a he) will not normally mind that when he finds himself in demand on the international speaking circuit.

Still, there has been no time to brood. I’ve spent the weekend singing the Mozart Requiem with Leicester’s Tudor Choir. The loveliest concert was in St Andrew’s Church, Whissendine, Rutland. A most atmospheric stone church with a long history. The concerts raised over £1,000 for HOPE, Leicester’s local cancer charity.

Oh,and I’ve now got my Competent Leader (CL) award from Toastmasters too.

Oct 14 2009

Competing in Toastmasters UK Division E contest

Since I last wrote, I ‘ve had another hip replacement.  It came out of the blue with the hospital ringing up to ask if I would be willing to go in the next day; there had been a cancellation.  The next day was actually my birthday. I had a spinal block rather than general anaesthetic so was able to hear the operating staff sing Happy Birthday to me.  Bless the NHS!

Thus there’s been a bit of a hiatus while I have been convalescing.

It didn’t stop me singing the soprano solo in Mozart’s K108 Regina Coeli in Leicester in September, nor from competing in my Toastmaster Club’s Humorous Speech Contest. I won. AND I won the Area Contest too. I’m already booked to travel to Glasgow for the Divisional Contest on October 25th. I hope to have good news to relay after then.

I was also thrilled to be asked to address the Shepshed Rotary Club at the end of September on my experience living and working in Oman.

“Every one was delighted with your talk. Timing was perfect, clearly audible. There was genuine interest displayed afterwards in the presentation and the content.”

John Fox-Russell, president Shepshed Rotary Club

Anxious to get as much feedback on my speaking style and technique as I could, I attended one of Priscilla MorrisDynamic Speaking workshops in Leicester last week. Priscilla is an experienced voice coach. All attendees were told to prepare a 5-7 minute presentation about their work. PowerPoint was optional, although this was a good opportunity to practice techniques for showing visuals. At the start of the session, we all got up in turn to make our filmed presentations, which will be returned to us as a complimentary DVD.

Here is Priscilla’s verdict on me:

“A really bright opening. You caught your audience’s attention. You had interesting content and you delivered with energy and purpose. You SOLD yourself very well. The face is expressive, enhanced by gesture. Contact is made with everyone. Visuals held interest.”

Priscilla Morris

Would you like me to come and speak to your group? I’m offering a list of speech topics to start off ideas, although I’m prepared to offer briefings on many subjects up to half an hour long.  Working experience as an information researcher comes in very useful for drawing together material!

Follow me on Twitter

And finally, it’s only fair to tell you that I keep people up to date with my goings on via twitter. That’s where you’ll find me.

Dec 29 2008

From the Heart – my first CD

From the Heart - my CD

From the Heart - my CD

I've just released my first album. Here are details and edited sound files of four of the tracks.

I'm sending the profits to the British Lung Foundation which created a 'Breath of Life' campaign in memory of my father, Percy Akehurst, who died of asbestosis in 2004.

After singing my recital last year, I was able to add £55 to the donations sent for his funeral.

The money will be used for asthma care and research.

This item was first published on 29th November 2006.

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