Posts tagged: speech

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.

Jun 22 2009

Sue Hutton – Competent Communicator!

Sue Hutton receives her Competent Communicator award certificate from President John Cox

Sue Hutton receives her Competent Communicator award certificate from President John Cox

Less than two years after becoming a founder member of East Midlands Speakers, a local club affiliated to Toastmasters International, I have become a Competent Communicator.

This means that I have made ten speeches in front of my peers following a programme set out by Toastmasters. Each speech had a particular theme, such as Get to the Point, Vocal Variety or Persuade with Power. As I progressed through the programme, each speech became progressively more demanding.

I spoke on topics as diverse as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dancing on the Dark Side (gothic bellydancing), Information Access and Water Usage in the UK. Although the schedule was interrupted for major hip surgery in February 2009, I managed to finish the programme in good time to contribute to the club’s bid to become a President’s Distinguished Toastmaster Club.

One of my favourite speeches was Number 6, He Who Must Be Obeyed! a humorous take on what it’s like to be a member of a choir.

By the time I reached the tenth speech, which required the speaker to Inspire Your Audience, I had very clear ideas of what was needed to make a meaningful presentation.

  • Passion
  • Enthusiasm
  • Interaction with the audience
  • Knowledgeability
  • Rehearsal
  • Presence

I am more than ever convinced that people wanting to make effective speeches and presentations could learn a very great deal from the skills of acting and performance.

You need to be able both to connect with and care for your audience to get your message across.

What do I mean by caring for your audience? Speak to their needs. Know your subject. Look them in the eye. Make your voice interesting. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

If you would like to know more, please contact me. I aim to write in more detail at a later date about using performance skills in speaking.

Dec 30 2008

He Who Must Be Obeyed

East Midlands Speakers Club held its final meeting of the year over Christmas dinner on 15th December.

I was lucky enough to get a speaking slot and presented my Level 6 speech from the Toastmasters Competent Communicator manual.

Since the theme was Christmas, and I was in the process of an intensive round of singing with the Leicester Bach Choir, I hit on the idea of singing snatches from Handel’s Messiah. Why? To illustrate how a choir is an example of achieving a goal under the direction of its Music Director – He Who Must Be Obeyed! Watch the video to see how.

I also delivered this speech at the choir’s Christmas lunch on the previous day. Since they were ‘more in the know,’ they fell about laughing!

If you live in Nottingham, Derby or Leicester, or other parts of the East Midlands, and would like to use the Toastmasters International programme to develop your speaking skills and confidence, come and visit us at East Midlands Speakers Club. We meet every first and third Monday of the month at The Clockhouse, London Road, Shardlow, Derbyshire. Visit the website for more details and directions.

Dec 29 2008

Toastmasters International

I am now a member of Toastmasters International

I joined East Midlands Speakers’ Club last year to support two friends with whom I had worked in the 1980s. We chartered to Toastmasters International in June, celebrating by holding our first speech contest and  a charter dinner at the end of September.

East Midlands Speakers Club - Charter Dinner

East Midlands Speakers Club - Charter Dinner

Here are the members of East Midlands Speakers Club ‘dressing to impress’ at the dinner with the exception of me who was taking the picture.

Two of our members won our Area speech contest held on 5th October.  Judy Dyer won the humourous speech contest with her tale of Gregory, her green parrot, and Stuart Webb proved that he could speak extempore by winning the table topics contest.

They both went on to take part in the divisional (UK and Ireland) contest in York on 19th October.  Stuart came third in this national competition.

As for me, I have been participating in all the ‘leadership’ roles as required by the competent leadership award, and reached my Level 5 speech in the competent communicator programme last Monday October 20th.

The objective of the Level 5 speech is ‘Your Body Speaks.’ The evaluation concentrates on posture, gestures, body movement, facial expression and eye contact. I chose to speak about gothic bellydancing, which naturally gave me scope. Watch the YouTube video to see how I performed.

My camera had been set to video-email, which explains its tiny dimensions.

First published 25th October 2008.

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