Better Speaking

This page has information on how Toastmasters helps you become a better speaker.

Enhancing your speaking ability

Learning the skills you need to enhance your speaking ability is what Toastmasters is all about.  Find out how to take the terror out of speech, relax and enjoy the speech, and tips for improving your speaking ability.

Let's start by asking the question:

What is Glossophobia?

Glossophobia is a fear of public speaking.  Toastmasters can help you overcome this fear.

Top 10 Elements Of A Great Speech

  1. Speak to their hearts - a great speech should be personal, touching your listeners in their head, heart or their wallet
  2. Make it real - your listeners feel like they are living the moment with you
  3. Make it memorable - your listeners will remember your main point far into the future, even if they forget your name or speech title
  4. Make it valuable - give your listeners some useful information they can take away with them
  5. Connect with your audience - make your speech relevant through use of humour, personal stories, or your body language
  6. Make it fun - if you're having a good time, so will your audience
  7. Make it visual - use quotes, stories, anecdotes, props and word pictures so your listeners can see it with their mind's eye as well as hear it
  8. Make it passionate - if you really care about your topic, so will your audience
  9. Be enthusiastic - your enthusiasm is infectious
  10. Be clear, concise and brief - keep your words simple and to the point

Source: Copyright 2002 Susan Niven, CSP.  Reprinted with permission.

Selecting a Speech Topic

Except for the Icebreaker, the remaining speeches in the Competent Communicator Manual don't have specific topics, but rather focus on a specific aspect of communication.  So how do you select a topic?  Here are some strategies:

There's More to You Than Six Minutes

While developing your Icebreaker speech, there was probably a lot of things that left on the cutting room floor to get the speech within the time limits.  Those "leftovers" would make excellent starting places for speeches.

Learn More About an Unfamiliar Topic

All of us have read or heard of something and said I wonder why?  This is a great opportunity to dust off some of those curiosities you have and develop them into researched speeches. 

Table Topics Redux

Table Topics can be a great starting point for a speech.  Was there a question that you really wished you had gotten?  A great story that a response reminded you of?  A topic that you wished you'd had more time to really develop? 

More than a Sound Bite

We are all bombarded with news and current events, though it is typically only provided in 30 second sound-bites.  Many of these items would make a great speech - and an opportunity to delve into the details and multiple points of view.

Passion = Enthusiasm

What are the subjects and issues that you feel strongly about? These make great subjects for speeches, especially those that have a persuasive component.  What are your hobbies, interests, passions?  These make great informative speeches.

Keep a List, Make a Note

Speech ideas tend to crop up at the most unexpected times.  Review the objectives for the next few speeches you will give, and as ideas pop up, jot them down on a list of possible ideas.  Sometimes you find new ideas appearing as you research and prepare a speech.  Add these to your list. Then, when you are starting preparation for your next speech, you'll have a ready-made list of possible topics. 

Two Birds with One Stone

Have a special occasion coming up?  An important presentation for work?  Running for office?  Teaching a scout troop a new skill?  Your Toastmasters club is a great venue to practice your presentation or speech with a supportive, helpful audience.  Let the Toastmaster know in advance who you'd like your audience to "be" for the day - and tell your evaluator a bit about the purpose of your speech.

Stuck for a Speech Topic?

When you start out, you may feel you don't know what to talk about. Best advice - talk around this with your mentor, that's what mentors are for. You might also find these sites useful as memory-joggers that help you think "I could talk about that!". These are not Toastmasters sites and may contain advertising; in particular, you do not need to download anything to use the sites. They are:

  • Speech Topics Help (award-winning student research site)
  • My Speech Class (a huge range of topics but also some good tips on preparation and delivery)
  • The Six Minutes site (Andrew Dlugan's site, based on the idea that no article should take more than six minutes to read. You WILL want to explore, allow yourself time to do so)

Speech Organisation

We are all familiar with the overall organization of a speech - Introduction, Body, Conclusion.  But how do you organize the information within the body of your speech?  There are a number of different organizational patterns.  Choose the one that best fits the content and the objectives of your speech.

Chronological organization is organization by time; that is, your steps are ordered according to when each step occurred or should occur. Topical organization is used when your central has natural divisions or develops reasons. Spatial organization arranges items according to their location and direction. Cause-effect organization first identifies a situation and then discusses the effects that result from it. Or the speech may present a situation and then seek its causes.

Problem-solution organization discusses why a problem exists and the effects of the problem as well as suggests some solutions for the problem. Usually this format is used for persuasive speeches.  Some examples of persuasive speech are:

Protest, Appeal or Call to Action

  • Something is wrong. State what it is.
  • Why is this wrong?  Who is to blame?  What harm is done?
  • How can this wrong be corrected? Make definite recommendations for changing things for the better.
  • What should we do? Tell your listeners exactly what you want them to do, think, or feel.

AIDA Outline

  • A - Win the audience's Attention
  • I - Arouse their Interest
  • D - Create a Desire
  • A - Stimulate Action or Agreement

Borden Outline
Ho-Hum. This corresponds to your introduction.  The audience is sitting back, expecting to be bored.  It's up to you to make them sit up and listen.
Why Bring That Up? You must build a bridge to carry the audience.  Show that your subject is important and relate it directly to the interest of your listeners.
For Instance. Give the audience concrete evidence - illustrations, facts, and stories.  Start your listeners thinking.
So What?  This is the call for action.  Tell listeners what you want them to do as a result of your speech.  Be specific.

Problem/Cause/Solution Outline

  • The problem is ...
  • The problem is caused by ...
  • Some solutions are ...
  • The best solution is ...

Monroe Outline
Attention. Your opening should seize your audience's attention, direct that attention to your topic, and make the audience want to listen to what follows.
Need. State the existing need or problem, explaining why it's important to listeners.
Satisfaction. Here you present your solution to the need or problem.  State your proposal and show how it meets the need.  Support your opinion with evidence, and, if necessary, overcome objections or opposing solutions.
Visualization. Draw a picture of future conditions.  Show how thins will be once your proposal is adopted or what might happen if the proposal isn't adopted.
Action.  Turn the agreement and commitment you've gained into positive action or attitude. 

A Few Mistakes Conference Speakers Can Avoid

Losing your place in the script

  • Number the pages at the top centre.
  • Type the text of your speech in at least 14 point Times Roman font, with at least 2 line spaces between each line and 3 line spaces between paragraphs.
  • For each new sentence, start a new paragraph.
  • For each new line of thought, start a new page. Have the theme in bold at the top.
  • Have two pages visible at all times - slide the pages over.
  • Rehearse with pauses to let a message sink in.

Seeing a sea of strange faces

  • Meet and greet as many people in the audience as possible before you begin, as they enter, or over coffee at a break. That way no matter where you look in the room you will see a familiar and friendly face.
  • As you are being introduced, scan the whole room. Get used to the lighting, as well as the location of friendly faces.

Getting tangled in a long sentence.

  • One sentence per thought.
  • Avoid using "and" or similar conjunctions to join several thoughts in one sentence.
  • Very few sentences should exceed 15 words. Most should be under ten. A few should be five words or less, particularly those which introduce or hammer home an important point.
  • Full stops are free - use them!

Ad libbing

  • The brilliant additional thought that you have at the lectern should not be necessary to make the meaning clear.
  • Read through the speech out loud at least ten times before delivery.
    Tell them only what they need to know.
  • Keep in mind that your objective is to tell them some things that they don't
    already know.
  • A question and answer period at the end can be used to clarify points that need it. Make sure you mention this at the beginning.

Reading from the script

  • Never read from a script. Presenters who read word for word from a script lose their audience from the back of the room.

Not knowing how to use presentation and sound equipment

  • Check whether you will have a datashow projector and laptop running a Powerpoint presentation, or at least an overhead projector, and make sure you know how to operate it.  Ensure the sound equipment is working correctly before beginning.
  • Know your material well enough that you can glance at the screen to keep your place.
  • If there is something detailed like a formula, put it on the slide or point them to your paper or handout in the conference proceedings.
  • Always have a backup plan in case electronic equipment fails.

Source: Toastmasters newsgroup discussion.

Links to More Resources

Better Listening

Better Thinking

The Ultimate Guide to any Interview

Toastmasters International Public Speaking Tips

Also look in the Competent Communication manual, pages 67-68.