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Toastmasters:

 

I belong to two toastmasters groups:

Two of them for the reason, my current schedule is flexible, and each group has their own feel and format. For instance Stanford is around 28 people (from all walks of life) on average and runs for 1:45, while the HP group typically has 11 people (typically Hp and agilent employees) and runs for an hour.

Toastmasters has a few typical types of speaking at every meeting:

Leadership Roles:

I have performed many of the roles, and here are some tips for the ones I've done.

Timer: bring a steel edged ruler to help rip apart the ballots quicker.

Evaluator: Generally come up with 2-3 points to work on, 2-3 points they did well and focus on those. Talk to the speaker first, some like to have brutal evaluations. Group into content, organization, delivery, and intro, body, conclusion to help emphasize weaker/stronger areas.

Table Topics Master:

I like out of box table topics and have used fortune cookies twice (which are available in 50 of them for ~$3 at Smart and Final in the cookie isle). It's easy to open up with something on fate, or the history of the fortune cookie (which is interesting -did you know that the cookies were invented here in the US around 1920?).  The messages in the smart and final cookies usually come in a few styles (these are made up):

Which are easy enough for anybody to wrap their life around.

Tips:  I've found that unwrapping them first helps speed things up. Some people chew loudly (crunchy cookies) so be aware. I've also found that doing stereotypes, even if you say absolutely nothing wrong (e.g. Chinese cook accent) which works fine in improv theater isn't taken well as openly in more professional circles (know your audience!).

Prepared Speeches:

Toastmasters has several manuals which focus on certain types of skills necessary in any speeches, but are easiest to work on in the prepared speech. Currently I'm on the first book which has 10 speeches which focus on the core elements of speech: Timing, gestures, vocal variety, organization, etc.

So far here is what I've delivered:

  1.  (The Icebreaker) -"6 Parents, 11 Grandparents, 21 rooms and 6 instruments"
  2. (Be Sincere) - "Raising Humans for Aliens"

Each speech has some of the initial legwork and didn't follow the written script exactly.

The Icebreaker

For the first speech I performed it at both clubs (as I figured both would like to find out who I am), and walked away with the best speech ribbon twice (as well as the best table topics on one of them). It was completely memorized, and rehearsed about 20 times using a stopwatch, and reviewed at random (in the shower, driving). It's interesting to note how much easier it is for a person coming from drama to deal with the speech when it's treated just like any script, except instead of portraying a alternate person far removed from yourself, you get to play an idealized version of yourself (Troy with karate chop and presentation speaking action!). With the exception for me of having to slow down my speaking rate (I typically talk fast when I'm excited), and talk more dramatically at times than I would in day to day. Ironically I was quite nervous/excited the first time doing the speech, but with a few deep breathes on walking up and focus on the speech, absolutely no one saw any nervousness. Which is something I've heard from other toastmasters before, our internal perceptions of our nervousness/anticipation/excitement is much dimmed to those outside of our head viewing it.

With enough preparation I was also able to incorporate the word of the day without to much difficult by thinking about it before hand. Like some difficult feat performed by some street performer, this always gets some response.

Be Sincere

The second speech I choose a hefty topic: Quality of Life, which I felt I could be sincere about, and is something that everyone should pay attention to, yet it's so fundamental we often overlook it in the day to day hustle. This couldn't fit into the 5-8 minutes I was allotted, so I had to narrow it down to physical aspects "health and longevity", which also didn't fit into my time well either (I ended up being 1 second short from being disqualified in the running). In writing it I realized it was starting to sound to preachy (most of us know instinctively what is healthy) so I needed to come from a different approach, which I decided on treating humans as animals/pets, being raised by the Flesrou (ourself spelled backwards), which really is the correct way to look at the problem, it's just our emotions/brain get in the way with short term motivations conflicting with those that lead to long term goals.

Since my first speech was completely memorized /prepared and didn't reveal anything to work on, I choose to use a written script, and not overly prepare for it ahead of time (which is probably more realistic to speaking in meetings in corporate environments).  Turned out to be quite the learning experience:

First up forgetting I didn't have access to a printer, and writing it at the last minute I had to read it off my unusual looking laptop (actually a pen based computer called the QBE), which turned out to be horrible: it didn't boot up properly so they had to rearrange the speaker to accommodate me (which the Toastmaster Marvin did unnoticeably to the rest of the group), then with the overhead on the highly reflective screen was difficult to read, and third it was distracting (or rather evoking to much curiosity in the audience). On that note I find this somewhat odd, how utilizing palms (there are a few speech related timing programs) or laptops is significantly different than using postcards/notes, but that is the state of things today.

The speech did get the humor desired. I used the "<doing X> for dummies" format and came up with a cheesy cartoon version of "raising humans for dummies" overhead. Using various scientific sounding names for cultural behaviors (Standard American Diet => Americanus Typicus) and Siliconus Geekicus worked out well.

I found out some interesting things: when reading out loud my speech rate doubles, versus when I'm speaking unscripted. With the speech not memorized my "buffering" between speech ended up being repeating the last few words (which I find interesting) e.g. with the sentence:

"I am going to talk today about the rain in spain"
-----------------^ buffering point

ended up being:

"I am going to talk today...talk today about the rain in spain"

as well as using the californianish, "like ".