The Entertaining Speaker

Your Isims & Schisms

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Keep Your Humor Handy

Are you an entertaining speaker? We all love to be entertained. We seek out entertaining books, movies, music as well as all kinds of different ways to satisfy our natural urge for entertainment.  Keynote speakers who are both informative and entertaining are in high demand. They are often called to speak at weddings, conventions and social events. This is why it is important as a speaker to be entertaining.

Entertaining speakers offer diversions from the stresses of everyday life. Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters famously said: “We learn best in moments of enjoyment”. When we laugh, cry or engage in whatever happens to be our chosen form of enjoyment, we are entertained, however, there is this misconception by many speakers that you have to be funny to be entertaining.

Speakers all know, it ain’t necessarily so. Sure, some entertaining speakers rely heavily on being funny. Conversely, some speakers rely more on life experiences. They keep notes about stories and events from their life and the lives of others.   The good entertaining speaker doesn’t rely on telling jokes, they add humor to their speeches. They are the first to advise that you leave the joke telling to the comedians until you decide to become one.

It is for this reason, I always recommend keeping a story-file or log of interesting stories that cross our path daily. They may be your personal stories or stories that touched you in some manner. You will find that your best humor is those “off the cuff” remarks you say or hear daily. Write them down.  Try them out every opportunity you get. Make them your “isims”, My friends call mine “Henry-isims”. Over time, you will find that some will work better than others. I call those that fall flat, your “schisms”, however, as you begin to score more “isims” than schisms, you will realize that you are well on the way to becoming an entertaining speaker.

Impromptu Speaking

Good speakers know how to Listen

Giving a speech without preparation is challenging. Mark Twain, one of the most celebrated American novelist and essayist, on more than one occasion has admitted, off-the-cuff speaking wasn’t as easy as he made it appear to be. Continue reading “Impromptu Speaking”

Evaluate to Motivate

What you Saw – Heard – Felt

 

IMG_3179Public Speaking is a skill. Like any other skill, it can be improved and developed. One of the best ways of improving as a speaker is by studying the evaluations you receive from your fellow Toastmasters.  Evaluations are the heart of the Toastmasters educational program. We observe the speeches of our fellow Club members. We offer evaluations of their efforts. They, in turn, do the same for us. If you truly want to improve as a speaker, you must learn how to give and receive helpful evaluations. In Toastmasters, we evaluate to motivate.

Every speech in Toastmasters is a project with a different purpose and objectives.  As an evaluator, you will have difficulty evaluating a speech if you are not familiar with the project’s objectives. Before the Club meeting, you should obtain the manual from which the speaker is speaking and carefully read the project description and objectives. If it is a Pathways project, it is a good idea to get a copy of the project worksheet or checklist in addition to the Evaluation form.

Most evaluations can be broken down to simply what you saw, what you heard and what you felt. It is quite easy to spot a well-prepared speaker. In the words of Dr. Ralph Smedley, a prepared speaker should never be nervous. Recognize their poise, confidence and the speaker’s ability to connect with the audience. Nervous energy often produces negative results. In your room for improvement, a reference to what could be improved should be cited with specific reference to what the speaker did while at the lectern is or podium as well as what can be done for improvement in the future.

What you heard should be your opinion on if the speaker was able to achieve the goals and objectives of the project. Address the speaker directly, as you go “from one – the speaker- too many, the audience” Your evaluation is not a speech, it should do nothing that calls more attention to yourself than to your efforts to help the speaker improve.  Recognize the speaker’s vocal variety and his use of language.  Recognize the use of proper diction, contrast, rhyme, echo, and metaphors where possible as well as foundational statements.  Remind the audience of what you heard or did not hear.

Most evaluators tend to shy away from what they felt when the speaker made a reference that resonated them. Here, the evaluator can focus on the six emotions to which all humans relate.  The evaluator can recall with statements like -When you recalled the experiences, you shared about your parents, I felt happy, I felt your fear, I was sad or surprised, angry or even disgusted. Use the emotions you felt to draw your audience back in time and into the picture or scene the speaker created.

Make every effort to develop your evaluation skills. As you develop your evaluation skills, you will also become a better speaker.  Observe other evaluators. Ask questions about your evaluations. Pathways have a module, which gives us the opportunity practice evaluations online.  With more exposure to a variety of evaluations, you will be able to improve. You will also be able to use your evaluation skills outside of Toastmasters to become more confident in your interactions at work, at home and even at play. Whenever you evaluate, remember we evaluate to motivate.

What Is A Tall Tale

A short story, true or fictitious!

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WHAT IS A TOASTMASTERS TALL TALE

A contest in which contestants present a three to five-minute speech on a topic that is highly-exaggerated and improbable in theme or plot. Once you are a member in good standing, you can compete. There are no other pre-requirements. however, contestants who speak for less than two minutes 30 seconds or more than five minutes 30 seconds will be disqualified

Webster describes a tall tale as a “Narrative of events that have happened or are imagined to have happened.” It is usually a short story, true or fictitious. It could be a piece of information, gossip, rumor, falsehood or a lie. Today we call that “fake news”.

My first competitive tall tale speech contest was in 1999. I entered my first contest after completing four CTM – Competent Toastmaster Manual Speeches – with my speech entitle Hell’s Paradise. That speech took me all the way to District. One of the lessons I learned very early was since your speech must impress your audience as well as the judges, a good place to start is the judging criteria. I also studied the score sheets as I prepared my speech.  I would highly recommend that you pay close attention to the following:

SPEECH DEVELOPMENT: The way the speaker puts ideas together so the audience can understand them. A good Tall Tale speech immediately engages the audience’s attention and builds to a conclusion. 30 Points

SPEECH TECHNIQUES:  Refers to the use of various tall tales skills, such as exaggeration, irony, pun, humor and surprise twists.  These techniques are the essence of making a tall tale successful. If you skillfully incorporate those techniques into your tall tale, you will be successful.   25 Points

APPROPRIATENESS OF LANGUAGE:  Refers to the choice of words that relate to the speech purpose and to the particular audience hearing the speech. Language should promote a clear understanding of thoughts.  Language should fit the occasion and be in good taste. 10 points

PHYSICAL:   Presentation of a speech carries part of the responsibility for effective communication. Body language should support points through gestures, expressions and body positions. 15 points

VOICE:  The sound that carries the message – Your voice should be flexible, moving from one pitch level to another for emphasis, and should have a variety of rate and volume. A good speaking voice can be heard and the words easily understood. 15 Points

LANGUAGE: Refers to the choice of words that relate to the story. Language should promote a clear understanding of thoughts and should fit the occasion precisely. Proper use of grammar and correct pronunciation will show that the speaker is the master of the words used. 5 points

IN DAYS OF OLD WHEN MEN WERE BOLD:  Tall tale narratives depicted the wild adventures of extravagantly exaggerated folk heroes. Those tall tales were essentially an oral form of entertainment that took audiences on an imaginative invention rather than the literal meaning of the tales.  Associated with the lore of the American frontier, tall tales often explain the origins of lakes, mountains, and canyons. They were spun around such legendary heroes as Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack of the Pacific Northwest; Mike Fink, the rowdy Mississippi River keel boatman; and Davy Crockett, the backwoods Tennessee sharpshooter. Other tall tales recount the superhuman exploits of western cowboy heroes such as William F. Cody and Annie Oakley.

MODERN DAY TALL TALES: Even if you never went fishing, we all have a fish story to tell. The one that got away or even the minion swimming in kid’s aquarium that was HUGE! Tall tales can be an event that took place on any given day in your life.  One of mine entitled “No U-Turn” tells the story of making an illegal U-turn one day on my way to work.   A cop stopped me and asked! I replied-BECAUSE THE SIGN SAID SO – officer  — (cop) Oh – Really – (me) Yes – I wanted to go straight and the sign said “ No .. U … Turn”.  When the cop decided to call for backup with a straight jacket, I had to confess that I was just a Toastmaster practicing my pauses and got a bit carried away – – which she was getting ready to do to me literally. Would you believe, she did not give me a ticket?  What a nice cop.  (Exaggerate!  Exaggerate!  Exaggerate! …That is the key)

Hell’s Paradise was another about companies that were dominating the software market in the eighties and nineties.  Now I do not want to name names but I am sure you too will get my drift even if you were not around back then. One of those companies was rotten to the core,  while the other’s view of the world was, in my opinion, a bit micro and soft.  On that premise, I built “Hells Paradise”.  Was I ever so wrong?  We all got googled by a company of ten, raised to the one-hundredth power. Go figure…  A play on words is also a good tall tale technique.

Look at your life and I am sure you will find many stories you can spin into a tall tale.  If you can get your audience to express that look that says – REALLY, NO. PERHAPS THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE; you are hitting your mark. Take your audience to the edge of the precipices and dare them to believe we are both going to jump but you must go first.  That is when you must give the moral of your story or leave them to figure out the “rest of the story” which is the life lesson we should take away from every Tall Tale.

The Heroine or Hero in your Story

Good Better Best Never let it rest until your good becomes your better and your better becomes your best – BigGeorge

 

american-hero1Every story should have a heroine or hero, however, if that knight in shining armor is always you, your audience will quickly turn you off. As my dad used to say, “there is nothing new under the sun”. Speak about your experiences, but also mention where when and how you got that bit of wisdom. That bit of information is always music to the ear of the listener. A fellow Toastmasters once told me every question that is unanswered in your speech becomes a distraction. I learned that painful lesson after a Regional Contest in Pasadena California.  There was so much more my audience wanted to know about the rest of the story.  I can still remember one of the most important I had to answer, “who would I say was heroine or hero in my story”.  That is one question your audience should never have to ask.