Impromptu Speaking – Stand & Deliver

Sell your answer with your summary.

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Build Your Own Models – Formulas and Templates

Impromptu, Table Topic or speaking off–the- cuff are opportunities; all speakers will never be able to avoid. You will always be called upon to say a few words when you least expect. Call it what you will; speaking, thinking, on your feet or winging it; impromptu speaking is a valuable skill every speaker must develop. Impromptu speaking occasions may occur inside or outside of your workplace, social events, or even while conversing with your spouse or kids. In almost every aspect of daily life, those speaking opportunities will occur. However, if you seize every moment to speak, your impromptu skills will one-day pay-off huge dividends.

Some may ask how do you prepare for that which you cannot predict. The trick may be to avoid trying to predict – practice being in the moment. Use the skills you have developed over the years as a speaker. Use your life stories and experiences that brought you to where you are presently standing. A well-delivered response will depend significantly on how well you listen. Be attentive. Listen for keywords and your inner voice as you silently confirm what you just heard. Your inner voice will then direct you through as you proceed to deliver your answer with confidence and a style that represents who you are as a speaker. Don’t fight the feeling – that’s a battle you will often lose.

Before you begin to answer the question or state your position, pausing with a smile is always an excellent way to start. It is a fantastic way to connect with your audience. There is no time penalty for smiling once it is not overdone. Pleasantries are unnecessary – restate the question to your audience and if possible tag it with a bit of humor to begin. Quick wit is a plus; however, in a Toastmasters Table Topic setting, your allotted time is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Green at two minutes, Yellow at 2:30 and Red at 3 minutes at which time you have 30 seconds grace before disqualification for going overtime. For that reason, I recommend you use the KISS approach. Keep your response Succinct and Straightforward. Keep your responses Short and Sweet. Always leave yourself some time to summarize. Sell your answer with your summary.

To stay focused on the topic, you can use a model, formula, or template. There are many excellent samples available for all different types of questions and occasions which you can turn into acronyms. There is the PREP formula:– POINT–REASON – EXAMPLE – then sell your POINT to summarize. There is the WAG – Where I WAS where I AM where I am GOING. Again, you must summarize to close. The CER:- CAUSE – EFFECT – REMEDY is another useful model. And the PPF:– PAST – PRESENT – FUTURE is another. Stay with the rule of threes to create your own. As you continue to gain more experience and different types of impromptu speaking opportunities build your own LIBRARY.

Mark Twain said it usually takes him three weeks to write a good impromptu speech. Although Twain makes a good point, I believe it takes a lifetime of experiences to stand before an audience without any rehearsal to speak with confidence. Whether you are an experienced speaker, or it is your first time on the platform, remember you are delivering just a “few words” and not a dissertation. Your few words must have an opening, body, and conclusion. Sounds familiar – however, it is the words you choose and your delivery that will make all the difference.

Follow the basic rules of public speaking. Never apologize, do not ramble, be authentic, and be in the moment. Sell your point with your summary. Don’t wait to be chosen; don’t wait to be called, raise your hand to be selected. Stand and deliver, and soon you will master the most useful public speaking skill all speakers must excel at – Impromptu, off -the – cuff speaking.

Clarity is Key to Good Communication

Great speaking comes from having a clear focus on your message

20181207_093125It is often said that clarity is the key to good communication and public speaking. Public speaking is a skill everyone has to embrace at some time or another; however, over time as speakers, we come to realize that “all speaking is public speaking”. Every day, we communicate requests, opinions, and ideas with family, friends, and associates. The more we exchange communication, the more it becomes evident that communication is not only what you said, but also what the listener thinks you said or is saying.

The following are a few concepts anyone can start practicing today, to become a more effective communicator. These principles can be career-enhancing when practiced daily. They can unleash a whole new perspective in the way you communicate. Speakers can also start applying them to presentations, conversations and your communications with family, friends, and colleagues. They will also significantly improve how you respond in your daily interactions with others. They will help you develop who you are as a communicator.

One of the first requirements of good communication is, getting people to listen to you. How to get audiences to stop, look at you and listen is a question all speakers must try to resolve. Before a speaker utters their first words, they should make sure they have the complete attention of their audience. The challenge then becomes how to hold that attention. Begin with a voice inflection that commands your listener’s attention. Also, use appropriate body language to let your listener know you are ready to establish a line of communication.

If one of the parties tune out or disconnects, it is like having a bad phone connection. Communication is over. While still connected, you should envisage how you are going to hold your audience’s attention. A good strategy is to strive to be entertaining while you are informing or being informed. Listen before you interject. Go with the flow.  If you can entertain and inform at the same time, the flow of information between the speaker and listener will be greatly enhanced.

Great speaking comes from having a clear focus on your message. Quips; witty communication will often keep the conversation alive and memorable.  Well placed quips will often have the effect of an echo long after you and your listeners have disconnected. When used in speeches, quips can bring clarify your message.  Give your messages a voice. Make your audience stop, look at you and listen to you while you entertain and inform. And the day will come when you be respected not only as a good speaker but also as a great communicator.

Your Power Pause

Let your audience embrace your silence.

20181207_093125Whether you’re presenting a speech at your club meeting, introducing a speaker at a social event or delivering a sales pitch, you will always connect with your audience if you stage some silence before you speak.  In the immortal words of William Shakespeare – “I stand in pause where I shall first begin.”

The power pause method has been the key to magnifying the messages of many great orators, however, stage silence before you begin your presentation should not be overdone. Your expressed purpose should be to make sure you have the undivided attention of your audience. Before you start, try locking your eyes on each of your listeners with a stare, as you silently review in your mind each word of your opening sentence. Make your Power Pause your final preparation before you begin to speak.

When you’re sure, you have your audience attention, it is wise to acknowledge that you now have their attention with a smile or perhaps a gentle nod. The Power Pause is the great equalizer. Whether you’re male or female, tall or short, dapper or grungy, an audience will lend you their ear if you take the time to make your audience stare back at you in hopeful anticipation, before you begin. Stand and steer with confidence as if to say I am ready for you. Are you ready to listen to me.

The Power Pause is one of the keys to charisma – that special power some speakers have naturally or develop. A power that makes them able to influence others and attract their attention and admiration. Audiences usually listen attentively to people they like and those who they admire. The Power Pause can also be your safety net also as you stare out into that audience for the first time from the platform. Let your audience embrace your silence. Take time to gather yourself, your thoughts, tame those butterflies as you begin to deliver what everyone present waited with bated breath to hear; your opening with a roar or a whisper.

 

Competitive Speaking

A great speech is spoken art.

20181206_145952Competitive speaking can put a speaker’s development on the fast track. To prepare for competitions, speakers must pay attention to those details often ignored. Here are a few of those details to consider as you prepare for your next speech to compete at the Club, Area, Division, District or International level of competition:

The true winners are not the ones who walk away with the trophy but those who win the hearts of their audiences.

Topic Selection: The topic you choose can decide your place in competitions. While you should select a topic you are passionate about, connecting with your audience should be your primary focus. Your presentation should not be all about you. It is should also have some universal appeal. The challenge is to establish a connection with your audience through personal stories, and real-life events spun into a unique, persuasive work of art. It should not be an act.  Simply put, a great speech is spoken art.

Avoid The Following: Recent events & stories overused by the Internet & News Media. Events with varied audience interest and opinions as well as topics too big to be delivered in 5 to 7 minutes. If after you have finished speaking your audience is left with many unanswered questions, you may want to ask yourself if this is a story I can deliver completely in the allotted time.

Study The Points Distribution As You Prepare Your Speech:  The points distribution is usually: Speech Development-Effectiveness-Speech Value – (Content – 50 Points) Physical-Voice-Manner-Manner (Delivery – 30 Points) Appropriateness-Correctness (Language – 20 Points).

Speech Purpose: The purpose of your speech should be clearly defined very early in your presentation. Are you speaking to Inform: Entertain: Persuade: Motivate.
Study the objectives of all ten speeches from the CC Manual. Focus on what do you want your audience to Think-Feel – Or Do after hearing your presentation.

Delivery: Don’t Tell Them–Show Them-Take Them
Be descriptive – Use word pictures to convey your message. A picture paints a … words.
Be concise but also be clear – Every unanswered question becomes a distraction.
Practice your personal stories and anecdotes so that they don’t sound rehearsed-Keep it real.

Timing: Write a 6-minute Speech and Deliver it in 7 – Find Your Speaking Rate.
Calculate your average speaking rate – Men average 125 Women 150. The average number of words in your speech should be between 700 to 750 words. Use single syllable words.

What is your Magic Moment: The moment in your speech that would make your presentation memorable. Every speech must have a magic moment, strategically placed for maximum impact.

A Call to Action:  Recall what you told your audience in the introduction and body of your presentation. Leave your audience with a call to action. Close the deal to leave your audience with a lasting impression. If at the end of your speech you left your audience has a burning desire to take some action, whether you take home a trophy or not, you will be a winner in the hearts of your audience.

Making Your Case

To make your case, you must first have one.

pexels-photo-290150.jpegThe art of persuading audiences and judges is as old as life itself. However, success or failure depends largely on how well you succeed in making your case. At Toastmasters meetings speeches are evaluated; we “evaluate to motivate.” But too often we highlight the good and whitewash that which needs improvement. In speech contests, presentations are judged to pick a winner. The objectives are very different; however, one may conclude that it does not matter if you are being evaluated or judged when your purpose is making your case.

To make your case, you must first have one. You must be clear about what you are asking your audience to think, feel or do. You must also be sure that what you are asking your audience to do is doable. If after you have presented your reasoning to that audience or judges, they should be so impressed by your argument about that which you are asking them to do, or not do, is the best in this case and in similar situations to follow, you would have made your case. This process is a proven method of presenting, judges and lawyers use courts, CEOs, and executives use successfully.

Making a connection with your audience is just as important as knowing everything about the subject matter you are presenting. Your ability to communicate is a gift to all. Although we may communicate differently, we all were born with the proverbial “gift of gab” in some form. As kids, we were able to talk ourselves out of any sticky situation. Don’t remember, ask your parents, they will be happy to remind you. Then it happened. Once we became conscious that there is a difference between talking in private and speaking in public, we became fearful of being embarrassed. We lost that gift of making your case, well except for those times when we get outraged. Why! Many will argue it is all because of fear.

Of all the emotions we are faced with on the platform, perhaps fear is one of the easiest to control. How do we control fear? Fear is controlled by you being true to yourself; just like when you were outraged. By being who you are, and what you are all about when you are on the platform. Sincerity is essential when speaking in public. If you are not sincere, you will always be looking over your shoulders. Your voice will quiver, knees will weaken, and as many who have been there and done that would confess, you would rather die than do what comes naturally – speak in public.

I have heard it said the most crucial minute in your speech is or should be the minute of silence after you have finished speaking. If at the end of your presentation, your evaluator, audience or judges feel compelled to take some action, positive or negative, you most likely would have or would have not made your case. Be clear about the purpose and the goals you want to achieve. A speech without a clear purpose will accomplish nothing. Decide before you step on that platform if your goal is to persuade, inform or entertain. Keep that goal like a banner in the front of your mind from the beginning of your talk to end. And when it is all over, the applause will let you know if or how well you have made your case.

Table Topics Tips

Keep it Simple – Keep Calm and Carry On

20190426_133908_001How do you prepare for Table Topic is often a concern of new and seasoned Toastmasters.  How can you prepare for answering questions on a wide range of subjects with confidence – How do the pros do it?  Well, I am told,  they keep it simple. They keep calm and carry on and here are a few of their secrets they – Practice the art of passive listening: Listening without reacting: Allowing someone to speak, without interrupting – Silencing the noise in their head. Not doing anything else at the same time – Not an easy skill for some of us to master

Stay up to date on current events: While it is impossible to be knowledgeable about every topic under the sun, they stay on top of local, national, International news and trends. Staying informed is always an excellent preparation idea.  They are passionate and their ideas are original.

Make impromptu speaking part of their everyday conversations:  Like the pros, we too face all kinds of questions and topics every day.  They use them as opportunities to practice. They tell personal stories. You too can make your friends and family your audiences. They will be none the wiser.

Learn from the pros, they keep it simple. Practice these few skills daily and you will develop wit, natural humor and a repository of topics to draw from. Like a well-developed muscle, you will begin to respond like they do to any topic you face.  They listen attentively to decide if it is a question or statement. They repeat the topic silently to themselves. They pay special attention to the keywords in the question or statement. Usually, that is when their gut instincts kick in with their POV – their “Point of View”. You can always tell because that is when you see them smile. They don’t fight the feeling they go with the flow.

In a Toastmasters setting, you should wait until the Table Topics master has left the speaking platform.  Buy yourself some time. Wait until you have the full attention of the audience. Assume your speaking posture then begin your response by paraphrase the topic followed by your “POV or the Hook” you will use to reel in your audience. Forget the salutations, dive right into the topic. Add a twist to the subject matter. Give two examples or “for instance” – summarize and make your call to action, where applicable. It is that simple.

Table Topic can be a fun and rewarding experience. Make impromptu speaking a part of your development as a speaker. It is all about revealing the authentic when you are in the moment. Whether you are in an interview, club meeting or on a stage, if you are prepared to be honest and to be yourself, you too will be able to respond like the pros to any question or statement “off the cuff”.  Have fun with Table Topics and remember these words of Dr. Ralph Smedley the founder of Toastmasters: “we learn best when we are having fun.”

Toastmasters International Table Topics have a time range of 1-2 minute. The Greenlight at 1 minute- Yellow light at 1 minute, 30 seconds – Red light at 2 minutes.

Timing Is Everything

Fast Speaker or Fast Listener

In the Toastmasters world of public speaking, timing is everything. The 5 to 7-minute speech is our Gold Standard. Icebreakers are usually 4 to 6 minutes long. Fast speakers speak fast; however, not everyone happens to be a fast listener. To ensure speakers remain within their allotted time when delivering an icebreaker, it is best to write a 5-minute speech, for delivery in 6.30 minutes. For a 5 to 7 minute speech, write a 6-minute speech for delivery in 7:30 minutes.

The average speaking rate of most humans is between 120 to 140 words per minute. Therefore, it is important for every speaker to calculate his or her own personal speaking rate. In order to find your personal speaking rate, select a passage from a famous speech. Read it as if you are delivering that speech using pauses and vocal variety.  Read for one minute.  Time yourself. Your word count will be the number of words you read from the beginning of the passage to your last word at the one-minute mark. If your average rate is 130 words per minute, your word count for an icebreaker should be approximately 130×5=650 words – average.

Once you have calculated your speaking rate, you should gather your Readability Statistics. When using MS Word Readability Statistics for Writing, you will need to have grammar checking turned on. Microsoft Word’s readability scores are based on American audiences and Word’s grammar checking. These statistics give speakers an idea of the readability of their content. They also provide general rules that can be useful when editing your written material.

The Readability Statistics facility in Microsoft Word includes:

  • Counts: Count the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences in the document.
  • Averages: Averages the number of sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word.
  • Readability statistics: Calculates the percentage of passive sentences in the document, Flesch Reading Ease score, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level.

A grade level of 5-9 is recommended for general readers. A grade level of 7-12 is acceptable for industry and technical writings. Remember as you edit, you are writing for the ear and not for the eyes. Edit to make your speeches conversational. Stay on time. That is and will always be the Toastmasters Gold Standard.

Nervousness & Public Speaking

If you are not afraid of the outcome, you will not be nervous.

 

IMG_1215A little nervous energy can show that you are passionate and even care about what you are presenting. Too much nervousness will detract from your performance, however, I do believe that if you are not afraid of the outcome, even when competing, you will enjoy the experience and nervousness will not be a factor.

Here are 10 tips we all can use to control nervousness:

  1. Know The Room: Become familiar with the speaking are before you are called to speak. The view from the speaking area is quite different from the audience view or the view from the back of the room.
  2. Know You Audience: Meet and if possible greet some of your audience as they arrive. This can help you connect with them as you look out into the audience.
  3. Know Your Material: In the words of Dr. Ralph C Smedley “A prepared speaker should not be nervous”. Nervousness will increase if you don’t know your material.
  4. Relax: Get on your feet, stretch a bit before taking to the stage.
  5. Visualize yourself giving your speech: Harbor positive thoughts. Visualize yourself being successful and you will be successful.
  6. Think Positive: Audiences don’t want you to fail. Smile and they will smile back at you.
  7. Don’t apologize: Don’t call attention to any of your slipups. Those slipups may very well have gone unnoticed.
  8. Focus on the message: When you focus on the message, your attention moves from your anxieties outwardly towards your message and your audience.
  9. Turn nervousness into positive energy: Add vitality and enthusiasm to harness your nervous energy.
  10. Gain Experience. Experience Builds confidence: Grasp every opportunity you get to SPEAK. Grasp every opportunity you get to EVALUATE others.  That is the key to becoming a better speaker. 

Your Communication Style

Communication Styles are Often Situational.

IMG_2915Communication is a two-way process for reaching mutual understanding through verbal, non-verbal, and written messages.   Determining your own communication style can help you improve how you share information with others.  Learning how to communicate effectively with styles that are different from your own, will enable you to establish effective relationships and create better understanding. 

Some communications styles are Sociable – Decisive – Cautious – Patient. When Collaborating with other we may be Cooperative, Spontaneous, Competitive or Precise. When sharing feelings with others we are sometimes Reserved, Private, Sympathetic, or Self-assured.  How others perceive us is also important.  Some may perceive you to be Gentle – Result-oriented – Fun-Loving or Disciplined.  The goal of understanding your communication style preferences is to communicate with others in a way that is comfortable and effective when we find ourselves in different settings.

It is important to recognize how effective communication can affect your interactions with others. It can lead to higher efficiency and good moral in the workplace, increased innovation and creative potential in groups, and satisfactory personal and familial relationships. Communication styles are often situational. Be sure to monitor your application of communication styles.

Decide if your current style is effective based on feedback and outcomes. If necessary, adjust your behavior and adopt new styles to fit a situation, team, or person. Recognize and adjust your style of communication to reach a mutual understanding.

Direct: This style is decisive, competitive, independent, and confident.  Direct communicators prefer you to get to the point quickly and in a succinct manner.

Initiating: This style is sociable, enthusiastic, energetic, spontaneous, and fun-loving. Initiating communicators value interacting with others and sharing stories.

Supportive: This style is calm, steady, approachable, sincere, and gentle. Supportive communicators appreciate a calm, steady approach.

Analytical: This style is precise, exact, analytical, and logical. Analytical communicators like facts, data, and figures.

It is my hope that you can now better understand your communication style.

What Is A Tall Tale

A short story, true or fictitious!

Blue hills

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.

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