Level 3: Building Your Speech Skills and Style

Speech style Level 3 Toastmasters101 podcast

Speech Skills Build Your Speech Style

Once you know the basics:  how to use

  • descriptive language
  • storytelling
  • vocal variety
  • body language

then it’s time to start building your speech skills into stronger, more effective speeches.  These three speech projects in Level 3 help you do that by challenging you to channel your style.

What’s Your Speech Style?

One of the best things in Toastmasters is the Ice Breaker.  Yes, I talked about the Ice Breaker speech in a previous episode  (toastmasters101.net/icebreaker/)

but what’s really cool about it is hearing the individual stories – the reasons people came to Toastmasters, their motivations, their… style.

I suspect that if we could record a speaker’s very first speech, we’d see glimmers of what they would become.  Style is as unique as fingerprints and is written into the DNA of our personality.  I might see someone use a speech technique that blows me away and I want to use it… but it won’t be mine until I do it.  And then, it’s very likely that my take won’t be exactly like the original.

That’s good.  You do you.  No one else will do it better.

The next three speech projects we’re talking about today are about your style.  What’s more obvious than your sense of humor?

Know Your Sense of Humor

Humor – it’s what makes you laugh.  Does it make me laugh?  Don’t be so sure.  One’s sense of humor is pretty specialized.  I will hear my husband laughing like crazy at a comedian, but when I go to watch, I’m not amused.  Then again, Monty Python isn’t his cup of tea… but I’ll watch them for hours.

These days, a joke can be dangerous.  What was acceptable at one time becomes a trap a few years later.  Just ask Kevin Hart, a comedian who was asked to host a prestigious awards show until someone tracked down his Twitter feed… and the opportunity disappeared.  This may make some people skittish to use humor.

Don’t let them stop you!

Nothing makes people want to listen more than being entertained.  Comedy isn’t going away.  It may be under fire, but as long as we have tongues to speak, we’re going to tell funny stories and probably mock a few people in the process – even if it’s just ourselves.

Tonight, I’m going to my Toastmasters meeting and I’m going to tell a horrifyingly funny story about myself.  So I went to the Know Your Sense of Humor project (that’s one of the perks of finishing the level – I can go back and look) and went through the training.   This is what the checklist says for this project:

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to begin developing a collection of humorous stories and to present a
speech that includes humor.

Overview: Give a 5- to 7-minute speech on a topic of your choosing. Your speech should include at least one anecdote
or story intended to entertain or bring humor into your presentation

My entire speech is a single story, so I guess I’m fulfilling the criteria.   Will I add this to my collection of humorous stories?  We’ll have to see.  It’s all about building your speech skills and style, right?

This project is the start of a journey.  Hopefully, it’s a funny one.

Deliver Social Speeches with Speech Skills

Deliver Social Speeches is a project that probably addresses a significant number of members in Toastmasters.  I think the Wedding Toast is a big driver for many fathers to join as they look ahead at this very emotional moment.  Nobody looks forward to giving a eulogy, but it must be done.

Social speeches are fraught with danger.  These are emotional moments when tears are close as our throat closes up and our brains close down.  To be able to gracefully handle these speeches takes a bit of know-how.

My friend Terry frequently gives speeches about his family or his customers that make him choke up.  His challenge is to find the balance in his presentation between his message and his emotions.  Or find a way to incorporate the moment into the speech…

Controlling Your Emotions

Whether it’s a wedding toast, a eulogy, an award, or speech praising someone, emotions are usually part of the dynamic.  Vocal variety and a stiff upper lip are required.  I find myself stepping back and trying to focus on the mechanics of the speech instead of the speech topic itself.  It gives me the ability to deliver without stealing the emotion from the audience with my big emotional response.

One thing you need to know about this project – there are two required speeches, not one. You are asked to give two short social speeches and be evaluated on both.  You don’t give both in the same meeting.  You don’t have to have the same evaluator for both as we’re encouraged to do in Level 1 Project 2.

This isn’t my story to tell – but I did hear it from the man whose story it is.  He joined Toastmasters because his company told him he had to join the corporate club.  He said that he was so shy that most of his co-workers rarely heard him speak.  After a year in Toastmasters, he had changed significantly – so much so, that he was able to give his stepfather’s eulogy.  This is the story of many people in Toastmasters.  They come to us for one thing and leave with the skills to face challenges in their lives.   We need to remember that – and invite more people to join us!

Did that sound inspirational?  It was supposed to sound inspirational because the last project I want to talk about is Inspire Your Audience.

Inspire Your Audience in Your Style

Why did you join Toastmasters?  To build your speech skills?  To share your message?  Probably.

You have something you want to say to the world.  You want to inspire people to act.

Is inspiration the same as persuasion?  Technically, persuasion might be the step before inspiration if inspiration results in action.

In inspirational speeches, your task is to build your speech skills to a new level.  You’ve got to put a lot together – all of the essential speech skills we talked about in episode 18 – plus rhetorical art development such as repetition and logic – and audience engagement with humor or personal stories.

An inspirational speech is possibly the pinnacle of public speaking.  You can learn the ingredients, but the techniques of putting them together aren’t scientific.  It’s an art.  You build your speaking style which will shape that inspirational speech.

When we’re giving our speeches in a club meeting, or when we’re listening to others, the power of inspirational speech is somewhat less powerful.  We’re there to hear a speech – not necessarily yours.  We have a clinical perspective because we are trained to be evaluators.  We count filler words instead of absorbing the message.

This is why I think it’s important to listen to some of the great speeches of the past and glean what we can from them.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s immortal speech I Have a Dream or John Kennedy’s Inaugural Address are worth the time to break down and analyze.  I have links to both of these in the show notes.

But your fellow Toastmasters are still tremendous assents to you as you build your speech skills.

New Members need old members

If I believe this – and I do – then as a Toastmaster, whether or not I’m a mentor to a new member, I’m going to have to teach this to that new member from the moment they walk through that door.

  • I will demonstrate those skills.  My presentations aren’t going to be perfect, but anyone in that room is going to hear vocal variety and see body language and feel the emotions I’ve put into my stories and my speech’s motion.
  • I’m going to evaluate other speakers and try to help them develop the skills that they lack.  If I have a new member who needs to stop doing something before it becomes a habit – I need to say that.

Next podcast, we’re going to talk about a few more of the Level 3 electives.  Can you focus on the positive and connect with your audience when you deliver speeches?  Sure you can!

Thanks for Listening!

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"Mariachi Snooze" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/