Last week, and perhaps a bit foolhardily of me, I decided I would step in at the last minute to cover the speech slot of someone that had just pulled out of the speaker schedule for what was our upcoming Toastmasters meeting. I ended up with 24 hours to prepare the speech that I would deliver the following day.
Why was that a bit foolhardy of me? Well, the speech had never existed at that point in time. We have an upcoming area Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests evening. My club’s area governor had enquired about getting some of my club’s members to volunteer to take on functionary roles for the contests, or simply to come along both to support the evening and to support our club’s contestant who had won both of our club’s contests.
This could have been done in a short announcement during the meeting. But what do I do? Seeing a free speech slot, being unable to bring forward any speakers scheduled to speak at the meeting after, and not wanting to disappoint one of the speech evaluators by having to drop him/her from the schedule, I decide I would make a full speech out of the area governor’s request.
That was on Saturday. I didn’t have time to draft the speech until late Monday afternoon. Our club meeting was on the Tuesday evening. On top of this I had never done a persuasive speech before and I was now about to do so two speech projects ahead of schedule.
But through my experience of attending other clubs, whether as a visitor or functionary, I found I could use some of that knowledge and experience to help make my case. In fact this was both the core and driving force of the speech, selling the benefits of attending other clubs. Attending the contests was in contrast a fun and easy way to get started on that track to developing new leadership and speaking skills. They were no longer something external that members didn’t need to be concerned with.
Was I nervous? Well, preparing a speech approximately 24 hours ahead of delivering it, doing a rehearsal of the speech twice with script in hand and then reading it through about 2/3 more times afterwards. This being a speech designed to get people not only to see my point of view but to be encouraged to take action as a result of it, yes not having enough to time to prepare I was a bit nervous.
I pulled it off though. Nerves did break through in uncontrolled arm movements, and I could have paced my speech better with pauses. But I otherwise felt in control whilst delivering my message, and I felt satisfied overall that I had delivered my message, albeit missing out a few points that I had wanted to make.
What did I do to make the speech successful? Some of the elements that worked particularly well was I went straight from my intro to getting the audience involved, asking them why they joined Toastmasters. That immediately got people’s attention because they didn’t know who I was going to call on next and because I was asking about something we all had in common. I then relayed my own story just to remind everyone that I am with them.
With humour, I reminded people that our contestant going forward to the area contests should have some fellow club members going there to support him, as they were responsible for sending him there by giving him the most votes.
I heavily sold the benefits of attending other clubs, making it clear that there is much to be learnt by attending other club meetings and events. As a recent and direct example, I relayed that my chairing of our club’s recent contests was influenced by what I’d learnt from attending another club’s contests.
I asked our Immediate Past President to share what he’d learnt by attending other clubs, and I asked our current President to help validate my growth by sharing his own observations of my earlier speeches to the present time, which I attributed in part to what I learnt by attending other clubs. Having other people provide support and evidence for what I was saying, helped establish credibility. Having the big guns do it, did it even better!
I then closed with a sequence of questions asking the audience what their goal is at Toastmasters, if they knew when they were going to get there, to whether they were now ready to take action to get there quicker.
Underlying all that, I had a strong belief and conviction in what I was saying!
I left it to the Evaluator of my speech to find out how persuasive I was. When she asked the audience who would attend the area contests evening, a good number of hands went up.