Sunday, August 9, 2009

Humorous Speech Contest - Style, Substance and Sourness

Whenever I saw pretty girls on stage giving a good speech, my inner voice could not but screamed "got style, no substance". Afterall, I believe that our creator is fair and just. Since the girls are pretty, they cannot be smart. And if they are smart, they are not pretty. Just like me. But strangely, I do not have that vernemous thought when it comes to guys.

A very good afternoon, Contest chair, district officers, fellow toastmasters, friends and guests. For more than a decade, I was never called upon to do a briefing to management or to my fellow colleagues. The reason is simple, I am not pretty enough. Then suddenly, my boss asked me to do a short presentation. Surely, he must be nuts. But of course, I would lose my job if I were to say that.

So carefully, I treaded, trying to "siam" ("Siam" is Singlish, meaning trying to avoid doing more work.) "Boss, boss, you, you do not expect a smart alec like me to address to commoners, right? I mean they would not be able to understand me."

"You either go for it or go for the door. You understand?" My boss's stern voice reverberated in the four walls of the office and also in my head. I looked at him sheepishly. Of course, I understood. I was a smart alec.

I dropped my head and shoulder and resigned - not resigned from my work - I am still need to eat, you know, what I meant was to resign to my fate.

I was to research on how to speak in public and share my findings to a group of senior staff who have been speaking to well, the public. Mind you, I was not a toastmaster then. I guess my not-so-pretty face somehow found its way to my boss's stack of bad books. Alright, a bookworm I was so doing research was a piece of cake for me and this was what I have shared with my colleagues on that fateful day.

Hello, everyone, today I am indeed very honored to share with you my experience in public speaking. Thump!!!

[Narrator's mode] No it was not my heart beating. Though it was thumping fast and furious. I was so nervous that I missed a step and fell.

"Hello, any questions from the floor?" I grimaced as I tried to salvage the situation. "Thinking on our feet is very important as a speaker." I continued.

One very effective way to brush up our public speaking skills so is to be a toastmaster. Toastmaster is not a master in making toast bread. It is more like a ghostbuster, we get rid of the ghosts in public speaking.

Just like when we buy a property, analysts will tell you that it is all about "location, location and location." In being a good public speaker, it is all about "preparation, preparation and preparation."

So what are the things which we should look out for when we are giving a speech. Organise your speech, and practise. Also have a script in hand. A script is like a plank for not just for beginner swimmers but also for all. Whenever we feel insecure in front of an auditorium full of audience, we could quickly refer to our script. But please, do not be over-reliant on the script. No one likes to feel neglected, especially when you only have style.

[Narrator's mode]: I could feel tension mounting in the room as forty pairs of eyes stared at me when I said that. A smart alec I was, I moved quickly to defuse the tension. So I used my script and fanned myself and the audience of course. Phew, that was a close one.

Erm, I mean when you not only have style but also substance. Next I will move on to what to look out for when we prepare our script. Words are our good friends and we need to know our audience and use their language. When we do public speaking, we are not merely reading from our script. Otherwise, you will lose them halfway in your presentation. According to research, most people will be able to remember the most information in the beginning and slowly this attention span declines. I believe that the attention span will remain high if we can keep entertaining them.

We do so by making use of our gesture, body language and vocal variety. RAISE YOUR VOICE, whenever we need to.

"Thump!!!" Another loud thump thundered again.

[Narrator's mode] Gosh, my louder than usual voice must have shaken someone from his or her slumber land. Not waiting to miss this opportunity to get my vengence, I suggested the audience to demonstrate what he or she would do after hearing my presentation.

"Angie, can you kindly come here to share with us what you have learnt." I ventured, trying to sound as kind as possible, while sniggering secretly in my heart.

"Sure." she replied. "I learnt what not to do in a presentation. Do not read from script as what you have been doing. And I also figure out that your children must be very well behaved."

"Oh, really?" I was pleasantly surprised and was unexpected at such a compliment. "How do you know?"

"'Cos whenever they make any mistake, you probably gave them a two-hour lecture."

The whole class burst out laughing. Gosh, I guess they do have style and substance. It was just me who was without style but with sourness. After that incident, I decided to walk my talk and join the Toastmasters Club.

And I discover that style and substance does mix. Our contest chair is a beautiful and articulate lady. Of course, our judges are also gorgeous and gregarious bunch. How can I forget our audience? You too are fantastic. All we need to do is just to scoop away the sourness.

Back to you Toastmaster of the Day.

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