Sunday, May 17, 2015

What Happens When the Win Anyway Guy Loses? Part I

Yesterday was a unique day for me, in terms of competing in Toastmasters at the District Conference Level.

I had qualified to represent my Division in both Table Topics (Impromptu Speaking) and the International Speech Contest. It was the 21st and 22nd time I had qualified for various contests at that level in the 3 different Districts I've competed in. Currently, I'm in D26, which is Colorado, Wyoming, and parts of Nebraska. I've also competed in D9 (Eastern WA, NE Oregon, Northern Idaho), and D15 (Utah, Southern, Idaho, Eastern Nevada).

Of the 20 previous contests, I had acquired fifteen first place trophies (8 in International), 4 second place trophies, and only once failed to place in a contest (Evaluation, 2003), but placed first in a second contest (Humorous) at that conference.

This time - for the first time - I came home without a plastic, plexiglass, or gold colored aluminum trophy in either contest.

This time, however, I failed to place in Table Topics at all in the morning - which, frankly, didn't bother me. I was the first out of six speakers, and didn't do well at all at answering the question. I felt out of rhythm, and at a bit of a loss for an answer to the question 'If you won $1000 and had to spend it on yourself, what would you buy?'. Walking off the stage I was pretty certain 3 of the next 5 speakers would beat that pretty easily.

No worries though - the real trophy was waiting for me in the evening. I'd never lost an International Contest at the District Level. A perfect 8-0. I had edited my speech down 100 words from the last level, changed a line or two (or twenty) during the day, which isn't unusual for me at all. I added a humor bit that called back to Keynote Speaker Tim Gard's presentation in the morning - and it got a big laugh. The speech was powerful, and well-received.

It was also 4 seconds....OVERTIME.

Which means I've still never LOST at District in the Int'l, but I have disqualified myself. Took the decision out of the hands of the judges altogether. And I knew it when I sat down, just like I knew it 10 years ago when I last went overtime, at the Semi-Finals in Oregon.

Let me say this - I have no idea if I would have won if I stayed in time. I may have. I may have placed. I may have been shut out as I was in Topics in the morning. DOESN'T MATTER. Even if I WON on the judging ballot, I didn't have the best speech because it didn't meet the criteria.

I made a rookie mistake, a mistake I've made before, and essentially BEAT MYSELF.

Congratulations to Greg Picone, 3rd, Place, David Meed, 2nd, and Kelsey Robb (pictured with Contest Master Andre Simoneau and District Governor Linda Rhea), returning to the District Stage after taking 2nd to me last year, who will represent District 26 in Las Vegas at the Semi-Finals.

The questions coming at me are now centered around 'what will you do next?' and 'will you compete again next year?' The results I encountered both at the conference and in my 27 Day Challenge, which ended yesterday as well, have put my 'Win Anyway' philosophy to the test, and put it up for a bit of scrutiny.

Overall, it was a great conference, and a unique experience for me. I do believe, at least for the International Contest, I managed to Speak & Deliver - even if I went a little long. At the end of the end of the day, that really is what matters. Or is it?

I'll be addressing these and other questions in Part II and Part III - which will show up in my Win Anyway Blog and 27 Day Challenge blog, respectively, later tonight.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Anatomy of a Speaker's Introduction Part III: Toastmaster Tips

In Part I of this series I covered 6 Key Components for you to use in your Introduction, and in Part II, I discussed What Could Go Wrong with your intro, and how to mitigate the damages.

For Toastmasters - all those tips and suggestions apply, but we also face our own unique challenges - so this post is specifically for you!

In my fifteen years with the organization, I have witnessed a severe deficit in our education program when it comes to introductions. In fact, googling 'Toastmaster & Introductions' brought only one article from the TI site itself, and it focuses on the Toastmaster of the meeting being in control of the intro more than you, the speaker.

In general, I rarely see speakers in TM clubs actually write their own introduction, and at best, it typically includes their manual/project number, their name, and the title of their speech. Occasionally it's brought in a typed format, but it's most often scribbled at the last minute, often handed to the TM right before the speaker is to present, setting the TM, and the speaker, up for a completely mishandled beginning to their speech.

Most of the time, however, there is NO introduction, and the Toastmaster for the day has to make something up on the spot, or simply intro the speaker and their title.

We spend so much time (hopefully) preparing for our speech - why do we do so little, or even nothing at all, with our introduction? If we're really preparing ourselves for the 'real world', we should add this particular skill to our repertoire, and put ourselves, and our introducers, in a strong position to succeed.

Of course, our organization, at the club level, has different aspects to what we may want to do in our intros, though, in general, the tips in Part I & II are still good for this purpose, and certainly any presentations we give at District, Toastmasters Leadership Institutes, or other special events.

3 Club Introduction Considerations.

1. Speech Requirements - every time we give a manual speech, we have requirements that need to be met. Some clubs have the evaluator mention the manual, speech number, and requirements before the introduction of the speaker. Some clubs have the TM mention them. Some intros mention them. And sometimes, no mention is made at all.

No matter how your club handles it (and if you have a different variation, let me know), I suggest you keep it these 'details' separate from your actual introduction, unless they are vital to the content of your speech. If someone else is not handling the introduction of this information, and you feel you must include them in your written intro, use it as a preface to the actual intro:
'Rich is giving speech 7, Research your Topic, out of the Competent Communicator Manual. Requirements include collecting information about his topic from numerous sources and carefully supporting his points and opinions with specific facts, examples, and illustrations gathered through research. His time is 5-7 minutes. (PAUSE)'
Then go into your actual introduction.

2. Audience Set-Up - In TM we often give speeches that are meant for other audiences. Your introduction can be a good place to let your audience know they need to be children in the second grade, conspiracy theorists, or rocket scientists. This way, they know how to receive the speech, and your feedback will be more directed and pertinent to your goals.

3. Credibility - This is a tricky one, as it can feel tiresome to continually put '2x World Championship of Public Speaking Finalist, a DTM, and father of six' in your introductions. Keep in mind, however, that that bit of credibility may not matter when you're giving a presentation about kids, or fictional characters, or really anything not speaking/Toastmasters related.

You have to decide which part of you lends credibility to your subject matter. Since we're constantly writing new speeches, we need new introductions, and different bits of credibility to match.


Writing an introduction takes extra time, yes. You'll want to email it to your Toastmaster, as well as print in and bring it to your meeting. It will put your TM at ease when they see they don't have to make anything up. Remember to ask them to read it out loud before the meeting so you can make sure they know all the words, and have practiced it at least that once before introducing you.

It will also put your audience in the right state of mind to listen, and set you up to come on stage with power, and launch right in to your presentation.

If you make writing introductions important in your club, you'll be amazed how much more smoothly the speaking portion of the meeting will go. If you make writing introductions important to YOU, you'll be amazed how quickly you're able to create them. When you go out in the 'real world', you'll be happy you took the extra time to be prepared, and to prepare your introducer, before you go out to Speak....and Deliver. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Anatomy of a Speaker's Introduction Part II: What Could Go Wrong?

In Part I, we looked at the different parts of an ideal introduction for a real world speech. So once you've created it, you're home free, right? Not quite. You'd be amazed what can go wrong once you're done writing your introductory masterpiece.

What Could Go Wrong?

The Dog Ate It

Yep, you sent it to them early, and they forgot it. Or you didn't send it to them, and YOU forgot it.

Vocabulary Hurdles

You've crafted a beautiful introduction, and when it's read perfectly, it's like a symphony of syllables. Unless they pronounce it Sim-PHONEY of Si-LOBB-els. Not everybody is a speaker, and not everybody is familiar with all the words you use.

Language Barrier

It's one thing when you put a few unfamiliar words in front of your introducer - it's another when English (or whatever the language you're speaking in is) is their second, third, or eighth language. Pronunciation, cadence, and understandability can go right out the window, without them ever intending it.

The Summarizer

Sometimes, the introducer thinks they just know better than you - and they'll skim through your intro, skip a few words, maybe try to add their own 'style' to it - which often disrupts the flow, and even the meaning on your intro altogether.

The All Out Ignorer

This is when they KNOW they're smarter than you, and go off script completely. They may make something up. They might read your bio straight off the program, because they think it's 'better'. Worse - they may know you, and think it's 'OK' to tell the audience about that time you were both in college and he caught you singing Billy Vera songs into your hairbrush as you pined away for a certain blue-eyed, blonde-haired co-ed.

Bonus: The Time Traveler

Maybe you're speaking more than once that day. Maybe you've gotten creative, and done separate introductions for each presentations, that even build on each other, creating a cohesive narrative throughout the event. Maybe they get them mixed up, and your 3:00 pm intro gets read at 8:00 AM. If only YOU could go back in time...

You can't ensure that your introduction won't be forgotten or just plain botched, even if you are a 50K speaker with a video intro - after all, tech problems are just as likely as human problems. You can give yourself the best chance to have a strong intro though, with a few precautionary Best Practices.

Best Practices

Double Up - send it to them AND bring it yourself. You are ultimately responsible for making sure that introduction is in their hands at the event. Heck, print two, in case they had it an hour ago and can't remember where they left it.

Go BIG - Print it in 20 pts or more - on one page, in an easy-to-read font, separated into paragraphs that will create the vocal cadence you want.

Get Hooked on Phonics - Phonetically (fo-net-ick-ly) write out complicated words - tech jargon, proper names, foreign words, anything that might be complicated.

Be a Detective - find out who your introducer is before you go! Email them, heck, CALL them. If you're at your venue, verify it's still the same person, and go find them. You can spend a few minutes, ask them to read it (even out-loud so you can advise on certain points), and make sure they have the intro with them in the first place.

Be an Encourager/Parent - your introducer may be nervous. This may be their first time speaking in front of this many people. Let them know how your introduction is designed to make them a success, even get them a laugh. Tell them how much you appreciate them. On the other hand, if it's your old college roommate, well, be a little firm and let them know how carefully you've crafted this introduction to help make this presentation for THEIR audience a success.

Salvaging a Botched Intro

When, not if, this happens, be ready. Pay attention when you're introduced so you can handle damage control. While the best move may be to just start your presentation, if it's botched badly enough, and the whole audience is in a state of laughter or discomfort, you can't just act as if nothing has happened.

Depending on the scenario, you may energetically apologize for writing such a complicated intro, or you might call back to an important mispronounced word to clarify (I actually coach PUBLIC speakers, not PUBIC speakers), or, if they've improvised and botched it, take the hit yourself, and say 'I knew I should have written my own introduction!'

Whatever you do, never put the introducer in a bad light. Always be appreciative, and take the blame, if necessary, even if it's not your fault. Like the proverbial elephant in the room, acknowledge it - then, quickly, launch into your presentation.


I'm sure I haven't covered every scenario, and if you have a crazy intro experience, please share it!

In Part III, I'll be focusing on my Toastmasters brethren, and the importance of introduction to your experience as a member.

I'd still like to do a Part IV, showcasing or coaching up YOUR typical (or brand new) introduction. If you have one you'd like me to see, email it to

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Anatomy of a Speaker's Introduction: Part I

We'll spend hours, days, weeks, even a lifetime writing and perfecting our speech, and yet, before we ever get up to present, someone else holds a major key to our success or failure.

That someone else is our Introducer. That major key is our Introduction.

Both tend to be neglected or even forgotten by the beginning speaker, and downright mishandled by all but the best speakers.

Too often a Speaker's Introduction is one of two things - a reading of the biography or description provided for the event program, or an equally long biography either written by the clueless speaker or the wannabe helpful introducer themselves. We KNOW this is both boring and ineffective, and yet we let it happen time and time again.

Don't waste the 30 seconds before your presentation, you know, the one you spent all your time on, on information the audience doesn't need and/or already has. Don't give them a reason before you even open your mouth to shut you out and turn to their smartphone. Instead, use your introduction to draw them in, make them laugh, and prepare them for the main event - YOU.

Your introduction is a mini-speech - and I mean mini. If it goes longer than two minutes, you're doing it wrong. If you can do it in minute or less, all the better.

What exactly IS the Anatomy of a Speaker's Introduction?

1. Attention Grab - just as you might in a speech, start with a question or shocking statistic or statement related to your content, or yourself. This sucks your audience in immediately, and sets an expectation for your subject and your style. EX: If you're giving a leadership speech, start off with a controversial statement about about leadership, a question about how the audience feels about leadership, or perhaps a qualifying statement about your own leadership experience in a concise manner.

2. Humor - yes, humor. If you can get your audience laughing before you ever come up, your connection will already be building, and it will be easier for you to keep their attention, vs. trying to regain it, after your introduction.

EX: Instead of a laundry list of your leadership experience, offer up a combined credibility/humorous triad - 'our speaker today is the CEO of a multi-million dollar tech company, has been married for 20 years, and has three wonderful children who have honed her leadership skills faster than either the corporate world or the bonds of matrimony ever could.' 

3. Tailored Credibility - you're probably loaded with personal and professional credentials. President of this, CEO of that, with multiple BS, BA, PhD, and Master's degrees from the best schools, not to mention organizational certifications like CPS, AS, DTM and WCPS, technical certifications like - well I don't have any so I don't know what they are, but YOU do - along with your amazing spouse, beautiful children, stepchildren, adopted children, and foster children. You've written 5 best-selling books, and appeared on Larry King, Oprah, and Jerry Springer. You make a ton of money, and give most of it away to 15 different charities. In your spare time, you fly, climb mountains, and crochet afghans that you give to your local homeless shelter.

In short, you rock.

This is all great information to share...on your website.

As far as your introduction, remember, we're keeping it short. If your credibility matters to the audience you're in front of it, or is crucial to your message, use some of it - maybe one or two items, at most. Keep in mind, however, that these people already know you're credible, because you're in front of them, and your bio is likely in the program, or at the very least a smartphone away.

4. Product Placement - yes, you can briefly include a mention of your most recent book or product, if it matters to the moment, and is available after the presentation. Briefly. You'll also bring this up in your Outroduction, which I'll talk about in another post.

5. Promise - this may have been part of your Attention Grab, but if not, make a short statement at the end, right before your name, with your promise. What are they going to get? What solution? What feeling? What plan? EX: In his presentation today, you will be armed with three solid way to Speak and Deliver your greatest message - Welcome Rich Hopkins.

6. Title NO, Name YES - in a professional introduction, the title of your talk is entirely irrelevant. As seen in the example above, give the promise, then have them introduce you with your name. If you can stop your name from being used at all before the end, all the better. Why? Because use of your name triggers both applause and your movement towards the stage. Using it throughout the introduction can inadvertently create false starts. Save it til the end, and head up to the stage.

Bonus Tip - Humorous Name or Branding Modifier - if you've used a personal funny description in the intro, or have a branding moniker, call back to it. EX: Welcome the rocker himself...., Welcome, fresh from his latest Game of Thrones binge-watching.... Welcome the Man in the Hat.... Welcome the Win Anyway Guy himself....

In Part II, I'll talk about the hazards involved with your introduction and introducer, and how to navigate all the landmines involved when you are relying on a third party, or several third parties, to launch your presentation. In Part III, I'll discuss, for my Toastmaster friends, a more tailored approach for your TM speeches, and how they can improve your club and member experience.

I'd love to have a Part IV - where I take real introductions YOU send me, and I power them up for you. I'll take four intros - first come, first served - and help you craft them to help you get your next speech off to a powerful start before you ever get on stage. Just leave your request in the comments below.

Until then - look at your current introduction and compare it to the above formula. Is it too long? Too boring? Too filled with non-pertinent information? Is it giving you your best chance to Speak....and Deliver?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shatter Your Writer's Block Pt II: 7 Quick & Dirty Writing Solutions

A few weeks ago, I wrote about 'Speechwriting in Reverse' as a solution to Writer's Block. In a nutshell, it means Speak, Record, Transcribe.

That doesn't work for everyone, though, and we don't always like to have just one solution, so I promised more to come. Here we go:

1. A Funny Thing Happened to Me....Today. Yep, sit down, and think about your day. Anything different happen? Anything funny? Anything awful? Anything boring? Even if it was the same old same old day you always have, there's something to talk about. Write down a blow by blow description of the day, and somewhere, you'll find something to talk about that will lead to something more.

2. Life Biography. If you haven't already gone over your life story, do it. Any significant moment, good or bad. Lessons learned. Heartbreaks. Great joys. Successes and Failures. Accidents, broken bones, getting caught doing whatever. If you've already done this - do it AGAIN. You've probably been around long enough to forget a few things the first time, or the tenth time, around.

3. How-To. What do you know how to do? Cook? Get paint off furniture? Build a birdhouse? Change your own oil? Plant a garden? Do your taxes? Play Poker? I guarantee you know something someone in your audience won't - teach it, and you'll suddenly bring up memories and stories of you learning how to do it, and doing it. Poof - instant speech.

4. Reports & Reviews. What have you been reading lately? Tell us about it. Why you chose it, how you liked it, how it affected you, if you'd recommend it. Works for Music, Movies, TV, or any consumable media - heck, it even works for restaurants. Where have you been eating lately? If its good enough for Instagram, its good enough for a speech.

5. In the News. Be cautious so as to avoid political/religious material, unless that's what you want to do intentionally. There's so much news available, you've got thousands of potential speeches just waiting for you on the web.

6. Finding Forrester Approach. In this movie, Sean Connery played a fictional writer in seclusion who mentored a young writer in the neighborhood. One of his tricks was to give him one of his old articles, have him start re-typing it, and then take it into a different direction after the first few lines. Consider watching some YouTube speeches, bringing out your old speeches (you've saved them all, right? RIGHT?), looking at famous speeches - and doing the same. Just be sure to give credit where credit is due if you don't change things up enough. And the movie, Finding Forrester? Well worth a watch.

7. Table Topics. What was the question the last time you got up in your club? Wish you'd answered it differently? Here's your chance, and with more time to address it, to boot.

I'm not saying you're going to build something brilliant right off the bat. The key is simply to start building, and the above gives you the material to start building with. Once the mind is in motion, it will stay in motion, and your Writer's Block will fall away before you even realize.

Go write your next speech, and then Speak....& Deliver!

Monday, March 30, 2015

March Madness and the World Championship of Public Speaking

I just finished sweeping my Area Contest last Friday night, both Table Topics and International Speech, as I make yet another run at a third District Trophy in Topics, and hopefully, finally, a 1st place trophy at the World Championship of Public Speaking (WCPS).

Similarly (or not), Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Michigan State all won their Elite Eight games to send them into next weekends Final Four in the NCAA Basketball National (USA) Championships, where one of them will end up winning it all, and be considered the best team in the country, out of a couple hundred overall, and 68 who ended up in the tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness.

They say that between 30,000 and 40,000 contestants start at the club level, and average of roughly 2.7 per club (15,543), which is where we get the statistic oft used in marketing the WCPS - best out 35,000 speakers worldwide. Once you get past club, you'll compete in one of 3277 Areas, 712 Divisions, and 97 Districts (thanks George Marshall for running these stats down), meaning at any various level you can say you're in top 10 percent of competitive TM speakers after winning Area, the top 2 percent after Division, the top two hundredths percent (I think that's how one would say it - .00277) after District, and so on....whether you win the Final or not. Not bad, right?

Both March Madness and the WCPS have six rounds, though it can have seven, if, in basketball, you end up in a 'play-in' game, of which there are four, or in the Int'l Contest, if you're in a large district that has a run-off after the Division level. But basically, the best team plays six others teams out of the 68 to claim their title - in a seeded tournament, with the 'best' ranked teams facing off with the worst - one seeds down to sixteen seeds.

The World Champion goes through Club, Area, Division, District, the Semi-Finals, and the Finals. During that run, the Champ will face anywhere from no competition to 5 competitors at the average club and Area contest - so let's be optimistic and say 10 total (your mileage may vary). At Division, I've seen as few as two contestants, as many as 8, so lets be optimistic again and say 5, and most districts have between 4 and 10 competitors, again we'll go with 8 as a high average. The semi's feature 9-10 competitors, the Finals, nine.

OK math majors, that means the World Champion actually faces, in direct competition, around 39 other speakers, with gusts up to 50. We won't even go into the fact that all these speakers are Toastmasters, leaving out the vast world of professional speakers who typically aren't members of TM, much less interested in competing for a trophy they don't 'need'.

Surely, though, these are 50 of the best speakers Toastmasters has to offer, right? Well, it depends. The path for some of the best speakers can end early, if two (or more) top-notch competitors face off too early. I knew a WCPS finalist who lost the next year, at club, to someone else who then went to the Finals for the SECOND time in her career. So the equivalent of two #1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament faced off in ROUND ONE! This can happen at any round, and who knows if all the speakers in, say North Carolina are better than all the speakers here in Colorado.

When I compete at Division on the 11th, I'll be facing the fall District Humorous Champion - meaning the two of us hold the last two speaking trophies in District 26, and neither one of us is guaranteed to even PLACE. Will we suddenly fall of the the map as quality speakers?

Additionally, in any given year, a large number of top-notch speakers aren't even competing, as they've taken a year off either in leadership roles, or just to rest awhile.

So, if you can be a World Champion after facing as few as, perhaps, 30-50 other speakers, is there true value in the title?

Elsa/Getty Images

Considering I've been going after this title since 2001, I really have no choice but to say YES. Just as one of the four teams in the NCAA Tourney will eventually be considered the best, even if it's Michigan State, with 11 losses, who gets hot at the right time.

Contestants can only compete with those put before them, after all. They aren't responsible for the format, just as the basketball teams can't always control their seeding in the tournament, or who they will play from round to round. The speech contest is equally unpredictable, thanks to the diversity of judges, and the randomness of speeches created from talented speakers throughout the organization.

And the pressure - oh the pressure. Whether you're facing an audience of 10 at club, or 2000 at the finals, the one loss and you're done nature (in most cases, though some Clubs, Areas, and Divisions send the top two) of the event puts the pressure on.

Craig Valentine, 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking
Winning the championship of public speaking, much like winning any contest, takes a unique combination of talent, performance, and plain old luck. Whether you win on your first try, a la Craig Valentine and Ryan Avery, or after several false starts, like Lance Miller, or several close shaves, such as Jim Key, Mark Hunter, and of course, the King of also-rans, Jock Elliott, who won on his record sixth try in the Finals, you're a champion. You're a great speaker, with a marketable title who has achieved something that, by design, only one person per year can achieve.

Does it mean you're the best? Maybe. Maybe not. It does mean you're a champion - and the truest champions always get better, and usually faster than non-champions. After all, now everyone expects them to be the BEST of the best, not just 'pretty good'. Craig Valentine famously said that the first thing he did after winning the championship in 1999 was to go buy a book on speaking. Good move, I'd say.

Am I trying to run down the credibility of the champs, or the contest? No, not by any means. I still want to win this thing some day before I die. But I am saying that if you don't win, that if you NEVER win, such as John Howard, 5x finalist who died as he went up the leadership ranks, just before he was to take on the Int'l President role, it doesn't mean you aren't a great speaker. If I'm counting right (he says he doesn't remember), J.A. Gamache has gone to the Semi-Finals 8 times, the Finals twice, but hasn't won. He's still a great speaker, right? Rory Vaden? Twice in the Finals, took 2nd in 2007 - seems to be doing fairly well.

It may mean you aren't a CHAMPION, and that you didn't WIN. But as I like to say - WIN ANYWAY. Find your own victories outside of the trophies. Be a champion to your audiences that aren't awarding you little plastic trophies - that's where the victories truly await.

Speaking isn't about Championships, and neither is basketball. They're both about developing skills, promoting emotional (and physical) growth, and sportsmanship. Go Speak & Deliver - and Go Wildcats :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shatter Your Writer's Block Pt I: Speechwriting in Reverse

I don't know what to write!

You'll have to Google James Caan/Misery to find out what he's actually typing...

A common malady among writers, it is a shared obstacle between writers of prose and writers of oratory. It's a complain I hear from all kinds of speakers, whether they're writing a keynote, a business presentation, or their next Toastmasters speech.

I totally get it. I hated writing down speeches, even though I enjoy writing. I went through many of my early years just speaking off the cuff off of a brief outline, or nothing beyond my own mental notes. And I did ok. I actually did pretty well.

Two problems with that - not everyone CAN have success with this method, and those that do, like me, are easily fooled into thinking that's the way it should be done, and believe it's the way to get the best results.

So often I hear clients tell me they don't have to write it out, that they have the 'gift of gab', and feel more natural when they just go 'off the cuff'. Sure, it might be better for you, but that doesn't mean it's better for your message, or your audience!

It was through the Toastmasters contest process, as I competed year after year for the World Championship of Public Speaking, that I forced myself to wordsmith. I had to both stay within the given time of 5-7 minutes, and enhance the impact of each section, each sentence, even each word. I soon discovered my speaking pace to be about 100 words a minute, taking into account laughter and pauses, and kept track of word count accordingly.

But I still hate writing. So when I have the opportunity, I'll practice a speech from an outline (real or mental), record it, and then go back and transcribe, edit, and prepare it for prime-time. In fact, I did this just last week, at a club contest that I intended on being just a practice for my home club contest.

Recording is a lot easier now than ever. I just used my smartphone - but in the past I've used digital recorders as well. If you're still holding out from the 80's, bring along the cassette recorder!

My club contest (1 of 2 clubs) was last week. I had an idea I'd been thinking about for months. I had a couple of stories. But I hadn't honed it, hadn't quite figured out how to open or close it, or even what I might say beyond the two core stories and the point. I figured I'd just go up and give it my best shot, and see what happened.

Keep in mind, of course, I've been competitively speaking for 15 years, so I can still manage to do 'well enough' to have a cohesive speech, even on the fly. If you're still at the beginning, I would be more cautious about where practice this way. Your regular club meeting is a much safer bet, and since Toastmasters is essentially a learning laboratory, it is more than acceptable to experiment with this technique.

Time: 7:02
Word Count: a bloated 884!


Run-on sentences - One sentence had about 100 words and 7 'ands'. In fact 'and' appeared 44 times!

Lane Changes - Starting a sentence one way, then stopping and going a different direction mid-sentence

Double Clutches - Saying something before I'm ready to continue the sentence, and stuttering to start again

Disconnected Points - Was I talking about love? dreams? anger? rejection? They all showed up, and never got tied up.

Lots of emotion - I could hear the spontaneous passion throughout, which too much of the wrong kind of practice can beat out of a speech.

Audience engagement - with a small audience, I made reference to individuals there, and made the speech personal on the fly.

New ideas - since I made so much of it up on the spot, new ideas, good and bad, got a trial run. I have some great thoughts for humor and emotional phrasing that I may not have gotten by writing it first.

In the end, the total freedom I felt in the situation helped me tremendously, and that's what I want you to take away from this post.

I'm looking forward to turning this raw speech into something that will live a long time. It'll end up 160 words shorter, and have twice the impact.

But if I hadn't gotten it out there, If I'd stayed in front of my computer, my notepad, whatever, and let myself get tied up with the paralysis of perfect prose, it might never have existed.

I have a few other strategies to share in coming posts, and depending on how I fare this season in the contest, I will eventually share a side by side comparison between this speech and the finalized version.

If you can't sit and write, go speak. Even if it's not a speech, but a blog post. A book chapter. A letter. Record it. Transcribe it. Be free from judgment in the moment, then come back and start editing.

Shatter your writer's block so you can Speak....& Deliver!


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