Friday, June 10, 2011

Toastmasters Friday: Writing a World Championship Speech - Speechstorming

For those of you not watching my every move, I'll recap a bit. Last month, I was fortunate enough to win the District 26 International Speech contest, earning a spot with 80 other speakers from around the world to compete in the Semi-finals on August 18. There are nine Semis, and the nine winners will compete for the World Championship of Public Speaking about 36 hours later, on the morning of August 20th, at Bally's in Las Vegas, NV.

In years past, we would be required to write a new speech for the Semis, which used to be held at Regional Conferences in June (except for contestants outside of North America - but I'll get into that in a later post). Suffice to say, with the change in format, we can, if we choose, use the same speech at the Semis that we used at the District Level. Assuming (as all 81 of us MUST) that I win, I will need an all new speech for the World Championship.

So how does one write a World Championship speech?

Darned if I know. In two attempts, the best I've done is write a 'third-place in the world speech'. I've gotten lots of advice over the years though (all paraphrased):

'You've got to make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, and make 'em love you - in 7 minutes and 29 seconds' - from my various mentors at the club level when I started competing in this contest in 2001. 

'Write a message you would want to tell your children if it were the last message you could give them' - 2001 Champion Darren LaCroix

'Find a reason to write the speech other than winning - a cause greater than the contest' - 2003 Champion Jim Key

'If you want to write a winning speech, don't try to write a winning speech' - 2009 2nd place winner Robert MacKenzie

At the moment, I have NO speech. While I could adapt an old speech from bygone years, I feel the need to do something new - something from my life NOW. I'm just not completely sure what. Maybe you're one of the other 80 contestants. Maybe you just want to be one someday in the future. While I don't have the definitive answer here (and, so far, none of the champs have offered one either), I do know what has worked for me so far....

Phase I: Speechstorming 

A. Write. You know - on paper, using an actual writing instrument - pencil, pen, chalk, crayon, charcoal, I don't care. Take a half hour and write down every possible message that I might want to deliver, judgment free. Writing fast and furiously, whether the idea centers on world peace or remembering to put down the toilet seat (could those concepts be related?) - no idea is bad at this stage.

B. Edit & Link. Pick three to five of the best ideas, and write down as many stories as you can think of that would support your basic message. Dig into your childhood, your workplace, your family.

C. Outline. Just like your old research papers in high school. What will your open be? Your close? Which, of all the stories you found, will you tell?

D. Write Some More. Write the speech out, word for word. With such a short time frame, you don't want to risk meandering - and at the highest level, every word counts.  Write the best two speeches of those you've picked in Step B - just pump 'em out, no matter how bad they may be.

E.  Test Drive. Get 'em out in the world as fast as you can. Practice at your home club. Film yourself. Get feedback. Enjoy the mistakes and backfiring and engine stalls. But get the words out of your mouth and into the world as fast as possible

F. Rebuild. Now that your prized speeches are battered and bruised, head back into the workshop, and hammer out the dents. Add more octane to each section. If the damage is severe, go back to Step A.

That's a good start. You're not ready for the big race yet, but you're on your way. Next week, Phase II. In the meantime - get cracking - you've got a speech to write (and so do I)!

PS: The above method can be used for ANY speech in Toastmasters, or in Life. You can make EVERY speech a World Championship Speech - regardless of the trophy.

For the last few months I've been writing contest-oriented posts, as Toastmasters International's Spring Contest season began, and with it, the International Speech Contest, which annually produces a World Champion of Public Speaking. Prior posts include: Why Contests are the Best and Worst Events in Your Speaking CareerWhy Does International Become Inspirational?Are the Contests Fair?The Top 8 Ways to Guarantee Victory, I Lost My Contest: Now What?, and I Won My Contest: Now What? 



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