The United Way, the American SPCA, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America all share the same fortune of Toastmasters International. All have survived as a nonprofit for over 90 years, and all have impacted many lives along the way.
To celebrate its 90th birthday in 2014, Toastmasters International posted 90 Tips from Toastmasters, culled from the collective wisdom of its members. Below are some of my favorites and stories about my personal experience with them.
4.) Time yourself.
The average Toastmasters speech is between 5 - 7 minutes. If I am writing a first draft of a speech exactly as how I would like to present it, I guarantee it will be over 7 minutes when I first practice it. If I am writing out an outline of a speech and I don't practice it, I guarantee it will be under 5 minutes. Practicing with a timer gives me the confidence to calm one of my biggest fears during public speaking—am I going to have enough to say or, am I trying to say too much?
Oh, the power of the pause. I never would have guessed what could be accomplished without saying a word. The average human thinks faster than someone else can speak. A deliberate, confident pause pulls your audience in. It's a clue, indicating that something important has been said, or will be said, and breaks up your speech in a way that allows the audience time to integrate information. I liken it to a good paragraph or line break in an email. It's not easy to do when you are standing in front of a group people, but I encourage you to give it a shot!
32.) Be specific.
Tell the audience what you are going to say, say it, and then repeat back what you just told them. It's easy to veer off course. It's easy to fit one too many turns on a neighborhood tour before you forget where you started. I've seen and evaluated many more speeches this year than the number that I've given. And I've heard speeches with a lot of great content. I remember more speeches where I was encouraged from the beginning to listen for specifics and those specifics were kept to a minimum.
One of Toastmaster International's great strengths is its longevity. Many folks have been through the program and refined what it means to be a great public speaker. I encourage you to visit the link above and peruse the library of public speaking tips, including the benefit of timing yourself, pausing, and being specific.
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