Archive for December, 2008

An Interview With Sheila Watson, Toast of CIBC Member and VP Membership, Winner of Area 52 Table Topic Speech Contest

December 1, 2008

TM: Hi Sheila, first of all congratulations on your fantastic results. How does it feel to have competed in three, ever more challenging, contests, climbing the Toastmasters contest ladder?

SW: I feel grateful and more confident. This was an honour I had not expected. I did not realize I could speak well enough to win contests.

TM: Do you have any words of wisdom for Toastmasters that are thinking of competing in a contest for the very first time?

SW: Believe in yourself. You can do much more than you ever dreamed possible. All you need to do is step forward in trust and concentrated effort.

TM: The table topics contest is one that is very difficult to prepare for. Did you do any sort of preparation, both long term and short term, before the contest?

SW: My long term preparation has been my years of Toastmasters experience, as well as extemporaneous speaking at my church. My short term preparation happens in the seconds before I receive the topic. I remind myself to be confident, clear, and centered within myself, and to speak loudly enough.

TM: How is the Area contest different from the Club contest? What about the Division contest?

SW: At the Club contest I knew everyone in the room and experienced very little nervousness. At the Area and Division level contests, I was grateful for the kindness of the contest officials. Their support helped me feel at ease. Also, the contest facilities were different in each case. The Division contest was held in a large room, which made it more challenging to feel in charge of the room.

TM: Can you describe what goes on in your mind in the 5-10 seconds you have to plan your 2 minute table topic speech?

SW: I focus on the topic, not on whether I will win. I am primarily a visual thinker, so if I can see a picture of the topic in my mind I can run with that picture very easily. It is like a movie playing in my head as I speak. If the topic does not lend itself to an image, I revert to my thought process and what I know about the subject at hand.

TM: Any concluding remarks?

SW: Toastmasters has given me so much over the years, in confidence and speaking skills. Being able to fully gather one’s thoughts and express them coherently to others is a source of true inner power and can bring wonderful success in life.

TM: Thank you Sheila, and congratulations again.

An Interview With Pradeep Din, Toast of CIBC Member, Winner of Humorous Speech Contest, Runner Up of Area 52 Contest

December 1, 2008


TM: Hello Pradeep, first of all congratulations on your fantastic results and your hilarious speech. We all laughed until our abdominals hurt listening to your speech. How did you come up with such an intoxicating story?

PD: There is an element of luck involved. I just happened to stumble upon a subject that turned out to have enough material to make it viable. There is something cute and comical about the fixations of a teenage girl, and my daughter is a perfect example. I find her funny. I didn’t really have to look far for material. I came up with the title first. The title ‘My Teenage Daughter’ has a comical ring to it, and it suggested the kind of voice I should use. Also, the rhythm suggested the kind of words I should use. The rest of it followed from this.

TM: Can you describe the process of writing a humorous speech? Does it start out funny from its initial draft or did you have to go back and  sprinkle a good dose of laughs?

PD: I wrote several drafts before I was satisfied. I saved each draft in case I wanted to incorporate some aspects of an earlier version.I wrote five drafts in total. The revisions were made after reading them out, either aloud or in my mind. I also had to make sure the speech was within the time constraints of greater than 4.5 minutes and less than 7.5 minutes.I set myself seven rules to follow:
1.Read the speech several times after writing it. Each reading will suggest new things to add, subtract, or modify.
2. Use simple words and keep sentences short. You don’t want to lose your audience with big words and lengthy sentences. There should be a rhythmic quality to the sentences.
3. There are many aspects of humour that are demographic and culture-dependent, but fortunately there are also many aspects that are independent of these. You need to focus on the latter and get a sense of your audience. There are certain things it is safer to avoid. I tried to avoid being risqué, or making any ethnic or religious references.
4. Emphasize the ridiculous. Nothing could be more ridiculous or incongruous than me trying to act like a rapper, or that Fifty Cent could be my future son-in-law!
5. Once you are satisfied with the speech, memorize it to the point where it becomes internalized. It should become a part of you. At this stage, you should be able to ad lib without losing your train of thought.
6. Gauge the audience you are dealing with and adjust the speech and timing of delivery according to the reaction that you receive.
7. Just enjoy the experience and have fun with the speech. If the audience feels that you are having fun, they too will probably have fun. A relaxed atmosphere is important for humour.

TM: Delivery is a critical component of a humorous speech. Do you have any  words of advice for Toastmasters wishing to improve their humorous speech delivery abilities?

PD: I agree with you 100%. Without the proper delivery, the wittiest speech will fall flat on its face. Silence at the right time and for the right duration can make or break a speech – too little and you’re rushing it; too much and it appears that you don’t know what to say next! You get a feeling about these things when you stand in front of an audience. You feel a connection with them. Pay close attention to audience reaction.

TM: Did you test your speech out before delivering it at the club contest?

PD: No I didn’t. I did it in front of the mirror while shaving, or in the shower, or driving to the station. I looked even more stupid than I normally do! I didn’t dare test it out in front of my daughter. I would have found her comments discouraging!

TM: Were you expecting the reaction you got from the audience?

PD: Not at all! I was pleasantly surprised. The audience reaction helped me to tune into what worked well and made me emphasize those aspects. It also gave me a lot of confidence which helped overcome any nervousness.

TM: Do you have any words of wisdom for Toastmasters that are thinking of  competing in a contest for the very first time?

PD: Yes. Just do it. Jump right in. No matter what happens you will have learned something useful from the experience. You’re better of having done it than not having done it. Don’t focus on the competitive aspect. I honestly didn’t care about that. I just wanted to have a good time.

TM: Any concluding remarks?

PD: This was my first speech. My ‘ice-breaker’ speech. I think that this one really broke the ice! I would like to thank Toast of CIBC for giving me the opportunity to do this.

TM: Yes, a very memorable ice breaker indeed. Thank you Pradeep, and congratulations again.