Yesterday, I competed in a Humorous Speech Contest organized by Area A4 of Division A District 51 Toastmasters International. This is my third time contesting and my second time in Humorous Speech Contest. I was over the time limit given by 9 seconds thus I was disqualified. But like the previous speech contests I’ve been in, there’s always something to learn after I delivered my speech. It’s either I learned through the mistakes I made or through seniors’ informal evaluations.
Different people have different styles of practicing their speech. I, personally, practice my speech in three stages. Since I’m not a fluent English speaker, I need the practice so I won’t lose words in the middle of the presentation. Furthermore, I believe that practice is the best mask for hiding nervousness – it brings confidence to the speaker and smoothness in the delivery.
My first stage in the practice is delivering with the text. This comes exactly after I’ve finished my first draft of speech. I will usually practice in front of the computer so I can instantly change whichever part of the speech. I don’t believe in adding body language and pauses later into the delivery so I included them even in the first practice. This way, I can also adjust my speech sentences to suit my gestures and voice tones.
The second stage is timing the speech. Since I’ve familiarized myself with the gestures, facial expressions, voice tones, speaking rates and pauses that I need in the first stage, timing the speech has become easier. Usually, by this time, I’ve memorized all my points so I don’t need to look at the text no more (Notice that I only memorize POINTS, not every single WORD in the speech text). In case I exceeded time limit, I will eliminate some supporting points, unnecessary sentences or a whole main point. I don’t change a main point to shorten the speech because memorizing a new main point takes time. So if it takes a main point to shorten the speech, I will delete the whole paragraph.
The third and final stage is, of course, the most crucial one. This is where I do the mental practice. The mental practice is the one that significantly reduce my nervousness. Before I sleep at night or take my afternoon nap, I will imagine myself standing in front of the audience, wearing the exact same clothes that I’m going to wear, delivering my speech. This half dreamy state starts at the moment the chairperson calling me to the stage until I finished my speech and the audience applaud. I will ‘dream of’ the same proceeding for at least three times. to do this, I need to find a very quiet place or if I can’t find one, I will listen to alpha brain wave music via headphones.
I don’t believe in skipping these stages. However, over the time, as I learn more and practice more, I find that I can go through all stages in shorter time. When I first join Toastmasters, I need about two to three days to go through all stages, but now half a day is enough for me. Last year, I need to do mental practice before I sleep at night, but now I can get it done in a five-minute afternoon nap in car. I used to edit my speech 100% on the computer, but now I can mentally eliminate or add a chunk or two parts of my speech in my mental images storage.
I know some people can do without these stages and still deliver a great speech. I want to learn their skills! How do you practice to speak publicly? It’s great if you can share it with me.