Archive for September 2006

Humorous Speech Competition

September 27, 2006

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This blog has moved to http://www.publicspeakingblog.co.uk. Please update your links!

This week, our weekly meeting took the form of a humorous speech contest – apparently, an annual occurrence.

There were four very funny speeches from some of Maindenhead Speakers’ finest. In particular, I was impressed by Sheila, who discussed Toilet Grafitti. While this did call for the odd smutty joke, Sheila always dealt with the subject with class. It is incredible, the gravitas she brought to this subject! (That was funny in itself.)

There are no evaluators as such for a competition – instead, there are judges, who mark all the speeches against set criteria, giving point points for each. The points from each judge are then combined to give a winning score. I wasn’t surprised when Sheila’s toilet humour won the day.

My job for the evening was timer with Joyce, one of the club’s most experienced members. We had a great time and got so carried away with the funny speeches, it was hard to remember to light the correct timing lights. Still, one way and another, we kept each other right, and all the speakers finished on time.

The other interesting thing about the meeting was that the table topics were judged too. After the main speeches were over, the table topics speakers were asked to leave the room. Then each was called in and given the same topic – how they would plan a campaign to help people overcome the number one fear, learning public speaking.

I was surprised that the Table Topics speeches came after the main speakers – on a normal meet, this is the other way around. Joyce explained that this is to let the poor, nervous contestants off the hook as soon as possible!

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Speech 2, Project 4: “The Dishwasher”

September 12, 2006

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This blog has moved to http://www.publicspeakingblog.co.uk. Please update your links!

I gave my second speech last night – a supposedly humorous look at my complete inability to plumb in a dishwasher.

It was only my second speech, but I broke with convention and used project 4 from the Toastmasters “Communication & Leadership” programme. The event (installing the dishwasher) was still fresh in my memory, and I hoped it would make a funny speech. It didn’t suit the second project, but the objectives of project 4 fitted perfectly.

(In Toastmasters, you can change the order of all but the first and last speeches. However, they recommend you don’t. The programme is ordered in this way for a reason: the speeches build on one another. Still, I ignored this advice. I hoped my speech would be interesting enough to justify it!)

I prepared as I had for The Icebreaker, but with a twist. This speech started out as an email I wrote to my Mum! It made her laugh, and we both thought it was a good basis for a speech. I re-wrote it out in full, before preparing bullet points on cards, the day before.

Well, on the night, I was really nervous. It was a complex speech, about a catastrophic chain of events that led to my almost flooding the whole street. The trick was to remember all the little links in that chain.

I got up there and started rabbitting on about how much I’d wanted this blasted dishwasher. My first couple of jokes fell totally flat. A sea of blank faces stared back at me. I stoically carried on regardless.

Then, a real stroke of luck. In describing the moment when I broke the cold water pipe, I deviated a bit from my written speech:

As I screwed in the self sealing tap, I was faced with a jet of water. You see, the tap would’ve been self-sealing, but I’d forgotten a very important rubber bit. I’d left it on the table!

A spurting stream of silver shot onto the kitchen floor. It gave all the stuff I had lying around a right royal soaking.

Well, I reacted immediately – I panicked!!

I must’ve really looked panicked too, because this really broke the ice. At this, the audience were laughing out loud, now – real, genuine laughter, not the apologetic “we’ve been there too” kind.

I was on a roll.

The whole previous week, I had worried that the speech wouldn’t be funny. It is hard, looking at words on the cold page to see if they’ll bring the right reaction or not, on the day.

But, somehow, I had done it – by just saying what felt right in that moment. As I went on to describe the ridiculous things I did with my hammer, the stopcock and the freezing water, I had them laughing in the aisles. It felt great.

Indeed, I got a bit carried away. Before long the red light was on and it was time to wind it up. I tried my hardest to get through the closing story about the mains stopcock, the concrete and the water board man, but it was no use. I was over time by 5 seconds, and so disqualified from the night’s voting.

My evaluator for this speech was Steve. He did a great job, encouraging me at the start of his evaluation and then pointing out one or two wee things I could improve. I still have a tendency to clasp my hands, and my movements at the start of the speech were distracting and a bit nervous. Steve was sure that I’d achieved all the objectives for this project, and he liked the phrase about a silver jet of water.

It was over, and they had laughed. I don’t know whether they were laughing at me or with me – and I don’t care. They laughed and enjoyed it, and that’s more than could have hoped for.