Speech 2, Project 4: “The Dishwasher”


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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.

Explore posts in the same categories: Learning to Speak

10 Comments on “Speech 2, Project 4: “The Dishwasher””

  1. Máire Rua Says:

    …. although I didn’t make it to the club meeting last night … heard you gave a really funny speech …! Love the blog by the way … made me think about my time working through the first set of manuals ….ouch ..scarey .. exciting .. great learning … and it’s not over yet!

  2. Hi there Máire. Thanks so much for the kind comments. It was a difficult speech to give, but I was pleased with how it went, in the end.
    Yes, I’ve tried to record all the trials of my learning experience here – maybe it will help someone else? At the very least, it will be interesting to look back on, when I am old and grey(er).

  3. Roger Carr Says:

    Congratulations on completing your second speech! In my opinion, the best thing about Toastmasters isn’t the instruction that is provided (although it is outstanding). It is about the ability to experiment with new ways to do a speech in a non-threatening environment. It doesn’t matter if something works out the way you expected or not. You learn from it and continue to get more effective in your speaking and leadership. You are proving that.

    By the way, if you had a good time and were laughing yourself…they were laughing with you!

  4. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s a few more weeks till my next speech, but I’m looking forward to it very much.

  5. Carolyn Wainright Says:

    Congrats on tackling project #4 so early. I I’m still stumped for a #4 speech idea.

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