I made my tenth speech at my local Toastmasters Club last month and proudly accepted my Competent Communicator award. I can't praise this organization enough. I saw amazing improvement in my speaking skills and more importantly, my self-esteem. The group is generous in praise and constructive in criticism.
I was really pleased to learn that I come across as warm and accessible. I feel so stiff when I'm speaking, but I guess it doesn't show. I learned that I don't use any fillers such as ah, um, you know, but it's because I never slow down! I'm learning to breath. I focused on speech organization "get to the point", including personal elements, using vocal variety (still working on this one), and to engage the audience.
To achieve competent communicator status you must complete the basic manual which provides a foundation for good speaking skills. While ten speeches may not sound like much, it takes a lot of work to prepare and practice, practice, practice a speech. The ten speeches in the basic manual include:
* The Ice Breaker
* Organize Your Speech
* Get to the Point
* How to Say It
* Your Body Speaks
* Vocal Variety
* Research Your Topic
* Get Comfortable with Visual Aids
* Persuade with Power
* Inspire Your Audience
My most popular speech was titled "Puppy Love". I spoke about the charm of my new Chihuahua puppy, Domino. How he came to me, and filled my life with love. At the end of the speech, as I showed off his doggie gear, Domino poked his head out of the carrier I had hidden. He instantly charmed the audience. I was upstaged by a dog!
I'm taking a break from Toastmasters for the next few months, while I focus on training for a charity bike ride. But I'll be back in the summer to start on two advanced manuals, Specialty Speeches and Storytelling.