Ask a Morningstar: Going Off Notes?

“Do you rehearse?”
“How do you memorize your speech?”

I have had a few conversations (and overheard a few others) lately regarding the process in which one stops using notes while delivery their speeches.

In this edition of “Ask a Toastmaster,” I posed the question to the Morningstars Toastmaster to learn their secret awesome sauce for executing a 5 – 7 minute speech without notes!

Here are their responses:


An Unrehearsed Speech is More of a Road Map
It’s said that the best speech is the unrehearsed, the one where we are not confined to memorizing word for word. When you memorize you are a slave to a script. When you have a unrehearsed speech, you have a road map, of points that you want to make. And if something happens on the day, you can come of the road map and speak to it. If the audience needs a lift – you can come of the road map. It doesn’t matter if you forget something.

I have been a stickler for learning speeches word for word, and one of the things I want to get from Toastmasters is doing the unrehearsed speech. I did my first ever unrehearsed speech with my ice breaker. The gain was – that I felt so much more relaxed, and I didn’t have a stressful week leading up to it. The loss was that I didn’t mention everything I wanted to mention. But so what!
Doing an unrehearsed speech means we must know our stuff, we must know the topic inside out, otherwise we will be stumbling in the dark. So an ice breaker is a great one to begin with. Because we know our life story inside out, upside down and around the merry go round. — Vimalasara M.

Memorization is Key for Writer
I am a writer, and I am aspiring to be able to speak about my writing. So I write first. I write the whole thing. I read it aloud and change it several times. And when I think it is ready, then I start memorizing it. Pretty much word-for-word. When I practise it in a speech format, I find that there are words that need some tweaking, so I re-memorize it.

At first I thought that memorizing would be impossible. But I was inspired by watching three women over several months as they were rehearsing for their leading parts in a stage play. I realized that if they could memorize someone else’s writing word-for-word, then I could probably learn to memorize my own writing. When I asked a fellow Toastmaster how it was that he looked so natural when speaking, he suggested that I try telling a story. We know our stories and, therefore, we don’t really need to rely on writing them down first. So for my next speech, I told a story. Of course, I already had the story written so I worked on memorizing it. It was a breakthrough speech for me.

I need a lot of time to memorize a speech. A full week is good. Due to a lack of time, I challenged myself to go off-script for parts of a few recent speeches. I found myself running back to my notes (written speech) to get back on track rather than winging it. It will take a while before I can deliver an un-memorized speech with ease, but I see it as the next stage in my development as a speaker. — Sheila C.


I’ve Used Little Notes Forever
I’m one of those who have used notes forever – sometimes a detailed script; sometimes only a few words on a small slip. When I use the former it invariably becomes a bit stilted. With a few or no notes, I do find myself in the risk of forgetting something but like an extended Table Topics, there is more of ‘me’ in the speech.

I never have been able to memorize so I do rely on my method subject to my shortcomings. I think it’s a matter of listening to examples for what you can adopt but finally finding what works for you until it’s time to try something new and change. That’s when you wade into the alligators and take another risk.

On the day, I do a little zen like relaxation breathing just before being called and then. …. I stole this. …… I “reach around and flick the switch on my back to ON”. — Frank C.


Practice Rehearsal and Imaging
Excellent question. I always write the speech out in full and initially try to memorize it word for word but then crystallize it into bullet notes which I then use to refresh my memory. Certain words or phrases are vital to remembering the next section of a speech. I’ve found that if I don’t have a good grasp of the flow of the speech and have an image in my mind of where the key phrases are, I can’t give the speech naturally and become nervous and therefore uncomfortable. The audience can sense this. Practice, rehearsal and imaging are what I rely on. — William B.


Crafting a Speech
When crafting a speech, the first thing I do is give it to an audience of one (my cat). This is unwritten, unrehearsed. It’s just me walking around the room, saying what comes to mind. I give myself time to rephrase things, back track and try again. If something was good, I make a mental note to put that in the “keep it” file.

When I have the general gist or the logical flow of my speech, I write it down. It also helps with timing. For my 5-7 minute speeches, I keep the word count around 800. If it is a speech with high emotional content or visual aids, I aim for 550 words.

I then print out the speech. I read through it a couple of times, fold the paper in half and put it in my Toastmaster manual. I don’t look at it again. I go back to my audience of one (that darn cat!) and practice my thoughts this time with a timer, trying to get them narrowed down to the 5 to 7 minute range.

Every time I practice the speech, it changes a bit. I’m okay with that. It’s not perfect. I’m okay with that. It’s Weegee. And I’m okay with that. — Weegee S.

10 Behaviours of an Effective Evaluator

Earlier this month, Morningstars Toastmasters were gifted a special workshop that focused on the art of evaluation. As we approach the International Speech and Evaluation Contest (March 23), I wanted to share some of the highlights from the workshop with you:

Why Do We Evaluate?
The purpose of evaluation is to help another person become a better speaker and leader.  Everyone has different reasons for wanting to learn to speak and lead more effectively. Perhaps you are shy. Maybe you are looking to further your personal interactions. Or it could be your dream to have that corner office one day. Whatever the reasons are, you want two things:

  1. You want to improve your speaking skills
  2. You want to know how to improve.

Cue evaluations.

Evaluations help to highlight the what we are doing right and areas where we can grow to take our speech to new heights. Evaluations are a source of information. The information gets processed by the speaker and we test our strengths again in the next speech. It is how we improve.

10 Behaviours of an Effective Evaluator (taken from the Success Communication Series Workbook):
1) Show that you care. Let the speaker know that your opinions are coming from a positive place meant to lift them.

2) Suit your evaluation to the speaker. Where in the Toastmasters program are they? How is their confidence level?Toastmasters Tips for Evaluation

3) Learn the speaker’s objectives. What is it they are working on? Working towards? Focus on their needs for growth and not just your preferences.

4) Listen actively. Nod. Smile. Make eye contact. This is hard for many of us are trying to scribble down notes, ideas and key take aways. It’s hard to capture all you want and hear the speech at the same time. However, the speaker needs to engage with us. Give them that opportunity.

5) Personalize your language.  Use their name and specifics from their speech. Don’t just give a report, flush it out with details from their speech.

6) Give positive reinforcement. What did they do right? What are their strengths? What “wowed” you?

7) Help the speaker become motivated. The easiest way to motivate is to fuel the speaker’s desire for improvement.

8) Evaluate the speech, not the speaker. Focus on how they delivered their speech and not what they were wearing or their political beliefs.

9) Nourish self-esteem. It’s how we feel about ourselves and it is vital to personal growth. Recognize their strengths in an authentic way. Give them opportunities to learn by explaining why each and every positive (and negative) point matters. This helps them learn. Learning helps us to understand.

10) Show the speaker how to improve. Go deep and wide. Think outside the box. To do this, you must get into the speaker’s head and task and out of your momentarily. We all notice the “uhs, ahhs and ums” but dig deeper to get to the true nuggets. It isn’t a matter of looking for what the speaker did wrong, but rather what they can do to take it up a notch. How they can make it more engaging.

Remember The Order: (i) Focus on WATCHING and LISTENING actively as the speech is being delivered, (ii) focus on THINKING when you are preparing your evaluation, (iii) focus on SPEAKING after you have processed your thoughts and come up with the top points you will cover in your evaluation.

Happy Evaluating!

 

The Great "So" Debate: Filler or Transition?

Speech Transitions So Debate

How do you transition between points in your speech? Do you consider “so” a filler or a necessary transitional element?

Here’s what some of our members had to say:


Both a Filler & a Transition
“We sometimes pick on the word ‘so’ in our evaluations, so this is a great question to ask all of us. (Use of ‘so’ intended!)

 

In my mind it’s both a filler word and a useful transition depending on how we use it.

 

An easy way to determine which it is, is to ask whether it could be replaced with the word ‘therefore’.

 

“We sometimes pick on the word ‘so’ in our evaluations, therefore this is a great question to ask all of us.”

 

Its best usage is when it refers to a situation of cause and effect.”  — Kat


Comes Down to How Much It Is Used
I say one way to catetorize is depended on how many times “so” is used. Same applied to Ah. Or any anomalous action/gesture can be used once to make some memorable point.– Ben R.


Perhaps It Comes Down to Usage
I think… that I swing from one part of a speech to the next on a concept or phrase. By that I mean I’ll mention a word or idea or concept, such as “Distinguished Club,” and then say, “So, how do we become a Distinguished Club?”

 

I guess it’s about developing the concept or examining it from a different angle. I might say: Let’s look at this another way. Or, What does that mean? Or, Is that true? Or, Secondly, or, Thirdly, or Finally, or In Conclusion.

 

I definitely use “So…” But I’ve been critiqued for using it too much. Perhaps it’s the unconscious use of ‘So…’ that listeners find irksome. Just as any habitual trait is distracting. — PJ R.


Lessons from Writing Carry Over to Speaking
I find that I overuse “so” just in as much in my writing as I do in my speaking. When I proofread an email before hitting send I find that many sentences which I thought required a transitional “so” actually read much better if I just dropped the transition altogether. A sentence actually becomes more powerful if it stands on it’s own than merely a continuation of the previous sentence. I’m trying to take the lessons I’ve learned from my writing an apply them to my speaking.

 

One place where I use “so” often in my speaking isn’t as a transitional word where “therefore” would work just as well, nor as a filler word, but as a moving on word. When a conversation or presentation has gotten off track I feel a need to announce we are coming back to the original topic. This is where I often find myself starting a sentence with “so.” I think occasional use of “so” in this context is OK, as long as it doesn’t become too habitual. — Michael S.