A Lesson in Vocabulary

Up Your Speaking Vocabulary

Sometimes our greatest learning lessons come from those “snapchat” moments after the meeting.

It was during one of these moments that a green light went off in my head due to shared wisdom from fellow Toastmaster and DTM, Frank C.. The conversation started off on how one prepares for a speech — but turned into a lesson on vocabulary.

Vocabulary consists of the words we understand when we hear or read them (receptive vocabulary) and words we speak or write (expressive vocabulary).

According to Judy K. Montgomery’s book, The Bridge of Vocabulary:  Evidence Based Activities for Academic Success (NCS Pearson Inc, 2007),  there are four types of vocabulary: listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Listening Vocabulary are the words we hear and comprehend. “By the time we reach adulthood, most of us will recognize and understand close to 50,000 words. (Stahl, 1999; Tompkins, 2005)”.

Reading Vocabulary is the second largest vocabulary if you are a reader and continue to grow your list.

The words we retrieve when typing or crafting our speech on paper is our Writing Vocabulary. It goes up with reading, but it’s biggest influence is our spelling ability.

Our Speaking Vocabulary is relatively limited. As adults, we use a mere 5,000 to 10,000 words to communicate vocally. We find it easier to communicate non-verbally and supplement interactions with facial expressions, intonation and hand gestures.

As Toastmasters, when we write our speeches and commit them to memory, we are actually mix and mingling our various vocabularies. We are attempting to use our greatest vocabs (reading and writing) as our speaking. This can create a bit of a challenge when trying to go off notes.

So how can we use our vocabularies to our best advantage? Here are a few tips:

  1. Memorize Ideas over Words
    Memorizing the key points or messages you wish to convey helps to prepare your speech. Fill in the gaps with the info you know using your speaking vocabulary.
  2. Enhance Your Speaking Vocab
    The Grammarian introduces a word of the day and highlights interesting usage throughout the meeting. This is not by accident. It is meant to “repeat” the words so that you get used to hearing them — and by osmosis, you will also use them.
  3. Take the Challenge Outside the Meeting
    Sign up for a word of the day email from dictionary.com. Challenge yourself to use in conversations at least 7 times that day.

Understanding how we use words helps us to put our words to better use.

Have a phenomenal day!

 

Resources:

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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.