Writing Your First Speech
This guide suggests how you might approach your first few speeches for toastmasters.
A powerful starting place is to talk about something in your life that really fires you up, that you’re passionate about, and tell us how you came across it for the first time, how it developed, and where you are now.
For example, a friend who is an artist is passionate about ceramics, and told me about how, at an early age, she visited a potter’s studio, and saw the lump of clay take a form and a shape under the potter’s hands, and how magical this was. It fired her up with a desire to do the same herself one day.
She trained in fine arts, and now works making ceramic lamps: thin sheets of ceramic that have designs such as dried flowers embedded within them, that glow from the light within.
So here’s a rule of thumb for generating a speech. Choose three stories from your life that illustrate your theme, and give a vivid description of each one, in what might be called ‘video language’ – descriptions so bright that it’s as if your listener is watching a film as they’re listening.
This has the added advantage of making your speech easy to remember, since all you have to do is replay the scene in your mind’s eye, and describe what you see.
The reason for choosing three topics is that within our culture, three is a magic number for remembering things (faith, hope and charity; liberty, fraternity, equality; Goldilocks and the three bears). With three, you get a sense of direction, where things are going.
And this sense of direction provides the larger frame for the speech. Have a strong sense of what you want your audience to do as a result of having listened to you. It might be as simple as having them think: ‘He’s an interesting person. I’d like to get to know him a bit better’. It might be: ‘Now I understand how to ….’. It might be: ‘I could do that. I’m going to learn to …’
Once you’ve got that sense of direction, you can choose a title that acts as a signpost, not necessarily giving away the whole story, but setting the listeners’ minds up so that the things you say don’t come as a total surprise, but can be slotted into a framework consistent with your purpose.
For example, use speech titles such as ‘It’s only too late if you don’t start now’, about how quite old people have learned new things, and ‘Fear of Flying’, the title of a humorous speech with stories such as the one about an aborted landing.
Finally, provide bookends for your speech. A sentence at the beginning and end which in some way match each other in their concepts, and hold the speech together. For example, you can use quotations to provide this function. An example would be a quote from Antonio Machado: ‘Traveller, there are no paths – paths are made by walking.’
So this is the overall purpose and shape of the speech. The central section can take one of several forms: where we’ve come from, where we are now, where we’re going; what needs to happen, why, and how; on the one hand, on the other hand, and my recommendation is this; and so on.
So try these ideas out, and discover how they can give shape to your speech.