[Toastmasters] My Speech Preparation Process

Random Observation/Comment #442: One should be honored to give a speech. It’s so rare these days to stand up in front of a crowd and address them with your guidance, knowledge, or story.

clem speaking

When I completed my CC for Toastmasters, I mostly just reiterated blog posts that I wrote.  It was easy for me to speak about them because I already did the hard work of organizing the speech in an easy to digest way with a clear point and clear take-away action points through this blog’s format methodology. The only thing I’d normally have to do is add a story around it.

While working through the advanced speeches, I found myself writing more specialized speeches and honing my overall speech preparation process:

  1. Pick a topic you’re passionate about. Take this seriously because if you don’t know your topic or can’t speak about it regularly at a bar, it will be very difficult to give a full speech about it.  The speech writing process will help you hone the organization of your already deep wealth of knowledge in the space. If you don’t know it, but love the topic – that’s okay too because you can do all the research around it to prepare yourself.
  2. Write the speech as if you were writing a blog post or journal with stream of consciousness. My first draft of the speech is just a brain dump of information I want to say. It usually answers the main questions that would be asked of me:
    1. Why are you speaking? This could be your purpose or providing your credentials. In TED talks, I’ve found that the credentials/background isn’t as important as the personal story around the situation.
    2. What are some examples to sell your point? This is the meat of your presentation that can be organized within the body. Sometimes starting from the examples can help you clearly categorize points.
    3. What can the audience do after learning the information you’ve given them? This is the call to action conclusion everyone wants to hear at the end of the speech. It will get them rallying of our main point.
  3. Reverse outline your speech.  After you’ve done your brain dump and written some coherent sentences, summarize your speech points back into key words. Do this so you can easily group ideas and move them around.
  4. Reorder the speech if needed. The outline is rough, but it’s pretty solid to represent what you want to say.  As a personal technique, I write the key words on post it notes and physically reorganize them. This helps me see the bigger picture and gives me hooks to work off of when I move from one idea to the next.
  5. Say the speech again based on your outline and using some of the ways you wrote it the first time. Note any new ways you represent ideas. This gives you an opportunity to say the speech in a different way, but about the same topic. We want to focus less on the words and more on the communication. If you say it better one way, remember how you said it and make sure to say it again that same way.
  6. Wait 1 day. Revisit with a fresh mind.
  7. Say the speech again based on outline and those 2 ways of saying the speech outlines. This is further refinement of the bigger picture that comes through.
  8. Repeat steps 3 to 7 as needed. This means you will be saying your speech over and over again in different ways and possibly different orders.
  9. Scrap everything and just write the outline. I like removing everything I’ve done and rewriting the outline from scratch based on how I naturally would speak through it.  I think this will be your final test in the flow and listening to yourself say it as an audience.
  10. Practice the speech recorded. As a draft run, try recording the presentation or presenting it to your friends/significant others/family/children/pets/etc.  Reviewing the recorded speech could make you nervous, but could also help with getting through the filler words.
  11. Tell someone about the speech you will be giving (note how you summarized the speech). This is probably the most important thing of a good speech. If you’re able to summarize your speech in a short fashion, it means you know it pretty well.

Of course you don’t have to do all these steps, but if you do, I guarantee that you’ll know your speech very well. It does take a little bit of time for prepping, but this is to insure you’re comfortable with the material and you’re conveying the ideas instead of just saying the words.  If you want to do a final check, make sure the purpose of your speech fits the audience.

~See Lemons Prep Speeches