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Dec 29

Speech Masterclass with Simon Bucknall Champion Speaker

This is a follow up post to one I made earlier this month found here. This post, including the accompanying video clips, is a little long, so you might just want to scroll through and read the 4 tips that are in bold which I’ve included. There’s been a bit of a delay between posts as I’ve worked out how to use my new toy the Flip Mino that I got as an early Christmas present. I can highly recommend the Mino for its ease of use for recording your speeches and presentations. You do record your speeches, don’t you?

This is a version of the speech that won me the International Speech contest at my Toastmasters club, which I have previously written about. I re-wrote the speech between rounds, but subsequently lost out at the Area Contest. In an attempt to work out why I re-tooled the speech and gave it again as a mystery speaker at the Division G Evaluation Contest. It seems from comments evaluators have made that perhaps I lost out at the Area contest because I removed some humour lines as I felt that they did not fit, even though they organically came out of the material.

I put the lines back in for that contest and the speech worked much better. Over the coming months I learned more about what goes into an effective speech by studying some of the materials of former World Champion speakers like Darren La Croix and also by joining the World Champion’s Edge.

Throughout my journey towards achieving my Advanced Communicator Bronze (ACB) award at Toastmasters my speech writing and delivery evolved as I began to integrate some of my learnings from the previous months.

Tip 1: all the speech workshops and books mean nothing, unless you take the time to fully integrate and practice what you’ve learnt.

By the time I got to giving my final speech for my ACB, I feel that my speech writing have changed and grown enormously. That said, I am still learning (which is great) and importantly, I feel, I’m still experimenting. So when the opportunity for getting involved in Simon Bucknall’s workshop came up, I leapt at the chance to tweak my award-winning speech again using my knowledge up to that point.

The event, as mentioned in a previous post, was organised by Meg Heyworth and supported by current Division H Governor, Samantha Babister of South East Speakers.

Here’s the speech I gave at Simon’s workshop (clip runs for 6m 23secs):

For those of you who don’t know, Simon Bucknall is twice winner of the UK & Ireland Toastmasters International Speech Contest and 2008 JCI European Speech Champion.  Simon’s feedback is in two sections as a comment came from the audience, which I didn’t film. This clip runs for 2m 46 secs:

And here’s the remainder of Simon’s feedback (this final clip runs for 1m 48 secs):

As Simon rightly pointed out, my use of “you-based” questions was a little clunky and not as organic as I would have liked them to be. I need to find a more natural way of asking the questions and articulating what the audience is thinking.For some reason on each of the times I’ve delivered this speech some of my evaluators have had a problem with my background as a professional actor. They either find it to be an unfair advantage or they think that somehow actors are like lawyers in that they lack sincerity (the evaluator’s opinion not mine).I find this unusual because, as an actor, I’ve always found that you have to find the truth and sincerity in your work in order to truly connect with an audience. Exactly the same as when you deliver a speech!

An idea that Simon suggested after the workshop was perhaps that I need to address that with the audience. I could say something like:

“Maybe you’re thinking “I find actors can be insincere and dishonest”. But as the comedian George Burns once said “acting is all about honesty. If you can fake that you’ve got it made.””

That was just off the top of my head. I would need to address the audience’s thought process in someway. (However, this George Burns line doesn’t exactly defend actors).

Tip 2: Do you take the opportunity to address the audience’s unanswered questions? Or do you leave them hanging? By answering the questions that the audience may be thinking you find another way of connecting with them.

The danger with a speech like this is that it can be a bit “poor me”, and I think that the way that it’s currently structured it perhaps spends a little bit too long in the set up of the story prior to me taking control of my life. The key to this speech, I think, is how I made the change from dealing with the death of my father to my recovery.

I could spend a little bit more time with that detail, as at the moment it seems a little glossed over with the “I-read-an-Anthony-Robbins-book-and-then-I-sorted-my-life-out” moment. The actual real life process was longer and a little more involved than that. At the time I was trying to condense the process into a 7 minute speech and as a result I feel that I didn’t really do that moment justice.

Tip 3: Do you spend too long in your set up? If you give a business presentation that talks about how your business used to be and the changes you made and how now it’s an a leader in its industry, are you spending too long telling us what your business used to be like, rather than telling us how you made the changes to get it where it is now?

In my speech, that change over in my life is the important part. Being able to highlight the tools or moments that helped me would be the most beneficial for an audience. Being able to give the audience take-away value and steps that they can immediately implement is extremely valuable.  It’s something that we all need to consider if we’re not doing so already.

Tip 4: The audience isn’t interested in listening how bad your situation was, they’re interested in how you dealt with it and made changes in your life or business. As the International keynote speaker and author W. Mitchell says, “it’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it”.

In an interview Simon gave to the London Speaker he said: “Our job as speakers is to put all our energy into giving the best performance we can for each new audience. That requires preparation, rehearsal, re-scripting… The end result is a fresh and lively performance”.

Are you putting in the right amount of energy into your speech and presentations? Regardless of whether you’re creating a speech to compete in a contest or whether you’re speaking to the PTA you still need to invest your time and energy in order to make an impact.