Last night – 19th September 2013 – I won the Area 45 Humorous Public Speaking Competition in Toastmasters’ District 70. Although I’ve probably entered dozens of contests over my thirty odd years with Toastmasters this is the first time I’ve ever won at Area Level. I put it down to one thing in particular, for in every other instance I thought I had the right material and had put in plenty of practice – I put it down to having been given specific advice; I put it down to coaching.
For that I have my friend, Allan Davies, to thank. Allan is not only a Toastmaster of considerable experience but a stand-up comedian. I asked him to look at my written speech; sent it to him by email. He came back with some corrections and advice. We then spoke on the telephone. He gave me more hints and ways to get a laugh.
They worked. I took along an audio recorder which I placed some distance away on a table. I wanted to analyse how I went. Well, as I said, I went very well – won the prize in fact. So I’d like to tell you just a little about the presentation.
It had to fit into a five to seven minute time slot. It went for 6 minutes and fifteen seconds. Laughs? It got plenty. On playing it back I got thirteen very clear audience laughs and three chortles or chuckles from people close to the recorder’s microphone. Oh, and I dressed for the part, wearing just a dark blue singlet and a dark beanie and black pants. I know that attire got the audience in the mood for something different right from the start, possibly because so many know me as a rather conservative dresser.
The opening one-liner didn’t get the laugh I expected, so there is room for improvement here. Likewise, the final word of the speech did not get the big laugh I’d anticipated, even though the audience was left laughing. I would have like something particularly memorable here.
Overall, though, it went very well. And, to reiterate, I now believe that it was those important little pieces of advice given to me by a master of humour, my friend, Allan, that made all the difference. So my advice to you speakers, if you want to improve, to get beyond your present ‘plateu of accomplishment,’ get yourself a public speaking coach.