My biggest lesson was when I had the hardest knockback!
As a new member to Toastmasters, I decided to enter a speaking contest. I prepared my speech, put a very clever plot into the story; tried it out in front of my unsuspecting family and it got the Thumbs up!! I had prepared a speech that came in at around 6:45. All contests speeches, I thought were 5-7 minutes. However I had entered the Tall Tales Contest, which is just 3-5 minutes. I found out this earth shattering vital detail, a day before the contest.
Now I had a dilemma, the content of the speech was really clever and I didn’t want to leave anything out…. So…..my solution was to ‘speed it up’…. I practised a few times and yes I got it in at 5 minutes!!! I stood up, gave my winning speech – sat down and was sure I did well……… I WASN’T EVEN PLACED !!! I was gutted. I vowed I would never enter another speech contest again… However after the contest I decided to ask members of the audience their feedback on my speech…. They all missed my clever plot and the reason is that it moved way too fast for them.
This was one of the hardest, though best lesson, I have learned in speaking.
Silence – the most important tool in delivering a speech is being willing to be silent. There are many times when its useful to pause….
- After you are introduced and before you say your first words
- Before and after you make an important point
- When you transition from your story (or other anchor) to your point
- After you ask a rhetorical question
- After you ask a question to which you actually want a verbal response
- When one character physically reacts to what another character says or does (in your story)
- When you get a laugh
- When you strike a chord that makes your audience think
- Before you respond to a question from an audience member
- After you finish delivery lines at a fast rate
- After you make your audience reflect
Pause lets the audience member taste, savour and digest what you say before you go onto your next point. Let them digest what they learned.
There is no quicker way to have your audience build confidence in you then to show poise through your willingness to be silent. If you are comfortable enough to allow moments of silence in your speech, your audience will be very comfortable with you. This helps to establish a connection.
Pause is a vital key to any presentation. Its one of the first points I teach new speakers – Remember the Pause !! By using it effectively it can make a good speech, great!