Toastmasters: Say it ain’t so

Say it ain’t so! Last night I gave a not-so-well prepared speech at my Toastmasters club. I chose the Competent Communicator (CC) Project #4 – How to say it. My title was How to: The Verbal Busines Card. I’m giving a presentation on networking next week and I needed to tighten this part up a bit.
Note: I learned about the Verbal Business Card from Ed Tate.

A couple of the objectives of this CC speech include being specific (i.e. no “stuff” or “things”), using words economically (i.e. “many” instead of “a large number”) and avoiding jargon. This last point, jargon, was especially important to me. This speech was about what people do for a living, which means one audience member’s answer is by definition jargon to most everyone else.

Because I made this very interactive, the audience was involved and provided a lot of input. Especially the engineers in the club.

Here’s what my evaluator said: “[You] gave a lot of power to the audience to control ‘how’ things were said. A lot of technical jargon was involved in details of what people answered.”

Say it ain’t so!

While I worked had to make examples relevant to the majority, I neglected to make sure to keep the audience from overdoing it on the jargon. Of course I cannot (and would not want to) control what they will say.

The lesson here is how to handle working with the audience. Anytime an audience member goes too technical, it’s my job to rephrase the point with less jargon. That’s it. It’s a lot like handling Q&A from the audience, where you need to be sure to repeat (and sometimes rephrase) the question for the rest of the audience to hear. In this case, since I was asking them questions about their jobs, I needed to make a point to repeat and rephrase their answers to reduce the jargon, and improve the understanding for the audience.

I’ve mentioned it before, but it can be a tremendous benefit to repeat Toastmaster manuals. In fact, I’m finding even more value now in taking parts of longer presentations and giving them as CC or advanced speeches to get feedback and tighten them up – piece by piece. I did that a few weeks ago by telling a story that I’ll use as the opening for a 30-45 minute presentation. I presented it as a 4-6 minute speech from the Advanced Manual on Storytelling and received some useful feedback.

If you haven’t done this yourself, you may find this to be a useful way to prepare for other presentations, regardless of length. Craig Valentine says to take your story to Toastmasters to get help if you can’t think of a phrase. I agree, but also take pieces of other presentations there too. Tighten up your professional speaking with the basic manual. Say it ain’t so!

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