Toastmasters - Collected Wisdom

These are summaries of the collected wisdom of contributors to a Toastamsters newsgroup which operated between 1995 and 2008 and ToastmastersPrime, a Google group which commenced in 2008. This is not an official Toastmasters site, but is an edited collection of posts from the newsgroup and the Google group. These groups provide an unofficial means of communicating for an enthusiastic group of Toastmasters from throughout the world.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Project 10: Inspire Your Audience - topic ideas

In May 1996 mgaudrea was at a loss for a good topic for an inspirational speech for assignment 10 - Inpire Your Audinence.

John F did a speech titled 'The Valleys of Life' where I talked about the really rough spots in life as opportunities to learn things about yourself, the people in your life, and life itself.

I provided three illustrations:
1. The story of a classmate's sister who suffered kidney failure inbher mid 20's.
2. My brother and sister in law's near fatal car accident.
3. The life of a well known American political figure who resigned from office rather than be impeached for wrongdoing.

Kathie, a 1995 finalist in the world championship of Public Speaking shared her number one rule of speechwriting is "A good speech is a bridge to the speaker's soul."

If the topic of your #10 doesn't inspire you, it won't inspire your audience.

What has inspired you in your life?
What topics do you feel strongly about?

That will point you toward a topic for the speech. What anyone else considers inspirational is really irrelevant here. Pick something *you* find inspirational and communicate that to your audience and the speech will succeed.

James used Douglas Adams' book "Life, the Universe, and Everything" and the story of my own near life-threatening experience as a teenager to encourage the club members to set goals for themselves for the coming year, to reach for the meaning in life.

I also used my experience as a symphonic percussionist and H D Thoreau's quotation about the "Different Drummer" as a basis for describing three keys for success in life: courage, concentration, and communication.

In May 2001, Past International Director, Susan, was looking for ideas to pass on to others. She reported that coming up with a topic can be a real challenge to members everywhere. In some countries, it is culturally sensitive as well ... in that it is not deemed appropriate for one person to encourage others to approach their lives in any particular way.

Frank suggested adopting the modlel of the Heroic Epic. This has the Hero leaving home, Hero encounters conflict, Hero Resolves Conflict and Hero Returns Home.

That would mean a speech about someone who leaves their comfort zone, encounters adversity, resolves the issues concerning the adversity and then teaches or mentors another person.

Stories meeting that model could be:
1. How you overcame your fear of public speaking and are now helping others to do the same.

2. How an impoverished youngster left public housing to become a teacher for high risk youths

3. A person who overcame prejudice to become a public servant and founder of a community outreach program.

Regina built her speech around times when I did not feel that something was possible, and therefore it was okay to say "I can't."

I worked in the example of a Democratic candidate whose campaign I had worked on who had faced an uphill battle for election. The district had gone Republican for generations, and the candidate had told the campaign workers that they couldn't win and to be prepared for a losing campaign. However, this candidate was a surprise winner so sometimes when someone says, "I can't", it turns out that they can.

James gave an icebreaker a kind of sequel to my icebreaker, talking about my personal growth inside and outside the club. I tried to make it as indirectly about Toastmasters as possible.

To Rod inspiration does not have to be prescriptive. Encouraging others to adopt a particular behaviour or lifestyle is culturally unacceptable among some groups and all of us need to understand that this is a good and healthy sign of diversity, and not a 'problem'.

If 'prescriptive' is changed to 'descriptive', we can create a speech that will inspire through insight.

Typical of this is a story with an obvious moral. Jesus and many of the other great teachers of history taught through stories or parables. If a story or parable is well structured, the message can be obvious. I am far more likely to react to, and internalise, an insight that I've gained from reading or listening to such a story. This insight is now my property, because it's my original thought, not something that has been deliberately thrust upon me by someone else.

Parables or stories may be based on the experiences of the speaker, or of a third party. Again, the effectiveness of one or other may vary from culture to culture.

African tribal history and lore has, for centuries, been handed down through stories, as there was no written language or other means of communicating the norms, mores and values of the group to the following generations. Other cultures base their values on written prescriptives, such as the Ten Commandments.

Descriptive or prescriptive? There's no right or wrong, better or worse, they're just different approaches to achieving a result. One or other, or a mix, may be more appropriate to a particular culture or group.

Keith finds that local newspapers are filled with stories of local people doing wonderfully inspiring things. A person can study the newspaper and gain insight how to present a story that is acceptable to the culture.
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