Speaking At Short Notice

David Brinsdon, 22 April 2018

I must have been in a good mood when I read the email, as it is seldom that I take up the offer to give a speech with 3 days’ notice. I like to plan, write, redraft, polish, practice, rehearse and rehearse some more in order to ensure I am comfortable and confident in delivering a speech. This was a personal test to see what I could do in 3 days and apply all those skills, techniques and knowledge I have learnt over the years from attending Newbury Speakers Club.

The email I had received had been forwarded to me by the Area 42 Director from the organisers of the Area 62 Speech and Evaluation competition based in Bristol. Requests for test speakers at competitions are fairly common around this time of year, but this one was different – it just so happened that I was in the Bristol area that day.

The nice thing about being a test speaker at a competition is that there is no pressure on you to be any good at giving speeches! The whole emphasis is on the evaluators. Here’s how it works. Giving feedback is a vital component of attending a Toastmaster International Club. People often think it is about giving speeches, but there is a skill to providing feedback in a way that leaves the speaker encouraged to get up and do it again whilst giving them something constructive that they can improve on for next time – and that is what is being judged at an evaluation competition. As a test speaker you stand up and receive feedback from 4 to 5 evaluators on what you did well and what you could do better next time. What always fascinates me about these competitions is the diversity of the comments that you receive. This goes to show that different people can interpret the same speech in different ways and serves as a reminder that one person’s opinion is not always the same as everyone else.

For me personally – what I got from this… I was able to put together a speech at short notice and deliver it – even without notes. I still got nervous, I always do in front of a new audience and setting, but being a member of Newbury Speakers has taught me how to control these nerves. I got feedback on a couple of things I wasn’t aware of so could work on for next time. I met some great people who were very welcoming and help put me at ease when I arrived.

My advice at this stage would be – if you get an opportunity to do a test speech at a competition – go for it, don’t worry about how good a speech it is, deliver it, sit back and soak up the feedback.


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