Notes to Self

The following text is a transcription of excerpts from a speech I delivered three days ago (29 June) to Toastmasters club members in Fort Collins, Colorado:

“I will begin by speaking about embracing Newness in the world of my own making, where I especially relish developments that are actively in motion now.

“While I seek, as always, to connect with you, my audience today, I’ll bet that there are many ‘newnesses’ in your experience that are similar to mine. One mutual newness for us Toastmasters is in this wise:

“I have been at home, ‘sheltered in place’, like millions of others avoiding the worldwide COVID pandemic. Amidst the quietness of our home, I have taken time to revisit my years-old personal reference library. There, I have unearthed numerous volumes of my Daily Journals and various other writings that remind me of my former days as a so-called ‘Distinguished Toastmaster’.

Volumes (photo cred:@seargreyson)

“I can still recall those golden Glory Days from 2012 to 2016 — years preceding an intense health challenge amidst which I functioned and felt like extinguished toast — anything but ‘distinguished’!

“Well, Hallelujah! Nowadays, I experience robust health, resilient fitness, a finer outlook on Life, as well as a creative urge to connect anew with audiences — via writing, speaking, singing, and acting. 

“In that latter vein, I will begin rehearsing next week for a 2-man Reader’s Theatre rendering of Chekhov’s classic one-act play, Swan Song. I will be on stage opposite Jonathan Farwell, a seasoned professional film, television, and Broadway actor — and a good friend of mine. Live performances are now set for August 7-8 in Fort Collins.

“Well now, from under my countless archives in storage, I pulled together some still-useful “Notes to Self when Speaking in Public“. These were some of my field notes with ten (10) crucial keys to success: 

Be a Problem Solver — Look people in the eye and declare, “I have a solution for you.” Although your audience may not know if any solutions are needed or not, your tactical solution, O Speaker, is to …

Keep Sight of the Basics — Don’t digress. Doing so will soak up your time and defuse the attention span of your audience.

Speak in Simple Language — Lengthy thoughts can overwhelm, so shorten your sentences. Try words with fewer syllables. Two simple examples are: ‘Use’, instead of ‘utilize’; and ‘detailed’, instead of ‘comprehensive’.

Visual Elements can be a huge help; but only if they don’t distract.

Hand Gestures are your friends! Spread your arms, open your palms, group your fingers together; And treat every gesture as being in perfect tandem with your assertive public speaking voice.

Ask Questions of Your Audience — For instance, inquire of them, ‘What never changes?’ Then answer your own rhetorical question: ‘One thing that never changes is Change itself!’

Be a Storyteller — Issue a compelling invitation: “Join me — I want to take you on a journey!” And when the impulse arises, tell an honest story with heartfelt vulnerability: Something like, ‘It was only five years ago when I hit rock-bottom.’

Let the Narrative Reflect the Truth in You — Exercising humility is good therapy for you and your audience. Keep in mind that wise adage of old, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.’

Tell Your Audience about a Time when You ‘Got It Wrong’ — Let your thoughtful listeners learn from your mistakes. Here is a true narrative from my own audacious past:

“As I strode onto the darkened stage of the theatre, I announced myself in a smug, orotund voice, ‘Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking …’

What I saw as a forestage was a 10-foot drop into the orchestra pit! WOAH! Crumpled were a dozen music stands, a kettle drum — and my pride.”

An indelible lesson was learned that day:
“While you reach for the heights, maintain a depth of humility.
Then, the reality of true Greatness will evermore inspire You.”

And One Final, Most Important Note to Self:
Have FUN Out There …!

6 thoughts on “Notes to Self”

  1. I am reminded of Stan Grindstaff’s teaching on self-presentation; first of all, look at all the audience, see that they are here to support and love you, and wait for the inspiration to begin…………

    1. Yes, I remember, as well, Stan’s emphasis on presentation being a burgeoning symbiosis between a speaker and a creative field generated by those truly listening.

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