May 22, 2010

speaking 101

A few days ago, Kimberley Payne shared some great tools for speaking effectively to all types of learners. I never imagined I could ever stand before a group and speak, never mind use such techniques. How does one train to become a speaker in the first place?

I have heard of Christian speaker training, but where I live, the only training available that I am aware of is Toastmasters. Several years ago, I sensed God’s prompting to join.

Members volunteer for meeting roles, such as Timekeeper, Ah Counter (counting members’ use of crutch words), speech evaluators, Table Topics Master, General Evaluator, and others. Usually, members sign up for duties one to several weeks beforehand, but often need to be ready to fill in for those absent.

Table topics is the easiest, most fun way for a newcomer to jump into speaking. It is the part of the meeting when impromptu speaking is practiced. The Table Topics Master leads by asking members questions which they need to answer within an allotted time frame, usually one to two minutes, using a brief introduction (or re-stating the question), the main body or answer, and finally a brief summarizing conclusion. The ‘off-the-cuff’ flavour of Table Topics means speakers are often humorous.

Besides impromptu speaking, each meeting has a time for members to perform prepared speeches. Newcomers start out simply by gathering up the courage to start with an Icebreaker speech, speaking about themselves. Gradually, speeches add skills increase in difficulty.

Toastmasters uses two workbooks concurrently. The first book in the speaker series has ten speeches to perform, with specific criteria. Another member volunteers to evaluate the speech. Evaluations could contain comments about rate of speech, crutch words, use of props, pronunciation, mannerisms, quality of information, use of humour, and a whole lot more.

The other series is for developing leadership skills. The books teach about meeting roles, giving effective evaluations, and holding office in the Toastmasters club.

Clubs vary, but all are open to anyone. The fees are inexpensive, and significant improvement is sure, provided the member invests time and energy to completing the program within a reasonable amount of time. One to two years is good progress. I did see a young adult complete ten speeches in ten weeks, but I don’t think he had time to practice new skills sufficiently to absorb them.

After attending Toastmasters for just over a year, I was able to speak for over five minutes to my church congregation about my drama ministry using an interactive activity; gave a short speech about myself to my Craftsman classmates and mentors including John Perrodin, Jerry B. Jenkins, and James Scott Bell; spoke several times to groups of women; spoke many times at Toastmasters meetings and performed many roles in my club, including VP of Public Relations; spoke as a local writer at a public library; and landed a contract teaching position in workplace development at a college since one of the hiring managers had completed Toastmasters and recognized the value of the program in producing speaking able to think on their feet (which was in the job description).

Doing what God asks, when He asks, leads His people to grow and be useful. I believe this programme created opportunities for me, and prepared me to speak in ways I otherwise could not have.

Dorothy Bentley, The Random Life of a Dreamer.


  1. God motivated me to join Toastmasters many years ago, and to my dismay, I was the only woman! Then, further dismay when He asked that I give my testimony in my first "this is me" speech. Yet all of that increased my confidence in Him. I recommend all writers get involved in something like this if God gives you the nudge. It is a great way to discover His faithfulness even when your knees are knocking!

  2. Hi Dorothy,
    Sounds like you benefitted from Toastmasters. I think it's important to step out of our comfort zone once in a while. I know for myself that I learn to depend on God when I'm doing something outside of my ability. Way to go, Dorothy! Yay!
    Pam M.

  3. Thank you so much for the comments!
    It is scary, stepping out, and God has to be leading. The funny thing is, now God has had me pull back for a time, and concentrate on my family and writing. All the training and talking seems like a vague dream now. Perhaps He'll use me again in furture. Or not. All I care about is being in the center of His will.
    Blessings to you:)


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