Preparation and Practice are essential elements to any successful Toastmasters speech.
Here is a quick guide in a timeline fashion to help you provide yourself enough time to both create the ideas for your speech, as well as to give you ample practice.
Outline Stage – 7 to 10 Days Before
This first step is very straightforward. On a blank sheet of paper begin writing your topic out in outline format, along with any basic points about it. Anything that comes to mind is fine, and you will probably find that you have more than enough things to write down. The essential thing is to delve into your mind about what you know about your topic. You want to bring your thoughts out into daylight for review later.
The keys here are to keep it simple and spend only 15 to 30 minutes over your topic.
For example – you want to speak about fruit. Here is a sample outline, and a good start:
– Good for you
- Sucrose is natural sugar
– Need to eat enough to get proper nutrition
- Recommended to eat 3-5 servings
- Food-borne illness
Put it To Bed Stage – Don’t look at it for 2 Days
Seriously. You already have done the essential initial work with the structure of your outline. While you are busy doing other things, your own subconscious is digging ever deeper to think more about your subject, using the outline as a jumping off point.
Put an entry in your calendar to review outline in two days. Keep busy with all the other things you have to do. Fuggedaboutit! – for two days, that is.
Rework Stage – 5 to 8 Days Before
Now the fun begins. Pick up your outline and reread it. You will at this point do one of three things. You will 1) further enhance your outline with deeper structure or 2) discard it altogether or 3) cherry-pick a topic further down your outline.
This is where you are going be most creative in the process. You will find that the ideas are flowing fast and you can use a variety of creative ways to expand or organize your points. Mindmapping is one such way. Put your points on index cards and spend an half-hour with them on an empty table, or try using post-its on an empty wall.
No matter your method, the key is to solidify your structure by using associative linking. This is creative, this is play, so have fun with it. You may want to revisit it a few times before you feel that the structure feels right.
Write Out the Speech Stage – 4 to 7 Days Before
Here is where you cull your speech to just three to five top level outlines. The majority of Toastmasters speeches are between four and ten minutes so you don’t need much more than that. The key is that your final speech will be based on your main points, and you will fill in the details. Why a maximum of five? Well, it’s much easier for your audience to follow, and it’s a coincidence that you can track your speech with your fingers with five or less points.
Writing out your speech in full, word for word, is not recommended. You want to deliver a natural flowing speech, in your own voice, delivered with confidence.
The rough structure of each point of the outline you make is: Assertion – Story. Here’s how it now works in your simple outline. Each story under each outline heading gives you one to two minutes to delve into your topic, and helps you to
Fruit – How to Eat More
– Good for you [Assertion]
– Need to eat enough to get proper nutrition [Assertion]
– Recipes – describe two with a handout [Assertion]
Practice Stage – 3 Days Before
You need a quiet place with no distractions, along with a clock or stopwatch to help you keep track of time.
How many times should you practice? At least three times, and at least as many times until you are comfortable with the structure. Using your notes is perfectly fine, and you will begin to get more comfortable with each pass and begin to find a natural rhythm.
Imagine your perfect audience, who are hanging on to your every gesture and every word. They want to hear more, and they are happy to be present with you.
Two days away practice your speech again, and try to perfect it in one or two tries.
The Night Before
On the last night before your speech, you only need to do two things. Review your outline briefly. Then go to bed and get a good night’s sleep.
Although there is a long tail of this timeline, the individual steps aren’t all that time-consuming. The key is to commit yourself to make a speech far enough in advance so that you can prepare – and practice – to make your next speech a great one!