Planning For Success
"Yes, I can give a speech tonight, if that helps you out," I said to Riverside's Vice President of Education.
What was I thinking of? It was three hours before the meeting was due to start, and I was already down as Table Topics Master (a role I genuinely enjoy as it gives me a chance to exercise my creativity).
I reassured myself that I could give a rambling speech on my guitars, something I knew a lot about. I even had an intro worked out. Surely the rest would fall into place? No conclusion was planned, so the logical option seemed to give a musical demo of said instrument and hope the audience would not notice my lack of preparation.
Three hours later, the meeting started, and I began my speech, entitled "Old Technology Is Sometimes The Best Technology". The introduction worked well. As planned, I called for a show of hands.
"Who here has a Smartphone?" I asked.
"Who thinks their phone will last them more than two years?" was my follow on question.
This was an excellent way of hooking my audience in and involving them from the start of the speech.
My next move was to pull the guitar out of its rack to show the audience. But disaster struck! It unplugged itself from the amplifier.
Now in hindsight, I should have practised this move beforehand. I should have, perhaps, carried on with the speech regardless. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.
What I did instead was panic, pause my speech, turn my back from the camera, and proceed to bend down and plug in the instrument. In doing so, there was, for a brief moment, an unintended flash of something Not Safe For Work (NSFW).
Whoops. No one noticed, did they?
They did, and it was fed back to me.
Guitar plugged back into the amplifier, and minus at least 40 seconds on the clock, I proceeded to stumble over the rest of the speech.
Sure enough, the musical demonstration at the end went down well, but what was my message? To this day, even I am unsure, let alone the audience.
Had I planned my speech correctly, I would have finished on time. However, as I demoed the guitar, the red timing light was blazing away, accompanied by a bell. If only the timer had a drum kit...
I breathed a sigh of relief as I handed over to the Toastmaster; the ordeal was over.
Now to focus on the Table Topics Session. My favourite.
This I had planned in advance. My theme was unusual pub names, and I intended to take the club on a virtual pub crawl, ending with The Royal Oak in Twickenham.
Such humorous names included The Bunch Of Carrots and The Drunken Duck. There would be one question for all: Invent a back story about how the pub got its name.
Google was my friend here, as all the pubs had lovely photos I could add to a slideshow, bringing the topics to life.
It was a success, all the participants could answer their topics, and the feedback from members was extremely positive. Overall, it was an enjoyable topics session.
So what did I learn from my experience?
If you want to succeed in public speaking, planning is vital. Don't even consider winging it. I planned the introduction to my speech, and it worked well.
I planned my Table Topics Session, carefully considering the theme, what questions to ask participants, and bringing in visuals. It worked well.
I did not think to plan how I would show my guitar to the camera. Why would I? I pull it out from the rack every day; it's a move I've done countless times before.
Complacency got me nowhere. Next time I give a speech, I will plan beforehand.