In my previous post, I wrote about my experience in competing for the first time at a speech contest. The post was focused on my experience in drafting the speech and the help that I received from club members in fine-tuning different parts of the speech. In this post, I would like to focus on another point that is equally important as the speech, the delivery. You can have the perfect speech scripted, but if you are not able to deliver it well, you will struggle to impress the judges on the day of the competition. In this post I will be sharing some tips that I picked up as I was preparing for the speech contest.
(1) Practise, Practise, Practise and Practise
Sorry if this piece of advice is very obvious, but the more you practise, the better you will become at delivering your speech. Use any practise opportunities that come up. In my case, I delivered my speech multiple times at my own Toastmasters club but I also reached out to different clubs to ask them if they could let me join their meetings as an external prepared speaker. Every time you practise, you will become more confident. The words should come out naturally and this can only be achieved by putting in the required amount of time and effort in delivering the same speech over and over. I missed this very obvious point in my first year at Toastmasters and as a result I found myself thinking back to speeches and thinking that the delivery could have definitely been better.
(2) Incorporate Feedback as you Deliver your Speech
Very often what will happen is that you will think that you have drafted the final speech and that no further changes are required. This is until you deliver your speech and someone points out important improvement points. This happened to me countless times when I was preparing for the speech contest. In my case, some passages within the speech were not easily understood by all listeners so I changed the wording, added a bit more context, etc. I also received a lot of good suggestions that didn’t even cross my mind when I was scripting the speech. Treat each practise session also as a valuable opportunity to gain and incorporate feedback, be humble and listen and act on the advice of your listeners.
(3) Watch the Time
This is also something that a lot of readers will find obvious but the importance of the time limit was something that I was made aware of during my preparation. If you exceed the time limit, it’s over. No matter how good your speech was you will get disqualified so pay attention to the time and make sure you can see the timer at the start of the speech. One important piece of advice that I received when I was preparing for the contest was to have a plan b when I was running behind on time. I was told to think of parts that I could cut on the way to make sure that I could finish the speech on time. During the contest, when you see the red card and you know that you will struggle to wrap it up, act swiftly and start working on bringing your speech towards an end (without impacting the key message or ending the speech abruptly, I know easier said than done).
(4) Your Setup
Your setup is very important, especially in the past couple of years as speech contests have been conducted online. The responsibility is yours to ensure that you have the right equipment and the ideal setup to deliver your speech. On the date of the contest, make sure to use the same setup that you used during your practice to avoid any unpleasant surprises. Make sure to test your audio before the start of your speech, if possible use a wired connection rather than wifi to improve the quality of your connection. You can also try out some lighting (similar to the ones that YouTubers use). The most important piece of advice is to make sure that you have a setup that you are comfortable with.
This concludes my post regarding the preparation for speech contests. I hope you found some useful information that you can apply in your preparation. Thank you for reading and good luck, back to you contest chair!