Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Today is Wednesday, so that means Toastmasters, and at today's meeting, I gave a prepared speech from the Advanced Communicator Interpretive Reading Manual -- Project #1: Read a Story -- the purpose of which was "to present a narrative using vocal techniques that help the audience to understand and enjoy the selection". Basically, I was to select a story and read it to the audience with a focus on vocal variety.

When I was called to the podium, I began with an introduction to the project -- how decide on the story was part of the challenge. I told them how I initially wanted to read from A. A. Milne's Winnie The Pooh, but all of the stories were too long; then I wanted to read The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, but the story was too short and also too familiar; and then I wanted to read a chapter from the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket -- good size and obscure enough but would've required a lot of background.

I told them that after all this, waiting for me in my mailbox Monday evening, was a letter, one that I'm sure many of them received and one that I would have otherwise thrown away. I told them that the letter was just perfect for this project, and how "the author wasn't important and that the purpose of the letter will quickly be clear." And then I began (clicking the images below opens the image [larger] in a new tab):

I read the letter softly and steadily, with carefully placed pauses and looking up after each sentence or two. And when I reached the end of the letter, I just motioned to the Toastmaster of the Day and took my seat.

I felt good about the speech. I could've worked more on the introduction, but I liked having that parcel of spontaneous speaking there to balance me reading from a piece of paper.

In his evaluation of my speech Christopher said that he thought I made a really good choice of story and that I did a good job accentuating the two climaxes with a subtle change of tone (not louder, but deeper). His suggestion for improvement was for me to let myself go more, to allow myself to show more emotion; he did point out that my speaking in more of a "narrative" voice for those delicate segments could've also been a conscious decision. And Christopher also approved of my decision not to "wrap" the story with comments.

As General Evaluator, Kathy recognized my growth as a public speaker -- how I'm speaking more confidently compared to months before. I would say that it comes from experience and preparation, though I really didn't have to prepare so much for this project; I was lucky to come across that letter. Still, I did put in a lot of work looking into the other story candidates, and perhaps just knowing that I put in the effort provided the confidence and street-cred I needed to show well.

It was a good meeting -- encouraging -- and I look forward to working on my next project... being a part of Christopher's Panel Speech in 3 weeks.


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