It’s not just about the words

On Tuesday I had the honour of giving the test speech for a Toastmasters contest.

The Evaluation Contest is one of six Toastmasters International contests that takes place every year. With the public speaking, leadership and evaluation skills Toastmasters teaches the competition is often fierce and Tuesday was no different.

This particular contest sees contestants give a two to three minute evaluation of a speech. After hearing the speech they get five minutes to prepare and then come out and present a verbal evaluation to the audience and speaker.

I gave my speech and had the privilege of hearing five different people give me feedback, all of which was given professionally and was incredibly useful.

I was impressed by all the contestants but the winner picked up on something no one else seemed to notice. Well, if they did they didn’t mention it.

Facial Expressions. Body language is an important aspect of public speaking and you can easily shut your audience down by using it incorrectly. Too much movement becomes a distraction, too little and you look bored and uninterested. Just a simple move from one side of the speaking area to the other is not enough. Hand gestures, stance and facial expressions can influence your audience to take on your point of view or listen more closely to what you have to say.

There are times during a speech when I have an audio cue that tells me to move but I also have them to tell me when to make certain facial expressions or when to lift my hands up.  Before giving a speech, while reading through, highlight words and phrases that would match a specific movement and during your rehearsal try incorporating some of those movements.  Record yourself then watch it back.  Do the movements work?  Are they a positive addition?  If not, why not?  What can you do to change them?

On April 13th I’m heading to the divisional finals of this speech contest and I’m very much looking forward to hearing speakers from other areas as well as cheering on Sarah Smith and PJ Tobin, the winners from my area.  Good luck Sarah and PJ.

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