I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for a little over a year. I’ve grown to thoroughly enjoy public speaking. I keep pushing myself to tackle different levels of speaking publicly.
Almost a year ago, I volunteered to speak at my grandfather’s funeral. That was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. It went well, and it gave me confidence.
Several months later, I asked to speak during communion thoughts at church. That also went well.
All the while, I’ve been giving speeches in Toastmasters. I nailed my first two speeches, but recently, my delivery has been spotty. Because of this, my confidence for prepared speeches has suffered. I actually feel more comfortable with extemporaneous speaking these days.
Despite my recent struggles, I decided a several weeks ago to compete in a humorous speech contest for Toastmasters that was held at the end of September. I adapted segments from my satirical “Just a book idea” series from my blog into a speech.
I delivered it for the first time three weeks ago, and people loved it. I worked hard at perfecting the timing and inflections, and I made sure it was as tight and funny as possible. I worked on it every day.
The speech had to be five to seven minutes to qualify. I knew I had enough material for five minutes. Keeping it under seven was the hard part. I had to consider time for laughs, which means I had to make it pretty short.
I practiced it to a point where I could say it in my sleep. It was automatic, and my mouth knew what to say from muscle memory. I didn’t even have to think about it, which was my goal for the competition.
The night before my speech, I slept almost twelve hours. Totally unheard of. I exercised as usual Saturday morning, and I made it to the contest right on time.
I knew there would be forty to fifty people there, but beyond that, I didn’t have a clue what to expect.
The contestants were briefed (there were only two other people competing in the humorous speech contest), and I started to get nervous.
Technically, I’d been nervous all morning, but I started experiencing the physiological symptoms of nervousness during the briefing.
The humorous speeches weren’t until later on in the contest. I was going to be the first one to speak.
The time came for my speech, and I could feel my heart rate skyrocket.
The reason I joined Toastmasters to begin with is because I was interested in trying my hand a standup comedy. I let go of that ambition pretty early on, but the humorous speech contest was the perfect setup for me to just see if I could make an audience laugh.
Boy, did I ever! I got at least one chuckle for most of my jokes (I know this because my mom videoed me and I’ve watched it a few times). My really funny lines got sustained laughter. Everyone in the audience was a Toastmaster, so they knew not to laugh for too long for timing purposes.
I finished my speech, and when I sat down, I checked my heart rate. 102 bpm. My resting is 48-50. Whoah!
I had so much fun. After watching the video, I realized I did some really cool things with my funniest lines of which I wasn’t conscious. I had subtle inflections or hand gestures or facial expressions that made my skit even funnier. Sure, I practiced the crap out of it, but some of what I did in the moment, I didn’t consciously rehearse.
There’s little doubt I have solid comedic timing, and I am pretty good at writing jokes. I feel like I need to take my skit to an open mic night to try it out on the general public. Unfortunately, open mic nights are often late on weeknights, and having an 8:00 bedtime puts those plans to rest.
But curiosity might get the best of me. I haven’t rehearsed it since the contest two weeks ago, but that speech is so ingrained in my brain, I’ll have no trouble pulling it back out.
I know I want more, though. And I might have a paid gig coming my way in the near future!