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Storytelling Techniques

How to become a Toastmasters World Champion of Speaking
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Good storytelling techniques benefit everyone. Whether you are a professional speaker, business person, or just want to be less boring—knowing how to tell great stories is crucial. Refer to these blogs for tips on telling stories to promote your business, develop lesson plans, or write a good TED Talk.

Here are 6 Essential Speech Elements that can turn you into a Toastmaster World Champion of Speaking.

When Mohammed Qahtani of Dharan, Saudi Arabia, District 79, became the Toastmaster’s 2015 World Champion of Public Speaking, I was in the audience at Caesar’s Palace and heard his speech, “The Power of Words.” I knew within 30 seconds that he would win.

We ALL can learn from what I heard, especially Toastmaster women. What a shocker that not one of the finalists was a woman. There were no Toastmistresses. And this was Vegas!

Study these 6 Essential Speech Elements of Mohammed’s speech and let’s turn you into a Toastmaster winner.

(Watch highlights from Mohammed’s Speech here.)

1. Got message and stories? Mohammed’s “The Power of Words” was very clear. Each story supported what he was trying to convey. He talked about a friend who’d killed himself because of his father’s words, so painful and distancing. It became clear that his message was something he was living. It was authentic. What is your essential message that you are living now?

2. Get Global. Every personal message has widespread impact. Mohammed worked “global warming” into his speech. Smart thinking! He used a personal experience to connect to larger ideas. Women can learn from this. We find it so easy to talk about our bodies, our relationships, our experiences, emotions and opinions. These are great for starting; personalizing is connective tissue. But, to be a world champion, we must take a helicopter view of our lives and see what we have to say to the larger world. Thinking of your life in terms of where you fit into current issues will expand your message and increase its influence.

For example, I brought Kimberly onstage during my speech at the Toastmaster conference, (no it wasn’t planned) and asked for a difficult moment in her childhood. She mentioned an encounter with her teacher in 4th grade. I sensed there was a bigger story. Finding out she lived in South Carolina, I asked her, “What was it like to live as an African American surrounded by Confederate Flags?” That opened up thoughts and feelings that she’d kept buried for years and led to her proclaiming a powerful message, “No one should ever be made to feel less than.”

What part of history has affected who you are and, therefore, can be your message? Can you add that to your Toastmaster speech?

3. Have “act-outs.” Let’s face it, speeches are not dramatic. They have none of the glitz of a Vegas show. There are no costume changes, no incredible scenery, and no big cast singing and dancing. It’s one person in a suit, usually pants, not a skirt. To strengthen the entertainment value of your speech, “act-out” the people you mention. Infuse them with life and character. In Mohammed’s speech, he said something along the lines of, “Data and graphs aren’t as powerful as words. We will never change global warming by having a scientist show us data and graphics.” He then acted out a boring scientist talking about the data of global warming and the audience fell apart. This is what it means to “Be your story” rather than to “Tell your story.” Show, don’t tell. Stand like the characters, move the way they do. Bring them to life.

4. Be Funny. A newbie at National Speaker’s Association asked a pro, “Do I have to be funny to be a speaker?”

And the answer, “No, only if you want to get paid.”

Mohammed got a laugh on his first word – “What?”

Doesn’t look funny does it, but add facial expression, attitude, and audience interaction and he got a huge laugh on the very first WORD.

But most important, he wasn’t going for the joke, but rather for his message.

As a comedy writer, I never go for the jokes when I’m doing my first draft. I start with the message – stories and ideas and find the logic. When that’s in place, I punch up the material. To get laughs, start by looking for people you can “act-out.” Get a copy of The Comedy Bible to put together a standup act, or use the Comedy Formulas for Speakers in The Message of You.

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5. Gain confidence by performance time. There is only one way to do this: prepare. Practice and get comfortable with your material. As soon as Mohammed opened his mouth, I felt his confidence. I knew I was watching a pro. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my years as a standup comic and coaching both comics and speakers is that it’s not always about how great you are or even how perfect your material is, but what you learn every time you get on stage.As a standup, there were countless painful gigs, such as performing for drunks who heckle, working small audiences, having to perform on a revolving stage so when I got to my punch line I had a new audience. As painful as those gigs were, I was gaining the brain and muscle memory I needed to handle any type of crowd. “Oh, this is how you do a small crowd, a tired crowd, a disinterested crowd and so on.” Get up as much as you can in front of your Toastmasters group or in front of any audience. Whether you bomb or do well, you are always learning. That has a cumulative effect and the audience will relax when they feel you’re a pro.

6. Be selfish. Get help. Focus on what YOU have to do to win. When the Toastmaster finalists came out and it was clear they were all men, I overheard a 30-something female Toastmaster comment to the guy sitting next to her, “No women? We need to change that. We have to work together to help women become finalists.”

And the man sitting next to her said, “With that attitude, you’ll never win. You’re thinking of helping someone and every Toastmaster man is thinking, “How can I become the next Toastmaster World Champion?”

He does have a point. Women tend to be caretakers, always out to support someone else. That’s something we should do for ourselves too. We have to consider what’s our message and work on telling it the best way possible. It requires focus and looking inward.

I’m launching The Message of You University in the near future. This is where we focus on YOU. We find your message, your stories, your humor, and help you be your very best.

Meanwhile – please share this blog with people who need it!

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