Hey everyone, I recently competed in a Toastmasters humorous speech contest and I actually was fortunate enough to win the club level contest so I’m moving on to the area level and representing my club there soon. And what I wanted to do is take the video of my speech and do an analysis on it and show you what I did wrong and what I could improve on as well as what I did right and what you can learn from.
Now funny enough I have not ever shared a video of me speaking to a live audience before to you guys which is… a little ironic. The speech wasn’t perfect but it’s good enough to show you guys and there’s plenty to learn from it so let’s get started.
Speech: I’d like to introduce you all to Stillman. Nerdy voice: “Hi, I’m Stillman.” Oh boy that hits a little too close to home. You see, my middle name is Stillman. I am Stillman.
Voiceover: I’m not too happy with this intro as it is. My voice hesitated in this particular delivery but even without that hesitation the intro could be better. I want to keep the use of the prop and the introduction of Stillman but I need to make this part funnier since it’s the first impression.
Gio: Mr. Toastmaster fellow Toastmasters and honored guests my life began in a very interesting manner I started in a conservative Christian family… check. I grew up homeschooled all the way through high school… check. I was obsessed with computers and programming… check. and I learned how to smile when I googled “help girls run away from me when I smile” and read this really helpful article on how to smile like a regular homosapien… check.
Voiceover: I think I could have sold this moment better with a longer creepy smile but overall the joke went just as I hoped. I introduced the little check motion to create a pattern and an expectation. It tells the audience that I’m counting towards something and the whole time I’m really setting up for the moment where I cut the creepy smile short by checking the final item on the list.
Gio: There are probably one or two things in your life that you want to hide from certain people because you’re afraid of what they may think. Pfff, that’s cute. Did you even SEE Stillman?
Voiceover: This part was not meant to be hilarious but I did expect a laugh so I replaced this part in my new script.
Gio: This little version of me haunted me all the way through college as I started to meet normal people. You see, by the time I got to college I was obviously a great conversationalist because I had all this practice talking to my mom and my… siblings. Conversations would always go so smoothly until they asked that question. You know, the dreaded “so where’d you go to school”? When I tell people that I was home-schooled it’s like I just told them that my parents raised me in an insane asylum. To be fair, it was pretty insane but it di-di-didn’t affect me.
Voiceover: This is one of the biggest laughs that I get in the entire speech and what’s funny is that I didn’t come up with this stuttering idea. I heard someone use it years ago and adopted it into my speech. I di-di-didn’t steal it. Because this was a successful joke I could add a similar stutter later in the speech to call back to it and cash in on the gimmick.
Gio: Come on, homeschooling isn’t THAT weird. I only know a few home schooling families that killed their couch to make clothing for their children.
Voiceover: I borrowed that joke too by the way.
Gio: It’s better to tell people that you’re homeless than you’re homeschooled because then they might give you some money and leave you alone, which is what you wanted anyway.
Voiceover: I actually did come up with this joke, so there. Notice that the audience didn’t laugh when I said “which is what you wanted anyway”. I could either try to sell the joke more by pausing and saying and”since you’re homeschooled that’s what you were hoping they’d do anyway or I could just remove it from the speech and I think that’s what I’ll do.
Gio: Stepping back for a second, I’m really glad I was home-schooled. There are actually really great benefits to it. In fact home schoolers get fifteen to thirty percentile points above public schoolers on standardized tests (NERDS) and in my experience a lot of home schooling was a lot harder than College. That was probably because my mom was tired after a home schooling four kids before me and in the last two years she pretty much just handed me the books and said “you’re on your own buddy”. But home schooling wasn’t enough for me…you see, I wanted to double down…
Voiceover: this joke didn’t do too well and since I didn’t have a good transition this was definitely a part of the speech that needed help. I need to improve or remove the joke and come up with a smoother transition.
Gio: on these stereotypes so I was also super obsessed with computers and programming. Look I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being a computer nerd all I’m saying is Bill Gates isn’t famous for his looks. I’ve changed a lot in the past decade but what I can’t change is my past and what lies inside of me, the person who I really am. And I spent a lot of energy trying to do just that. I tried to change myself to be liked by others. In the words of Virginia Woolf, “the people… the eyes of others are our prisons, and their thoughts our cages.”
Voiceover: you can almost see the look of disappointment in my face as I realize how badly I botched that quote. I practiced the speech a decent amount before presenting it but things can always go wrong. The best thing to do is just to move on and do better next time.
Gio: But slowly I’ve come to an incredible, profound, even deep conclusion. Nobody gives a crud. Excuse my home school. You see, no one has ever really criticized me for being homeschooled they just are wondering how it works and they ask me questions about it. No one has ever told me to get off the computer and go get a life…besides my mom. These are things that I pretty much just made up in my own head and are not real. And if I did meet someone that didn’t like me for these reasons I probably wouldn’t want to be around that kind of person anyway.
There are probably one or two things that you can think of that you try to hide from certain people. Maybe you hide the fact that you go to Toastmasters from some people because you’re afraid they may think that’s weird. I mean, you are pretty weird but that’s nothing to be ashamed of! Maybe you were laid off from one of your first jobs and you don’t want certain people to know because you’re worried that they may find you incompetent. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of either, a lot of people go through that formative experience and learn from it. Maybe you don’t want people to know that you’re deep down inside a serial nose-picker because you’re afraid that they may judge you okay and they would they would judge you.
Here’s a rule of thumb folks people care a lot less about you than you care about you. Which, to some of us, is extremely comforting news because that means we’re free to live our lives the way we choose.
Now up to this point I’ve given you a pretty positive and uplifting message. I’ve basically said “go on my sweet summer child, be as you want to be”. But you’re not quite off the hook: you see, this obsession with what others think of us actually comes from self-centeredness. That attribute that we assigned to high school jocks and Mean Girls actually resides here in this room today at varying degrees.
Remember little Stillman? Sometimes I wish I was like him again because little Stillman was just living his life innocently. He was pursuing his hobbies, his dreams, he didn’t care what other people thought about those things. But me, sometimes I’m so obsessed with what other people think of me that I can’t get out of my own shell and care about other people.
Friends, it is time to stop caring about what other people think and start caring about what other people need. Only then will we be able to escape our negative thoughts. Only then will we be able to embrace the fact that we’re all secretly nose-pickers. And only then can you unleash your inner Stillman. Thank you.
Voiceover: Now you may notice that at the end of the speech I suddenly got pretty serious for a while. While that was my intention it was a bit too long considering this is a humorous speech. I am planning to add a joke or two there so that the audience doesn’t forget what kind of speech this is.
As you can see, my feedback process to myself was mostly focused on looking at the jokes and whether they landed or not and figuring out whether it is my delivery or the audience or most likely just that the joke needs to be rewritten. And in those cases all I can do is go back to the drawing board and hope that for the area level contest my speech will be better nailed down. For humorous speeches that’s pretty much what you’re focusing on making sure those jokes really land it’s kind of like a stand-up comedy routine except that the speech has a little bit more substance to it and a point. So I hope you enjoyed that and got something useful out of it and have a nice day!