I won the Toastmasters division contest with this speech! This video will go over how I managed to keep it together after forgetting a critical word (and substituting it for basically an oxymoron), as well as several other valuable lessons you can learn from the speech.
Posted by Potent Speaking on Monday, October 16, 2017
Hey Potent Speakers, I’m super excited to bring you this video today for a couple reasons. One: I managed to win the Toastmasters division-level humorous contest. It’s the club level, area level, and I just won the division level. The last level would be district but I won’t be able to attend that conference unfortunately because I’ll be in Europe. But it’s still really exciting nonetheless.
The second reason why is because I managed to get really good quality audio by using a lapel mic and I got some better video as well by using a slightly better camera. So I’m excited to show you guys this and just before we begin what I’m gonna be doing is showing you the speech and pausing it at times to comment on what I could improve on or things that I did right and lessons that you can learn from it so without further ado let’s get started.
Giovanni: Stillman checked all the boxes for a weird person in the making. He was home-schooled all the way through high school… check. He was obsessed with computers and programming as a kid… yeah, check. And he learned how to smile when he searched on Google “help girls run away from me when I smile”. Now he knows how to smile like a regular homosapien… check.
Mr. contest chair fellow Toastmasters and guests without further ado let me introduce you to Stillman. Nerdy voice: “Hi I’m Stillman.” Oh you think that’s funny don’t you? Well I would probably think it’s funny too except my middle name is Stillman. That’s what I was like at 14 years old. Of course by the time I got to college I was a well-adjusted human being with excellent conversational skills. You see, I had all this practice talking to my mother… and my siblings…
Voiceover: This intro is new and improved from the last version at the area level contest. I realized that the first minute of my speech was not that funny to people who didn’t know me so I took one of my better jokes and put it up front to warm up the audience. My assumption was that the awkward smile part would get people to laugh and getting that first laugh is extremely important. This change really paid off.
Giovanni: conversations usually went okay until people inevitably asked me where I went to school. Well, I was home-schooled. No I didn’t milk cows as part of my education. No I have no desire to marry my cousin. And yes I do know how to make eye contact. When people found out I was home-schooled it’s like I just told them that my parents raised me in an insane asylum! I mean to be fair it was pretty insane but it di-di-didn’t affect me. Come on, homeschooling isn’t that bad. I only know a few home schooling families that killed their couch to make clothing for their children. Stepping back for a second, I’m actually really glad that I was home-schooled there are a lot of benefits for me in fact did you know that home schoolers get fifteen to thirty percentile points above public schoolers on standardized tests? Ha, nerds!
Voiceover: At this point I rush into the next sentence too quickly. I should have paused for a bit longer to let the laughter continue. This is simply an issue with having confidence in the joke. If you’re not confident in a joke you’re more likely to try to rush through it just in case it flops.
Giovanni: and homeschooling taught me how to work without supervision because my mom was tired of it after four kids before me (understandable) and in the last two years she pretty much just handed me the teacher’s manuals, handed me two years of homework assignments, said there’s enough top ramen in the pantry to feed a small country, and I have exactly 524 sleeping pills. That’s one for every weekday from now until you’re done… see you buddy! I’m just kidding guys, she had enough for the weekends too.
Voiceover: This is one of the easiest ways to extend a joke: say something that’s funny in a negative way, then say you’re just kidding and then exaggerate it further. It almost feels cheesy because it’s such an easy technique but hey, if it works, it works. Just don’t use this technique too much in a speech or else it’ll lose its power.
Giovanni: now if I hadn’t told you guys that I was a homeschooled computer nerd with absolutely no social skills you probably wouldn’t have figured it out. At least I hope. So I’m trying to figure out why I just told you… oh right because I’ve slowly come to an incredible powerful, even deep, conclusion: nobody gives a gosh-darn crud. Pardon my home school.
Voiceover: I was hoping that by setting up the audience’s expectations by describing my realization as incredible and powerful they would laugh because of the contrast but it didn’t quite work. So if I wanted to try this again I’d have to switch it up a bit and I might just cut it out altogether.
Giovanni: no one has ever ridiculed me for being homeschooled they’re just curious about how it works. And no one has ever told me to get off the computer and go get a life… besides my mother. Maybe there are one or two things that you can think about that you try to hide from certain people because you’re not sure what they’ll think. Maybe you try to hide the fact that you go to Toastmasters because you’re afraid that people may find us weird. Looking out at this wonderful audience today I can say with absolute confidence… you ARE pretty weird.
Voiceover: This joke shows the importance of knowing your audience. I’ve noticed that Toastmasters tend to really enjoy humor that’s based on Toastmasters and almost any top performing speech in that organization includes some kind of reference back to itself. And intuitively it makes sense: the people who are involved enough to come out to a contest are probably very into Toastmasters so it’s easy for them to connect to. Try to figure out what your audience is into and then incorporate it into your speech.
Giovanni: or maybe you’ve tried to hide the fact that deep down inside you’re a serial nose-picker. And you’re afraid that people would judge you for that. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you… actually they would judge you for that, so keep that under wraps. Or maybe you enjoy watching the Kardashians on TV. No judgement for me you’re just literally what’s wrong with America I mean you’re probably such a big fan that you know all of their first names like Kim Kris Khloe Kylie Kourtney K… I mean I don’t know the names because I’m a normal person. You probably even know their pet names you know bertha gabana and honey and their little pet rabbit snowflake (that’s my favorite). Shame on you! But seriously it’s fine, you can watch whatever show you want.
Voiceover: Okay, let’s talk about this Kardashian joke.
Observation one – at the area level contest I made this Kardashian joke and stopped after the line about the person being what’s wrong with America. It got such a big laugh that I decided to try to extend it so I added the rest in for this version.
Observation two – I went way too fast through this part and the reason is simple. I was nervous about it. I wasn’t sure if the audience would laugh at each line and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to remember all the Kardashian names. In fact, I did miss one out of the six that I was planning to say.
Finally, Observation three – I had a plan B. I knew that if I forgot some of the names I could spin it into humor by making it seem like I stopped abruptly to reconsider whether it was a good idea to reveal that I knew these names. This plan B came in so useful. Watch carefully.
Giovanni: first names like Kim Kris Khloe Kylie Kourtney K…
Voiceover: You can see how I abruptly stopped. That’s because I ran out of names and I used my plan B. Also once again, it hurts to watch how I cut off the audience laughter because I could have gotten even more mileage out of these jokes.
Giovanni: you see as a rule of thumb folks, people care a lot less about you than you care about you. And for some of us, that is extremely comforting news because that means we are free to live our lives the way we choose and no one’s going to judge us for it. Now up to this point I’ve delivered a pretty positive and uplifting message. I basically patted you on the back and said “go on my sweet summer child be as you want to be” [crying sound] So inspirational! But you’re not quite off the hook. You see, this obsession with what other people think of you is actually rooted in self-confidence.
Voiceover: Here’s the best part. Did you notice how long I paused before saying self-confidence? That’s because I literally forgot the word I was supposed to say in that 1 to 2 second period after I said rooted I realized that I couldn’t remember the word I was supposed to use so I spent some time searching for the word and came up empty. And I decided I needed to go with the first word that came to mind which was self-confidence. Finally, I figured out how I would go about making this word work in context. A lot of thinking can happen in very little time.
The word I was planning to say was self-centeredness. Self-confidence seems like literally the opposite of caring what other people think so I had some explaining to do. What’s interesting about the next few seconds of video is that because you know what happened you’ll find it very awkward. At least, I do. But a big portion of the audience did not realize anything had gone wrong besides seeing an unnatural pause. The lesson to learn here is that you should almost never apologize for a mistake during a speech unless it’s some kind of fact-based speech and you’re speaking to an audience that needs to know the facts. Just try to make it work.
Giovanni: in a belief that you are so important that other people have to constantly be thinking about you because clearly you’re the most important thing in the room and this belief, this kind of self-confidence that is negative… a self-confidence that goes beyond what you really should have in yourself, that can be negative because it means you can’t get out of your own bubble and care about other people.
Voiceover: I spent 30 seconds correcting my mistake and as I looked out at the audience I saw some nodding heads and people leaning in. On the other hand, I also saw a few people with furrowed eyebrows trying to understand what I was saying. But as far as damage control goes, I’m very proud of that 30 seconds because I had literally just said an oxymoron and I found a way to make it work. Now I get back to the scripted part of my speech.
Giovanni: sometimes I wish that was like Stillman again because Stillman was just a little kid living his dreams and pursuing his hobbies. He didn’t care what other people thought and sometimes me, grown up me, I’m so obsessed with what other people think that I can’t get out of my own bubble and care about other people. On the other handdddd, Stillman kind of sucked. Friends it is time to stop caring about what other people think and start caring about what other people need. And only then will you be able to escape that negative self-criticism nagging at you. And really, how bad can it be? At least you’re not me. Nerdy voice: Mr. contest chair. (End of speech)
I’ll leave you with this thought. I am far from a perfect speaker and you can tell that from all of the mistakes I made. I rushed a few jokes, I had several verbal missteps and I even forgot the word self-centeredness which is fun. Through this process I’ve learned that I can always improve because I have all the tools necessary to do so. Number one, I have excellent coaching (I coach myself, haha) Number two, I am able to spend time and I’m WILLING to spend time to continue to improve.
What I want you to understand is anyone can be better at public speaking than they currently are and in fact almost anyone, barring a few tiny exceptions, (maybe disability), anyone can get to a level that they would consider spectacular public speaking. Even the world champions of public speaking have things they can improve on. No one is perfect, but they got to the level that they are because they were willing to put that time in and they had people or they themselves were able to figure out things they needed to improve on and they were able to learn from every mistake that they made.
So I want you to realize that if you want to put in the time, if you want to be a better speaker, you can do it as long as you’re willing to put in the time and you have the right people to help you do it. And with that thought, I’ll see you later!