Thursday, November 30, 2006

You can't please everyone!

I gave my Toastmasters speech tonight. It went well, mostly. I went with the topic I mentioned the other day - why the study of American religious history is important - and asked the Toastmasters to pretend they were college students thinking about taking my course. The project was to "persuade with power" - ie, to learn how to make a persuasive speech.

Now, first of all, if someone in class really asked me why they should take my class rather than an economics or biology class (something "practical"), I wouldn't launch into a 5-7 minute speech. No way! I'd ask the class why they think the topic is important and turn it into a brainstorming session.

Nevertheless, I gave the speech. I slipped into lecture mode. Oops. I didn't even know I had a lecture mode, but apparently that's what I did. I paced back and forth. I looked at the floor while I gathered my thoughts. All of this felt very natural. My evaluator told me it broke the connection with the audience and was detrimental to my sincerity and conviction. Here I thought appearing to stop and gather my thoughts would look more convincing. Oops!

You see, Toastmasters aims to help people with their public speaking skills, which in turn should help one with one's professional goals. They don't like it, though, if you give a speech that conforms more to the norms of one's professional role than to the specific Toastmasters situation of giving a 5-7 minute (or however long) prepared speech. How frustrating! Apparently I can't experiment with lecture styles at Toastmasters, and I don't quite think that the "emotional connection with the audience" my evaluator wanted works well for lectures! Yes, it's good to be an interesting, engaged speaker when lecturing, but it's not the same thing.

You can't be all things to all people, I guess, and I should do the Toastmasters thing at Toastmasters, and practice lecturing in other situations. I guess I thought I could combine the two, but it appears that you can't please everyone! Maybe I should have given a persuasive speech on why Toastmasters needs to be open to a variety of speaking styles, especially ones that pertain to people's jobs! :-)

I did get a bunch of knitting done on the somewhat mysterious sock, which was fun!


cathy said...

Your Toastmasters reminds me of the rules we had to follow in high school Forensics.
I think TM could stand to upgrade,though. No one who does public speaking today has togive a 5-7 minute persuasive speech. They all need to give presentations and power point shows. The formalisation of speech forms that TM does is good in that it trains you to think in a certain way, but not particularly useful in the workplace (from what I've seen).

schrodinger said...

It's an incredible balance to achieve with presentations/speeches, so many different factors to take in - I, for one, will never get used to it.