Monday, June 22, 2015

What do I write speeches about?

One of my Toastmasters mentees recently asked me this question. This is the advice I gave her.

The simple (and probably non-helpful) answer is "anything." Don't make the mistake of trying to come up with speech topics out of whole cloth. I once read something that radically changed how I look at preparing for these speeches: you could do the same speech for all ten CC manual speeches, just tweaking it each time for whatever that assignment is emphasizing.

So, here's a list of ideas:
  • Hobbies: what are you interested in that you think others might be? I have done four total manual speeches on different aspects of Star Trek (and discovered a few "closet Trekkies" in the process :-). I also did a speech combining public speaking skills and the Israeli martial art of Krav Maga, of which I am a practitioner.
  • Interesting things you've read about: I did a model speech (also storytelling manual speech) on St Peter from the Bible, when he denied Jesus three times and Jesus later redeemed him. I also did a speech on how to learn a foreign language, which I used for two manual speeches (CC #8 and #9).
  • Your job: what's cool, or interesting, or little-known, or encouraging, about your job or jobs you've had? I did a speech on APIs, which is a big part of my job.
  • Messages you want to get out there: my CC#10 speech, which I also used as a contest speech and as several speeches from the Storytelling advanced manual, was on women's situational awareness for self-protection. It was actually not a very good contest speech, though I won a club level with it, but it was such an important message I wanted to get it out there.

See a theme? (1) Speaking on things I know about. (2) Using essentially the same speech multiple times, tweaking it each time. I used that basic Star Trek material for four different speeches.

Obviously, each speech was different, but I only had to do the research once. Don't reinvent the wheel every speech. That's actually real-life, by the way: absolutely no speaker out there actually writes new speeches each time. You re-use lots of previous material, customizing it for the occasion and audience.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

New England School of Law 2015 Commencement Address

Last Friday, I had the honor and privilege to watch my daughter, Justine, graduate from the New England School of Law. The Honorable Ralph D. Gants, a Massachusetts Supreme Court Judge, presented the commencement address. As a Toastmaster, I have been trained to listen to speeches with a constructively critical ear. Judge Gants didn?t let me down.

He combined humor with a serious message to these 200 law graduates, inspiring them with a concise, purposeful delivery that opened and closed with a reference to the Star Wars movie franchise.

In the speech, he urged them to ignore the common ?nonsense? surrounding the law industry, giving brief but sound reasoning to his arguments:

1. That we have too many lawyers in our country
2. That we do not need lawyers, that all they do is slow us down and generate needless litigation
3. That only large law firm?s deal with the most challenging legal issues.
4. That all the innovation in our society is being driven by entrepreneurs, business people, and investment managers, and that lawyers are still doing law the same way they have for generations.
5. That law is no longer a vehicle for social change.

He opened and closed the speech, which lasted no longer than 10 minutes, with references to Jedi knights. A transcript of the speech can be read at

"May the force be with you!" (Kevin O?Neil, CC, Loudoun Toastmasters, May 28, 2015)