Archive for the ‘Preparing Speeches’ Category

Just Be Yourself

“Just be yourself!”

I often hear these words of encouragement from well-intentioned people suggesting how others could improve their public speaking. “Just be yourself.”

I always wondered what these words meant. “Just be myself.”

Who else would I be? I can’t be you. I can try to be you, or your neighbour, but I would eventually return to being me. I have no choice but to be me. It isn’t something I can vote on, but how does my being me relate to speaking in public? What if I was shy and usually spoke in quiet, whispery tones and rarely met eyes with others. What does being myself mean and is it helpful in public speaking?

Instead of depending on only my opinion for this answer, I asked the opinions of other speakers and speech coaches. The question was, “What does, ‘Be yourself,’ mean to you? To be or not be oneself, what would one do?”

Here are their answers.  (more…)


Record Your Speeches!

I recently overcame the fear of recording myself speaking. Over the years, people recorded me on stage and didn’t give it a second thought, but I found it very difficult or impossible to record myself. Because it was difficult, I had to do it!

What a revelation! Why did I wait so many years?!


In recording myself I heard many stumblings and hesitations, jokes that didn’t work, and a slow, plodding cadence that detracted from a natural flow of sounds and ideas. At the time I thought it was great and I was so clever. I was irritating.

The next time I spoke, I intended to be smooth… and I was… more. There wasn’t  a need for remedial training or 20 pushups. I just needed to focus some intention. I didn’t focus my intention on the technical characteristics of speech, but on how I felt as I spoke. I could break it down to the characteristics of voice, but it isn’t as helpful as focussing on how I felt and the voice that results from that feeling. With practice, that intention will improve until it becomes intuitive, until I am no longer aware of its presence – it is just how I speak.

T.J. Walker, Chairman, Executive Producer and Host of Speaking Channel TV kindly sent me a wonderful idea: “…videotape them [someone learning to speak in public] secretly while they are just having a conversation. Then videotape them while they are giving a speech. Most people will see that their natural ‘being themselves’ mode of speaking is drastically superior and will then use that as their role model.”

Record yourself. Then identify something you would like to improve. Focus your intention, focus your feelings, and let me know what you notice. How fast did you improve?

Toastmasters Table Topics Champ (x4)!

Craig Senior Wins District 61 Table Topics 2007

I won the Toastmasters District 61 Table Topics Contest in Mont Tremblant, Quebec on 2007-11-19. In the Table Topics contest, competitors leave the room. One at a time, we return, wait at the back of the room, receive a question, walk to the stage, and speak for one to two minutes. The speeches are improvised! The only preparation time we get is the time it takes to walk to the front of the room.

The topic was “Anger management is self-explanatory; define what compulsive happiness means to you.” For me, compulsive happiness is not ear-to-ear smiling that accompanies perky perpetual partying. It is that middle space of quiet contentment and self-assurance between life’s highs and lows. Happiness is a decision.

Happiness is looking into the kind eyes of 350 people, watching them respond in our time together, watching them nod agreement or confirmation, watching and hearing them laugh. Being onstage is one of life’s great pleasures.

I’m also fortunate to have won this contest four times: 1999, 2001, 2003, and 2007.  The other times, I was pleased to see some wonderful speakers and friends bring home the big shiny trophy! It’s fun to give others a high five, way to go!

Now for the International Speech and Evaluation contests in 2008. Time to prepare…