Tonight was the Area contest for the spring public speaking contests in Toastmasters.
As you can see by the medal around my neck, I won. The speech type was “tall tales”. In the next few weeks, I’m going to be competing in the next level up, which is either District or Division. I think Division. It has to be more or less the same speech, and I think I’ll do fine.
There’s some awesome talent coming up through the ranks, though. One kid gave a speech about his first Volvo. The thing that struck me about his speech was how rooted in concrete details it was: spark plug, muffler, V8 turbo. At any point he could have said “car” but instead he said “Volvo wagon” emphasizing how uncool his friends thought it was, and how cool he felt it was — how grand it was to be able to modify and soup up his car for a race against a “stock mustang”, which is to say, he didn’t reduce his opponent to just another car… he reduced it to a standard model variant of a famous car. It really impressed me, how rooted in concrete and specific language his speech was. And he’s been at this for two months. Brilliant, even so.
Toastmasters runs two contests a season — one in the spring, and one in the fall. In between contests, a local club near you is holding at least a meeting or two a month for you to practice at; mine meets first and third Tuesdays. Anyone and everyone can practice and get better. I know few ways of getting better at public speaking outside of a course in preaching, and usually you need to go to seminary to get that.
Consider joining. You might have fun, and you might even wind a medal or three.