Where’s the Humor in THAT?

The annual Toastmasters Humorous Speech contest is coming up again. I love competing in these contests; it makes me up my game and try even harder to do my best.

Where's the Humor in THAT?

Since I did not make it past the initial (club) level last year, I am trying to get an earlier start this year, so I can refine my material as well as my delivery.

The problem? I am stuck re: coming up with a topic for my 5-7 minute humorous speech.

Content counts for 55/100 points of the judges’ score. “Content” breaks down to:

Speech Development (Structure, Organization, Support Material) – 15 points

Effectiveness (Achievement of Purpose, Interest, Reception) – 10 points

Speech Value (Ideas, Logic, Original Thought) – 15 points

Audience Response (Attentiveness, Laughter, Interest, Recognition)

What should I talk about in this speech??!!

The winner of our District Humorous Speech contest last year had a great speech that was a play on The Little Blue Pill (it was about a pill that would deal with prolonged sports fixation and it was HILARIOUS).

Having seen one humorous speech contest and watched quite a few winning humorous speeches on YouTube, I know what appeals to me and seems to be part of the winning equation.

Great Content I guess that’s obvious, since it’s leading me to write this post and content counts for more than half of the judging score. Here is a fun speech from “Randy”with relateable content:

A Delivery That Doesn’t Hit You Over The Head Many of the winning humorous speeches I have seen in my relatively brief Toastmasters career have been more subdued than “stand up comic pulling in laugh after laugh” in nature. Rather, they have been well-told stories with a satirical, sardonic, whimsical tone. (Note: this one from Jurgita Pundziute made the cut with me because it’s about a contact center. Those always get me after my years at Healthy Kids.)

On the Other Hand, Humorous Speeches With an Element of Performance Can Rock I started watching this speech from John Zimmer to fit it into the one of the other categories, but decided it deserves its own.

An Element of Surprise Isn’t it nice when you have been listening to a speech, and your mind is just on the verge of wandering (but you have still held on to the main thread) and BAM! the speaker takes your thoughts on a uturn and suddenly you don’t want to be anywhere except IN THAT CAR WITH THAT EXHILARATING SPEAKER?! I didn’t love this speech from Clarence Featherson for the first three minutes but it “got me” by minute 4. Watch it and you’ll see why!

A Confident Presenter One component to all of the effective humorous speeches I have seen is the confidence of the presenter. I think if the speaker’s inner monologue is “oh gosh I hope they get this,” then you’re probably not going to connect with them. Jenny Locklin does a great job of exuding confidence in this speech:

Let’s Talk Topic Ideas

If I am going to draw from speeches I have already given, my favorite is the “Don’t be an Elf on the Shelf Hater” speech which I gave all in “elf persona,” describing why the Elf on the Shelf has been maligned. I had a lot of fun developing and giving that speech.

I have also thought about:

  • ToastMoms: If Abby Lee Miller ran Toastmasters as if it were Dance Moms
  • Keeping Up with the Toastmastians (a takeoff on Keeping Up With the Kardashians)
  • Real Toastmasters of Leon County
  • Match.com and other online relationship services (having helped a friend write his profile recently, I have THOUGHTS on the comic potential of this)
  • Some takeoff on “Mean Tweets” (where celebrities read derogatory sentiments people have tweeted about them – click here to see President Obama’s Mean Tweets Segment)
  • “Ode to Cookie Dough” – about an incident at work where someone was caught scooping dough out of someone else’s container, thinking he was unseen (and the subsequent fallout).
  • There’s probably also plenty of material in fitness and running — I did a speech once about funny running and triathlon signs which was fun to do.
  • There’s probably something about my role as my father-in-law’s caregiver, but I’m not sure I can straddle the humor/stress DMZ line very well right now.
  • The conversation thread that made me laugh the hardest recently was born from my friend Chloe, from Chloe of the Mountain, a labor and delivery nurse, who stated on Facebook: “You are so clever and unique giving your child an unpronounceable, incomprehensible, and unspellable name.” What followed was a hilarious exchange among many women (yes, they were all women, not a guy in the bunch) with naming horror and humor stories.

The challenge with some of these ideas is the general frame of reference of the audience. With the Elf on the Shelf speech, for example, it is possible attendees who don’t have young children or don’t spend time on social media (seeing everyone plot their elf’s “adventures” or snark at how overboard some people go) will need an “elf primer” before getting into the meat of the story. The same goes for something like “ToastMoms” because as much as our family would get pretty much any reference to DanceMoms (like “the pyramid“), there’s a bit of background someone would need to understand it. (In addition, I’m not sure it’s possible to really understand the satirical potential of Dance Moms if you haven’t seen it.)

The challenge with the “baby name” idea is my inability to do it without offending someone — whether it be someone who chose a name some would consider odd but others in their culture would consider precious or whether it be someone who just can’t see the pitfalls of a name choice like La-a (prounounced LaDASHa).

Which leads me back around to:

What should I talk about in this speech??!!

Is there a story I’ve told you, some observation I’ve made, or some experience we’ve shared that could be converted into a winning humorous speech?

Obviously, the lion’s share of the work still remains to be done even after I pick a topic. I have to flesh out the content and figure out the most effective way to present it (and, of course, practice, practice, practice). The other categories of judging are delivery (30%) and language (15% for appropriateness and correctness).

Todd Stocker said, “A speaker should approach his preparation not by what he wants to say, but by what he wants to learn.” I sort of like that twist.

I need to learn how to tickle your funny bone with my words. Want to help?

For reference, this is the speech I competed with last year:

Where's the Humor in THAT?

Going back to the TM Corral and hoping to rustle up some laughs!

Toastmasters: An Open House Invitation

toastmasters

Frequently, when I mention my involvement in Toastmasters, people express an interest in participating themselves.

This week, there’s a perfect opportunity to find out what it’s all about — our club (Podemos Hablar) is holding an open house!

Here are the details:

Date: Monday, April 13, 2015

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Where: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Note: one reason I was attracted to this particular club is that it is a Bilingual Toastmasters Club (Spanish/English). It is especially helpful for people trying to improve their Spanish (or for Spanish speakers trying to improve their English). But don’t let that stop you from joining our open house — there are speakers of all levels.)

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!

toastmasters banner

En Español*:

Frecuentemente, cuando hablo de mi participación en Toastmasters, todos expresan su interés en participar ellos tambien.

Esta semana, hay una oportunidad perfecta para descubrir de qué se trata – de nuestro club (Podemos Hablar) está ofreciendo exhibición publica!

Aquí están los detalles:

Fecha: Lunes, 13 de abril 2015

Hora: 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)

Dónde: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Nota:.. Una de las razones que me atraido a este club en particular es que este club es bilingüe (Español / Inglés). Es especialmente útil para las personas que tratan de mejorar su español (o para los hispanohablantes que tratan de mejorar su Inglés. Pero no dejes que eso te detenga de asistir la exhibición publica – hay hablantes de todos los niveles).

Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, haz favor de comunicármelo.

toastmasters juan

Juan, Past President.

 

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club Vice President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

(Los límites de mi lenguaje son los límites de mi mundo.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Thank you to our club past president Juan for helping me with the translation. I take full responsibility for any errors that remain. // Gracias a nuestro presidente pasado del club Juan por ayudarme con la traducción. Yo soy responsable de los errores que quedan.)

Toastmasters: An Open House Invitation

toastmasters

Frequently, when I mention my involvement in Toastmasters, people express an interest in participating themselves.

This week, there’s a perfect opportunity to find out what it’s all about — our club (Podemos Hablar) is holding an open house!

Here are the details:

Date: Monday, November 10, 2014

Time: 6:00 p.m.

Where: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Note: one reason I was attracted to this particular club is that it is a Bilingual Toastmasters Club (Spanish/English). It is especially helpful for people trying to improve their Spanish (or for Spanish speakers trying to improve their English). But don’t let that stop you from joining our open house — there are speakers of all levels.)

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to let me know!

toastmasters banner

En Español*:

Frecuentemente, cuando hablo de mi participación en Toastmasters, todos expresan su interés en participar ellos tambien.

Esta semana, hay una oportunidad perfecta para descubrir de qué se trata – de nuestro club (Podemos Hablar) está ofreciendo exhibición publica!

Aquí están los detalles:

Fecha: Lunes, 10 de noviembre 2014

Hora: 18:00 (6:00 p.m.)

Dónde: La Fiesta Restaurant (2329 Apalachee Parkway, Tallahassee, Florida, 32301)

(Nota:.. Una de las razones que me atraido a este club en particular es que este club es bilingüe (Español / Inglés). Es especialmente útil para las personas que tratan de mejorar su español (o para los hispanohablantes que tratan de mejorar su Inglés. Pero no dejes que eso te detenga de asistir la exhibición publica – hay hablantes de todos los niveles).

Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, haz favor de comunicármelo.

toastmasters juan

Juan, Past President.

 

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club Vice President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

Shaking hands with Teressa, our club President (and my mentor) after I spoke.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

(Los límites de mi lenguaje son los límites de mi mundo.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein

(Thank you to our club past president Juan for helping me with the translation. I take full responsibility for any errors that remain. // Gracias a nuestro presidente pasado del club Juan por ayudarme con la traducción. Yo soy responsable de los errores que quedan.)

The Sisters She Never Had and More

— 1 —

 POSTPONE NOTHING.

I heard this sentiment expressed in a public radio interview featuring Lynne and Tom Martin, authors of Home Sweet Anywhere. (This WidowsList.com interview with Lynne discusses the “postpone nothing” philosophy the couple adopted when they decided to sell their home, “disburse their belongings,” and see the world.)   It is a two-word phrase that says so much more. I concur. Utterly.

home sweet anywhere

— 2 —

When Just Getting To Know Your Massage Therapist …

Sunday, I had a lovely massage from Michelle Butler, LMT. We had mutual acquaintances, so we had a great chat during the massage and immediately Facebook friended each other afterwards. Fast forward to a few hours later when my husband texted “need scallions” to me right after I checked out at Publix and was loading the car. I wasn’t dying to return to the store. Too bad I sent my angry emoji to Michelle instead of to Wayne. OOOOOPSSSS!

Michelle Text

I quickly realized my mistake and corrected it (yes I did send Wayne the same emoji!) but that was embarrassing!

 

— 3 —

“Clear on the right.”

sign

It is funny how things work out. When I first requested to be considered for Elizabeth Flora Ross’s “The Writer Revived” Summer Series, I had my choice of weeks. Once I had dragged my feet getting back to her, the only week left was the last week of summer. It turns out I needed a summer of driving my father-in-law around to have this piece in me. Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing it (the picture above is the three-way stop I refer to in the piece).

Please click here to read “The Ride” and to understand the reference to “clear on the right.”

— 4 —

When It’s Right to Lean Left

I competed in my Toastmaster Club’s “Evaluation” and “Humorous Speech” contests. It’s always a great experience (as well as slightly nervewracking) to compete. I came in second in both. My humorous speech was based on a true-life situation I encountered in El Salvador. I would love feedback about what works for you as a listener and what doesn’t!

 

— 5 —

All Those Tenleys!

We got the group photo in from our July 19 “Tenley Party.” I love it! (Tenley Albright is in the center (black dress, pink flowers). My Tenley is in the third row, seated in front of a young woman in red and white stripes.

Photo Credit: Ellen Rogers Photography

Photo Credit: Ellen Rogers Photography

 

— 6 —

Sisterhood.

When I got the text from my daughter that she had received a bid from the sorority she wanted, I was in a movie theater and had just glanced down at my phone to check the time. Therefore I couldn’t do anything except take in the information quickly ….. and tear up. She will be pledging the Delta Theta Chapter of Alpha Delta Pi at Valdosta State University. I have never had sisters and was not in a sorority. The prospect of her being part of a sisterhood, especially if it gives her the lifelong bond that my adult friends who were part of sororities still share, makes me exquisitely happy.

Having Sisters

Tenley (left) on bid day!

(AND for item 6.5, she declared a major … PUBLIC RELATIONS!)

 

— 7 —

This phrase, though.  

Any other language fans out there? I keep seeing this construction all over social media:

This [insert object], though. For example, a cute baby with gorgeous blue eyes might get “those eyes, though.” I get what the writer is intending. Where did it come from? A movie? A book? Clue me in!

 For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Speaking of Toastmasters

toastmastersI do not need one more thing to do. If anything, I need to find ways to streamline my life and focus on direction (my “word” of 2013). Why, then, did I join a Toastmasters club a few months ago?

To Improve My Speaking

I am sure this is the number one reason people join Toastmasters. For me, I keep hearing very intelligent people cover extremely important material in the most dull and non-engaging ways.  I am sure most of you, like me, have to sit through many meetings and presentations. My current three pet peeves are “Ums” and other verbal crutches, repetitively beginning sentences with “so,” and uptalk.*** As an attendee, I crave the opportunity to listen to good speakers. As a potential speaker, I don’t want to be the one instigating my listeners to make tick marks for every “ah,” “um,” or “so” instead of absorbing what I have to say.

To Improve My Spanish

Something about Bob Hentzen’s death in October ignited the fire under me to improve my Spanish. Thinking back on his ability to communicate with the families in Guatemala so easily, and my not-so-fluent Spanish which stood in the way of some great conversations I could have had, pushed me to figure something out. Just like I didn’t really have time to take on Toastmasters, I didn’t really have time to take on an additional class, in person or online. By joining a bilingual Toastmasters club (Podemos Hablar), I am at least folding two time commitments into one.

To Force Myself To Create Material

This may be the most challenging part. I am happy to present something someone has written and wants me to discuss, but I don’t feel nearly as confident when the task is creating my own material. Creating my own material and then talking from a mixture of talking points as well as extemporaneous is yet another layer of challenge. Having to do speeches regularly (as well as the weekly “table topics” where we talk for two minutes on a prompt given to us right then) is going to help me get over that insecurity.

So far I have participated in table topics each week, contributed the word of the day once, and given my first speech (all in Spanish!). I have a long ways to go but am excited to be making some purposeful steps toward improving my speaking as well as my Spanish.

The most recent speaking I had to do was a preview of my proposed TEDxFSU talk, since my proposal made it to the round where they ask us for recorded previews (yay!!!!). Here it is (in English!).

Have you ever known you had to join or commit to something, even though you were already committed to the hilt? Tell me about it in the comments!

***Big huge ginormous caveat here!!!! This is just my opinion. I have a tremendous amount of respect for many speakers I am thinking of here, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t do some of these same things, intentionally or not.