Speechcraft Do’s and Do Better

Gary Lee Webb, DTM

You have advertised and now have a group of students who are eager to learn through Speechcraft. What are you going to do to keep it interesting as well as inspire them to not just lose their fears but to embrace the idea that speaking can be fun and they should keep learning? In my home club, we do a Speechcraft seminar twice a year. By teaching Speechcraft to many employees, typically half become Toastmasters. Let me share some of our techniques and lessons learned.  

The first lesson is to be gentle. Many students are truly afraid of getting up to speak, even for a table topic. If you follow the book, Speechcraft is four to eight sessions, and you hit the students with impromptu speaking, right off the bat. We found that it works better to have an introductory session #0. We hand out the books, talk about what is coming up, and ask people to introduce themselves briefly in four sentences maximum. We also assign mentors, point out that they will be helped, talk about impromptu speaking, and ask for two volunteers to do an icebreaker at the next session. Then we do 10 weekly half-hour sessions, not 8, thus spreading things out a little.

The second lesson is this. No student goes a week without speaking. This means that anyone not otherwise speaking does a Table Topic question. Initially we do two icebreakers per week, with each one being evaluated by club members. By the time the students are doing their second speech, they have heard the module on evaluations and seen each student be evaluated. Thus second and third speeches are evaluated by peers.

Other things I have learned. Having different speakers is more interesting than one teacher. So, besides mentoring, experienced club members give the instructive speeches. The students hear a variety of speakers, in many cases speakers who were students the year before. The buck stops at the coordinator. I will fill in if I cannot find someone else, but I try to spread roles around.
We also encourage the students to come to the “real” meetings, possibly even joining. I truthfully tell them that the folks who have done best did both programs simultaneously.

Finally, I like to end with a short discussion of advanced topics, and what they can expect to continue learning. A gentle introduction, lots of support, practice speaking every week, and knowing what is coming: these are the keys to a great Speechcraft, in my opinion.

Gary Lee Webb, DTM
Waco Wordsmiths


By Julie Cosgrove