"A promise is only as good as the person who gives it." - Ryan Avery, "Trust is a Must"
Ryan Avery is the 2012 World Champion of Public Speaking, and at the age of 25 he is the youngest in Toastmasters history to win the title. We received a multitude of questions from the audience during our Q&A session, with topics ranging from public speaking to success in life. Thanks again to Ryan and Chelsea Avery for coming to visit Walter Gage Toastmasters and sharing their stories and experience with us! For those of you who missed the event, here are some of the answers Ryan shared with us. Enjoy!
Post written by Cass Chan
1. How do you come up with topics to speak about?
On three separate pieces of paper, write down these three questions:
1. Who am I? (e.g. brother, husband, son, nerd, young, male)
2. What am I about? (e.g. trust, friendship, love, passion, adventure)
3. Where did I learn it? (e.g. mother, wife, father, grandmother, stranger on the bus, friend, teacher)
The reason you write it down is because you can't always see the connections in your head, but in front of your eyes you can begin to see the shape of the stories you want to share and the speech you want to give.
2. How do you deal with nerves before and during a speech or presentation?
It's normal for everyone to feel nervous. Heck, even professionals get nervous! But how one deals with nervousness differentiates the amateurs from the pros. If you tend to tremble or get a shaky voice part way through your presentation, accept it and move on. One trick is to use a confidence booster during those nerve-wracking moments.
As a fan of Lady Gaga, Ryan's go-to confidence booster is the line, "Marry the night!" from the song with the same name. He was inspired by the song because, as Lady Gaga associated it with marrying herself to music, Ryan associated with marrying himself to his passion for public speaking and helping others. He recommends using a song lyric that pumps you up, or thinking back to a moment when you felt very confident (e.g. when you got the highest score on an exam, when you asked the person you liked out and he/she said yes). Using a confidence booster can mean all the difference between breaking down or moving forward and finishing your speech or presentation.
3. What does your preparation routine for doing a speech consist of?
For speeches less than 15 minutes, memorize every word. This is particularly important for speech contests, because every word and pause counts. One tip for memorizing is to write your speech in "poem form". That is, every time you would take a breath or pause in your speech, start your next word on the next line (i.e. press "Enter" when typing). The reason for this is that writing in paragraphs make you sound like you're reading, whereas writing in poem form make you sound like you're speaking.
For speeches or presentations longer than 15 minutes, always have an outline with an introduction, 3 stories or main points, and a conclusion. If you get lost in one point, always know what your next point is and move onto next point or story in your speech or presentation.
Also, try recording yourself on camera and with a voice recorder to check your body language and vocals. It's impossible to catch every little thing you do when practising in front of a mirror or even in front of a friend. Use these tools to keep track of how you're progressing and to pick up any habits you or others might not have noticed before.
4. Are there any effective techniques to eliminate filler words such as "like" or "uh" from our speech?
Toastmasters was extremely helpful because the Ah-Counter counts all your filler words for you. It is also best to get an accountability partner, preferably someone you are around often, to tell you when you are using your crutch word. At a Toastmasters meeting, you can ask someone to be your filler word buddy and have then snap their fingers every time you use your crutch word. The idea is that you have to become aware of where and when you're using your crutch word. Once you are aware of it, you will be able to focus on eliminating it from your speech.
5. How do you decide what jokes to include in your speech?
There are 3 questions you should ask about your joke before you put it into your speech:
1. Can I say it in front of my grandmother?
2. Can I say it in front of 2 generations and have both understand?
3. Can I say it in front of 2 cultures and have both understand?
6. How has Toastmasters helped you succeed in other areas of your life?
Ryan: "I used to say "like" every 5 words. When I did a TV interview for the Special Olympics, I completely butchered it! My dad saw it and told me I had to go to Toastmasters. I was hesitant but over time I was able to control almost all of my crutch words. A year and a half later, during my intensive training for the International Speech Contest, I received a promotion at work and became the Director of Communications and Marketing for the Special Olympics!"
Ryan: "I'm a strong believer that communication is correlated with lifestyle. Bad communication, bad lifestyle. Good communication, good lifestyle. Exceptional communication, exceptional lifestyle. I want to help people get up here, to having exceptional communication skills."