Archive for the ‘Speeches’ Category

Orators are natural storytellers. We know how to tell a story. It is easy to construct speeches, the same way we tell stories, with a few concrete steps.

Preparation is the key to a successful presentation. It helps to distill the central idea into one sentence. I usually follow this with three to five statements that support the central idea and figure out the order of the points from there.

Storytelling has a shape. We grew up with stories from our earliest memories. Even a three-year-old will prick up their ears if any part of a story is missing. Because we are hardwired as to the patterns and the shape a story should take. Speeches are the same. They have a recognized, traditional form. When presented with a disorganized speech, an audience will focus on mentally creating order in the presentation instead of paying attention to the content.

A story has a Beginning, Middle, and End; a speech has an Introduction, a Body, and a Conclusion. In Toastmasters, speech structure has described this way: Tell what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you’ve told them.

Kiwi author Brian Falkner described the story structure this way:

S — SETTING
T — THE CHARACTERS
O — OBSTACLES
R — REACH
Y — YOUR GOAL

Basic speech structure can work within this structure nicely. The first part of your speech, the introduction, provides the all-important Setting. You set the stage for what is to come. Give some context. Your intro should take no more than two minutes. You want it to be compelling and wake the audience up into paying attention.

The body of your speech or the middle of your story is where you put the characters, obstacles, and reach. The “Tell them” part. The body is for your main idea or points: such as anecdotes, statistics, quotes, or other researched information. Organize the material into a natural order that makes sense. It should be logically, sequentially arranged.

After the body, prepare to sum it all up in 30 – 60 seconds. Tell them what you’ve told them. Summarize your key points, and make a call to action if applicable. Try to wrap up by alluding to points made in the introduction because people will take away the last thing they hear more than any other part of your speech.

Embrace your storytelling ability and make it work for you. Think, does your presentation have an engaging introduction, an interesting body, and a satisfying conclusion? Do I feel motivated by the content of my story? Have I communicated the central speech idea? These questions will craft a great speech. Have fun and tell your stories with gusto because a good story is something people will remember long after it was told.

Happy storytelling. Why not have a go and try public speaking?

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol

*This new series of blog posts is adapted from the material I’m currently presenting at my Toastmasters club.

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Every story I create creates me. I write to create myself. ~ Octavia E. Butler

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In June 2015, I had my first book launch planned for September of that year. My greatest fear was public speaking, so I knew there was no way I could deliver a speech at the launch without serious help. After some searching the internet, I discovered Toastmasters. The non-profit educational speakers’ organization began with Ralph C. Smedley in the United States, and now boasts 352,000 members in 141 countries. With more than 16,400 individual clubs worldwide, there was a club within a ten-minute drive of my house. I rocked along that week, joined up, and was assigned a mentor. What is a mentor? A mentor is a person who provides guidance and support to empower a protégé to reach their goals.

In Toastmasters, they assign a mentor to guide each new member for the first six months. Debbie was my mentor, and she was brilliant, yet not even she could help me with my nerves. Public speaking is the number one fear for most people, and for me, it felt debilitating. The way I managed the fear was by tightly controlling my speeches. I would start work on them two weeks before the due date. I would write out the idea and edit it endlessly until every word was in the exact right place. Then a week before the presentation was due, I would start memorizing the piece. I would work on it line by line, learning and rehearsing until finally, I knew it verbatim.

On the day of the meeting, in a state of high anxiety, I would pace outside rehearsing my lines. Only after giving my speech could I finally relax. The months went by, and I survived. I successfully delivered the keynote at my book launch and even won a speech competition. Somewhere along the way, the challenges of Toastmasters became fun. Far out, I thought, is it true that I have conquered my greatest fear? It was “a feather in my cap,” as my father used to say.
Then came the day an evaluator gave a speech evaluation that stopped me in my tracks and changed my trajectory forever. On that day, I remember being secretly pleased with my speech because I had recalled every word perfectly.

Mike was my evaluator. He was one of our best storytellers. Mike could come up with a speech on his way into the club and deliver an amazing piece a few minutes later. He said, ‘Your speech was fine, great. We’ve said it all before. But…you speak as if you’re talking to yourself in the mirror. You’re not connecting with us, just reciting something you’ve learned by rote. My challenge to you is to stop memorizing your speeches.’
Whoa. I was thunderstruck. My face was burning. This advice came three to four years into my Toastmasters journey, and I had memorized all my speeches until that point. I felt utterly humiliated. Scurrying home that day with my tail between my legs, I cried my eyes out. I swore I would never return to the club again! But Mike had issued me a challenge. Could I give a speech without memorizing it? I didn’t even know. Looking it up in the educational material, I saw that Toastmasters recommend solidifying the central ideas and that you learn any quotes, dates, or numbers but resist memorizing the rest of the content. Oh, geez.

For my next speech, I hatched an idea, wrote four words on a card, and attempted winging it after only two run-throughs. I felt like a hot mess. Without a clear path mapped out before me, I was sure I fumbled about for the words. Nevertheless, I did it. The second speech without memorizing was a bit easier, and the next one was a bit easier again. Then, I began to experience a real change, the back and forth, the give and take, of connecting with the audience. That’s where the magic lies. Mike’s honesty had released me from a self-imposed prison, my little cage. It was a whole new day.


Here’s the thing with public speaking. I have learned that it’s not about projecting an image of perfection onto your audience or trying to look like something you’re not. It’s about sharing your views, your thoughts, your feelings, your perspective – who you are – with others authentically. It’s about being present in the moment with your audience. That’s when you get truly memorable public speaking, and it’s also when the content comes across as the most meaningful.
It’s a process and I am still learning to the best of my ability, one meeting at a time. These days I even get to “pay it forward” by mentoring new members and passing on what I have learned, which really is a great feeling! In the words of John Ford, You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.
Why not have a go and try public speaking. You might surprise yourself!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“A WINNER IS JUST A LOSER WHO TRIED ONE MORE TIME.” ~ GEORGE M. MOORE, JR.


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A lot of times as an author it can feel like you are stuck in an endless loop of editing from which you might never escape. And some books take a lot longer than others to complete. The youngest son said last week, “When is this going to be over?” and I felt exactly the same way. After fifteen years of writing and editing on repeat loop, I finally finished my middle-grade trilogy, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. Incredible. I think I was in a state of pure disbelief that I had concluded the journey. Is it over? I kept asking myself at first. I was in a state of shock.

The day I “signed off” on The Or’in of Tane, The Sasori Empire, and The Last Tree to go to the printer, it was like a weight lifted off me. It was done. I had told the story to the best of my ability and edited it to the best of my ability as an Indie Publisher. It was time to release the culmination of years of change and growth as a writer. I couldn’t believe I was done working on the Chronicles. The moment overwhelmed me with emotion. I shed a few tears. Fifteen years of writing in all the spare moments around raising my two youngest sons, cramming the editing into every crevice had borne fruit.

I had finished three books, and I waited less than patiently to receive them. When the boxes of my books arrived by courier, I was so excited.

There is nothing like that moment when you first get to see and hold the real paperback in your hand. Writing the story, following the idea from start through to finish and creating a book is the greatest feeling in the world! As a lifelong reader, I’ve always regarded books with reverence. Now I have created one of those magical things that have given me so much joy. It is bucket list material.

Some things in life are worth waiting for, like the satisfaction of crossing the finish line, releasing your own novels, and the celebration of the book launch. You slave your butt off to complete the course and earn your right to party. The relief! The joy! I’m sure they could have seen my smile in Wellington. The launch was fabulous. Thanks to my friends from Toastmasters, we transformed the hall with flowers and tablecloths and the sparkle of china and glassware. The covers of the books shone like gems and the themed cupcakes looked almost too good to eat!

However, the point-of-sale material I had designed and ordered failed to arrive, the elections and voting clashed with our event which affected our turn-out, and one guest helpfully tried to open a whole box of expensive cupcakes by turning it upside down! But that’s life, and we roll with the punches. The hall looked charming; the atmosphere was spring like and promising. The guests filled the seats, and everyone enjoyed the afternoon, so it was fine.

In the week leading up to the launch I suffered horrible bouts of nerves about giving the oration. Though I had done some research and had an idea for the format of my keynote address, I ran so late with book production and the launch that I ended up with only one day to work on the speech. I thought the presentation would come together easily, but it didn’t, and I panicked. I was still pacing the house at ten o’clock on Friday night – not a good way to be the night before your book launch.

Saturday morning was hectic. I dropped my boys off at their father, went to get a blow wave at the local salon, then I tried to remember how to apply make-up and put my glam on. There were boxes of books, signs, tablecloths, thank you gifts for my helpers and the liquid refreshments to load into the car. There was still the hall to set up. Luckily, when it came time for me to walk on stage and speak, the speech came together. I’ve moved on from writing out and rehearsing my speeches, to trying to strike a 50/50 blend of research and spontaneity. It means potential for failure, so I get more nerves and it’s always a relief when the speeches work. Whew!

We followed my keynote with a lively Q&A session lasting nearly forty minutes, which was cool. I sold three boxes of books and two people asked me about writing and self publishing. Yes! Afterwards, friends took me out for dinner and we toasted the launch with bubbly. It was a very good day.

Now let me shuffle off stage and collapse!

Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Sunshine is the best medicine. ~ Unknown

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Yesterday, I left Toastmasters. The send-off my friends gave me was so loving, so generous, so kind, so full of good cheer and heartfelt comments, I think I wept the whole time. Leaving was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it was not a decision taken lightly. I had wrestled with it for more than a year. I knew I needed to put the hours I’d been putting into the club and my speeches into writing my stories and books.

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I knew I wasn’t achieving enough real B.I.C (butt-in-chair) hours to make the progress I wanted to make with my series, The Chronicles of Aden Weaver. That the boys still required the same amount of my input as teenagers as they had when they were little frustrated me. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Something had to give. To leave the club would seem obvious, and yet it wasn’t. A lot of self talk went on in my decision to quit Toastmasters. I love my friends there and the weekly get-togethers are fun.

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I joined a local club in June 2015, with the plan to stay for four months, hoping I would learn how to give a decent speech so I didn’t suck at my first ever book launch. September 15th arrived, and I launched my book and gave a speech my family were proud of. I knew the effort I had put into months of Toastmasters’ speeches to get to that point, and I felt proud of myself which was a lovely new feeling. The weekly meetings were stimulating and informative. I enjoyed my circle of inspirational, intelligent, interesting and funny friends. The book launch came and went, and I said, “I’ll just stay another month.”

I stayed another month for five years.

Evaluation Contest

With each year I learned more, I gained more strength; I discovered an unexpected facility for public speaking. And all in the company of some of the most wonderful folks I have ever met. In my parting speech yesterday, I said the people you meet in Toastmasters are the greatest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. You make firm bonds with others in a speaker’s club. Through the fires of facing down knee-knocking, heart-pounding challenges together you forge friendships that can last a lifetime. You have been comrades, side-by-side, daring yourselves to compete in the many speech competitions the organisation runs each year, and you have shivered together before going on stage, daring each other to grow. It creates closeness between the members and real empathy for one another.

Being awarded my second trophy

It was during the last five years that both of my parents died, my mother passed away in her sleep within a few weeks of my joining the club, and my father died in hospital after a heart attack a few years later. Toastmasters proved a lifeline throughout my grief. I had the comfort of friends to care about me and a creative outlet in which to express my feelings. I was grateful for the gift of being able to speak in public because this empowered me to speak about my great love for my parents at both their funerals. Prior to Toastmasters, I would have been shaking in a corner, too paralyzed by fear to step up to the lectern and do them justice. Though I wobbled at the start giving Dad’s eulogy, I recovered using my training and delivered a tribute speech I still feel good about today.

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The older members sometimes say “the system works” and that’s because it does. The Toastmasters educational program is transformative. It is an honour to guide the terrified newbies who join the club and mentor them through their journey of self development, as they turn up and do the work and find their voices, and develop self confidence, new strengths, and open their wings.

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It was Dr. Ralph Smedley who founded the Toastmasters organisation on March 24, 1905. His brainchild, the idea was to foster potential in others by teaching interpersonal skills, to do with communication, management and leadership in the community, all by teaching the art of public speaking. From humble beginnings in a room at the YMCA, today it is an international speaking organisation with over 352,000 members in 141 countries. Why? Because the system works, it develops individuals into better versions of themselves. I’ll always be grateful to Toastmasters and sing its praises to anyone who will listen. You haven’t joined yet? Why not?

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Talk to you later.

Keep creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“Whatever your grade or position, if you know how and when to speak, and when to remain silent, your chances of success are proportionately increased.” ~ Dr. Ralph C. Smedley

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This week, at Toastmasters, I attempted to pull off my first ever roast. ‘A roast’ is a speech that relies on wit, humour and satire to ‘poke fun at a person in a good natured way.’ Can you imagine? I can’t think of too many speeches that would be harder to pull off. However, in the Toastmasters system, you choose your projects and most come in bundled sets, so when you take on a certain manual or a pathway you take on every challenge in that bundle. I chose Special Occasions Speeches (from the old paper manual system), not realizing that one of the projects therein was “The Roast.”

I have a terrible track record with humorous speeches, having bombed abominably once or twice.

In conversation, I can raise a laugh, but I still don’t know how to use humour in speeches. In my nervousness, I over do it. I’m just not that funny. So, I avoid the humorous speech contests each year like the plague, and I never attempt comedic speeches. I know my strengths and humour is definitely not one of them.

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When I discovered there was a roast among the projects in Special Occasions, I was quaking in my boots. I wanted to put the manual back, but it was too late, I was already three speeches in. So I’m going to tell you a little secret. I repeated project 2, five times over a period of five months. I couldn’t bear to do the roast. So I put it off by repeating the project I preferred, “Speaking in Praise.”  At first, I wondered if I could get away with it, because surely people would notice I was doing the same project.

Strangest thing. No one noticed.

I spoke in praise of Charlotte’s Stitches, I spoke in praise of my father, I spoke in praise of Korucare New Zealand, I spoke in praise of Sam (my son with Downs’ syndrome), and I spoke in praise of my grandmother. No one said a thing!

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I could have gotten away with it longer probably, but I made the mistake of mentioning to one of the other members, last week, that I was scared of doing the roast.

He said, “You can’t not do a project just because it’s hard. You’ve got to do it anyway!”

The gauntlet was down. I was determined I was going to write a funny speech. I would ‘do it anyway!’ I determined that this week, I would roast our most senior member and club treasurer, at our Toastmasters’ meeting.

Did I roast him? Yes. Was I successful? I don’t know. I can’t seem to do funny conversational. I go immediately to clown and cartoon, and it often falls flat. My first two jokes didn’t get much of a response and I already had that sinking feeling. Various audience members told me afterwards they enjoyed my roast. I did raise a few laughs, but not anywhere near what I’d expected. Now, I know for sure that I’m not that funny.

However, what I do know is that I am brave.

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I am so proud of myself for doing that roast.

That’s a good feeling to have about yourself.

I don’t like to stretch my neck out any more than the next person, but I notice that when I do take a risk sometimes it reaps dividends. So, accepting a challenge is worth the effort, once in a while.

I was petrified of trying to roast someone. I did not want to do it. I would have procrastinated forever, if I hadn’t been hustled out of my cave. Roasting someone was something so far out of my comfort zone it was a new frontier. Yet, I accepted the challenge and went and did it anyway. Sure it wasn’t perfect. Sure, I didn’t captivate everyone, one guy looked down the whole time I was speaking and didn’t look up till the end. Sure, I didn’t bring the house down. But I did go out on the “stage,” into the bright lights, and deliver a bloody roast.

I think that’s pretty cool.

What about you? Have you ever thought of joining Toastmasters, or some other club? Have you stepped outside of your comfort zones lately?

Yvette Carol 2

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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Failures I consider valuable negative information – Dr. Goddard

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“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche.

I missed the mark with a speech at Toastmasters this week. With a topic I knew well: writing, and raising children. I flubbed a few lines, got some words mixed up and forgot a key point, and felt it was an overall disappointment.

It was another one of those notches in the belt of life’s defeats, which turn into teachable moments only in hindsight.

I knew I hadn’t hit the mark even at the time I was speaking. I could feel the audience’s attention slipping. I didn’t have them in the palm of my hand, the way I do when I’m in the zone.

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After the meeting, instead of shaking my hand warmly, there was some avoidance. I came home and watched the video back. I saw that I started the speech with a sigh, which is never a good thing. I used the wrong word in a couple of places without realizing, and that had changed the message. I waffled on at the end. It was a disaster. No wonder people avoided me afterwards.

I felt disappointed. “You picked the wrong word,” I said to myself, watching the footage. “If only you’d stopped and taken a silent breath.”

I berated myself on and off for about half a day. After that, it wasn’t that I felt bad, I felt nothing. I was blank.

Which brings me to the point, how useful are the things we say to ourselves? What effect are they having on our lives?

In my case, I went to that giant therapist in the sky, Facebook, and shared via status update.

Normally, my posts about stuff on Facebook might garner six or so “likes.” When I went back online the next day, I saw that my post had 22 “likes” and there were comments: beautiful, heart-felt encouragement.

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Friends had taken the time to remind me of the steps forward I have taken. The words melted my heart. I sat there and wept into my keyboard like a baby, until my tea went cold.

Later, I dried my face, made a fresh cup of tea, and I could feel the difference within. The veil had lifted. The blankness was gone. I could feel again, I could smile again. I was free. Wow. What a revelation about the power of the right words and a good cry. Thank you again to all my beloved friends.

By sharing with others, by caring about others, and by practising the mindfulness of saying loving words to ourselves and those around us, all manner of ills in this world can be healed.

The right words at the right time can be good medicine.

I remember back in the day, about twenty-five years ago, I read a small, life-changing book called “Creative Visualization” by Australian author, Shakti Gawain. https://www.amazon.com/Creative-Visualization-Meditations-Imagination-Create/dp/1511326948

That was when I became introduced to this idea of the manifestational juju of the words we say to ourselves. I learned we can radically alter the experience we have by changing our inner dialogue. Gawain taught about the benefits of saying positive statements to ourselves, which she called daily affirmations.

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In essence: we can aid and sustain ourselves by saying the right words.

Here’s a good example. About the FB post on the “failure” of my recent speech, friend Sharon Hinckley said wisely, “Could you lose those ‘high expectations’ and just go out there and have fun?” She altered my perception and let in the light by using the right words.

The right phrase can alter the atmosphere of our lives and elevate the tone.

The truth is, our inner dialogue is always going on anyway, and so we might as well use it to our advantage. The first step is to come up with some phrases which work for us. The next step is to remember to say them to ourselves a few times daily. *Tip: try making it part of the daily routine so they end up becoming automatic. *Tip Two: try thinking of three things each day you are grateful for.

To return to the question I started with: how useful are the things we say to ourselves? They’re potentially life-changing, if we use the right words. What we say matters.

Have you ever tried doing affirmations? Do share…

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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“To transform your life, you must find a way of being grateful for what you have now.” ~ Rhonda Byrne

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Do you remember the Humorous Speech Contest I’ve been sweating over? I took one in the eye. I didn’t even place.

It’s a process, losing.

I think I must have gotten full of myself there for a while. You see, even though public speaking was my number one fear in life until a year ago, through tackling it, I seem to have somehow discovered an unknown resource. People keep telling me I’m good at it. I keep saying, ‘Am I?’ with a dazed look. I really have been genuinely moved and pleasantly surprised. In fact, the joy of back-patting has become so addictive, I’m a Toastmasters convert.

5 Speeches Award, 2016

I’ve always felt alien to everyone else, and that my particular gifts with writing, creating, and communicating were burdens for other people in some fashion. My entire life I’ve been told I’m too loud, and that I’m too expressive. Now, these very traits which have been my afflictions have undergone a process of alchemical transmogrification. They are now revealed as perfectly suited for public speaking. I can easily pitch my voice to fill a room and I can bring a story to life. I can also write a speech.

Last year, I won the first round of the speech competition and came second at the District level. Secretly, I wanted to win the District Contest as well.

It was like I was competing against myself. I poured weeks into figuring out how to write humor, Funny, Me? And Funny, Me! And, I didn’t just pay lip service, I utilised all the advice given. I followed every lead. I watched comedians, and other humorous speakers, I read humorist blogs. I wrote my speech and rewrote it a dozen times. Finally, about a week prior to the competition, I started trying to learn the material. I practised, rehearsed, refined, and edited my speech, ‘You Call That Progress?

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Wednesday, 31st was the day of the Contest. There were five of us in the fray. It’s a strange animal, the contest. Some people thrive in those situations, others don’t. When you’re faced with judges holding pens at the ready, as they frown over their scoring sheets, the words start to get jumbled in your head.

While I’d imagined a year of my attending Toastmasters meetings would have helped banish the nerves, no, it was just as terrifying as the first time. I found the speech I knew so well at home suddenly became slippery and ethereal, slithering through my fingers. The same thing happened last year, when I went blank in a couple of spots. I did recover and carry on, but it had rattled my composure. And any humorist worth their salt will tell you, it’s all in the attitude. Once you lose the swagger, you’re lost.

The person who won deserved to win. Her speech was amazing. What got me was that the lovely friend who came second, put his speech together in 10 minutes! Agh, the injustice.

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I went through a real journey after the Contest. First, I came home and sobbed a bit. Then, I watched the video of my dress rehearsal which I’d put on my YouTube channel, and it made me laugh. I watched it a few times and the laughter made me feel better.

Then, I realize how pleased I was for the winner. She’d said to us in the kitchen beforehand, that this was really far outside her comfort zone. She’d challenged herself to do it because it was difficult. I felt that kinship that we co-contestants feel, and there really is a sisterhood there, because we know how hard it is to do. We admire each other. The respect is earned. So, I made contact with congratulations and posted flowers on her FB page. It really felt good. I had come full circle.

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After sharing the news of my defeat with friends on Facebook, one replied, “Maybe sometimes we try too hard?” Burn!

I know I tried too hard. That’s one of the things I need to learn is, how to relax while I strive.

One of the other losing competitors and I consoled one another as we left the club on Wednesday. I said, “At least we competed.” She said, “Yes, it’s always good for the experience.” What a brilliant way of putting it. We did it. Yeah. Go, us.

As L. Frank Baum once said, ‘The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid.’ What have you done lately despite being afraid?

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating

Yvette K. Carol

“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself,” E.E. Cummings

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC08zS1p4-H-y_xmMAuL41Eg

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The thing about writing humour is that everyone has a different sense of humour.

I remember having a conversation about this with a friend. She said, their family had invited the son’s new girlfriend over, to join them for dinner. After the meal, they thought they’d watch their favourite show, with the idea that laughing would bring them all together. So they put on a comedy which they knew was side-splitting, ‘Little Britain.’ My friend said that she, her husband and sons were rolling off the couch, nearly crying with laughter, while the son’s girlfriend never cracked a smile throughout the whole show.

Humour is personal and deadly serious.

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I promised readers I’d share my journey towards the holy grail of engaging the funny bone. Let’s say, it’s been an interesting process, so far.

In my last post, there was a great moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth about having to write the material for my humorous speech.

I got some helpful pointers from a number of responders. With regards my first idea for material, which had been my mother and her dementia, a friend on social media – the wonderfully gregarious Lord David Prosser  – countered with a great comment.

David Prosser

‘If you get the chance to read the Deric Longden story Lost for Words or get the chance to see the TV film that was made starring Dame Thora Hird you’ll see that the subject of dementia can be dealt with i a funny, charming yet sympathetic way. Because we see the humour in a situation doesn’t make us uncaring towards people suffering that illness, it just means the particular situation was funny.’ ~ David Prosser

Thanks, David.

However, for the upcoming Speech Contest, I decided to go with the same topic I covered last year, something I know intimately – being a parent. Since then, after many anxious, feeble attempts at writing it, and wringing of hands, I began to despair I’d ever be able to write anything good ever again!

Bun Karyudo

I watched footage of award-winning humorous speaker, Jeanne Robertson http://www.jeannerobertson.com (thanks for the link, Jenny), and read a post or two by my friends who write funny blogs, like the self-confessed undie chronicler, Jenny Hansen, https://jennyhansenauthor.wordpress.com/ and sweet blogger, Bun Karyudo, whose excellent “Lovingly Hand-Crafted Humor Blog” is always good for a chuckle.

I thought Bun’s recent post, Teaching My Son to Swim? It’s Just Not Going to Happen https://bunkaryudo.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/teaching-my-son-to-swim-its-just-not-going-to-happen/ was hilarious.

Here’s an excerpt, where his wife is convincing a reluctant Bun why he ought to teach their son to swim:

“When someone makes a promise, isn’t it only right to keep it.”

When someone made a promise, I nodded, it was only right to keep it.

“Right then,” she said, “I promised our son you’d teach him to swim. How can you possibly refuse?”

Bun, however, has a natural gift for turn of comedic phrase. I don’t!

Still stumped, I gazed upon these people’s brilliance and felt unable to produce anything of credibly feather-tickling value myself.

I’ve been having the same conversation everywhere I’ve gone, what makes comedy?

This week, a friend asked me, ‘Look at this way, what makes you laugh?’

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Terrific question. I can tell you, one-liners leave me cold; I prefer it when there’s a storyline, and the humour comes through what happens.

A light went on! I realized that my earlier attempts had failed, because each was basically a series of one-liners strung together.

Yesterday, my two youngest sons left to spend the weekend with their father. Last night, I relaxed and listened to some music, as you do. I was thinking about how different childhood is for kids these days, compared to say, when I was young, or say my parents, or their parents before them.

A few words wafted by me on the wind. If you consider that my grandmother was born in 1901. She lived in the “pre-nuclear age…” I thought, Gran had perfect recall, while I have trouble remembering something from one room of the house to the other… that’s a funny idea! Lucky for me, I was fleet of foot and captured the words before they flew on by.

I had the start to my speech.

The concept of comparing childhoods in our family, from my gran through to my youngest son, gave me the all-important narrative I needed. The rest flowed from there.

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Here’s an example of the content as it stands so far: ‘They say there are more crazy people on the streets these days than ever before, we parents get warnings to keep an eye on our children’s whereabouts at all times. I know my children’s whereabouts – couch one and couch two in our living room, where they can get the wifi.’

Therefore, the raw material for my humorous speech has finally been produced. A labour of love, no less.

Now, I just need to figure out how to deliver the speech to achieve maximum impact. Wish me luck! Any tips for comedic timing/inflection that works,  please let me know! There’s a chocolate fish in it for you (nah, just kidding).

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Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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It is impossible to look cool while picking up a Frisbee. ~ Peter Kay

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At this same time last year, the president of our Toastmasters club asked us, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” Out of the twenty-five people in the room, four people put their hands up. I put my hand up, too. I’d only joined Toastmasters the month before and I had no idea what was involved. Yet, a number of people I liked and admired, had put themselves forward, and I felt it was only right I should join them.

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In my mind, I imagined we’d be delivering our talks, as we did each week, to one another, in the usual club setting. Have a laugh. A cup of tea. End of.

Little did I expect what was to follow.

When I trucked up to our club rooms to give my speech in the contest that day, I was surprised to find the room was full of people. And at least half the people there were strangers. This is always a big step up for any aspiring public speaker. That moment when you go beyond the friendly faces and atmosphere of your club setting.

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My reaction was to go into panic and meltdown.

No one had warned me. I had had no idea that this contest was on a big scale. Turns out there are four big contests in Toastmasters a year, and all of them work to funnel the best speakers in the country to the top of the pile. At the end of each year, the best speaker from New Zealand goes over to the Annual International Convention, this year being held in Washington D.C, to compete against the best speakers from all around the world. Like, it literally couldn’t be any bigger. So, for the club level contests, there have to be guest judges, a contest chairperson, tally counters, the works.

Now, I’m not a competitive person. I never have been. I only entered thinking I was participating in something a bit fun within my club. Once the event was under way, I was terrified, thinking about the scope. I was waaaaay out of my comfort zone. But, it was too late to back out.

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Long story, short, I ended up winning. The moment they called my name, I thought, Oh, crabapples, now I’m going to have to compete at the next level. I tell you, there is no way I would have put myself forward into that position, if it hadn’t happened completely by accident like that. So it was a comedy of errors to get to that point. Like a row of dominoes.

Anyway, on the night of the next level of the competition, my nerves were off the charts. It was the only time I’d experienced a panic attack. When I started speaking, my nerves got worse and worse rather than weaker and weaker. So much so, that I ground to a halt twice during the delivery and went completely blank. I felt I’d flubbed it. But I won second place.

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I came home, shakily, needing a week to recover. I had never been more afraid. I had never felt more exposed. I had never felt more adrenalin. I said to myself that was one of the worst experiences of my entire life. I’m never doing that again!

This week, at our club meeting, El Presidente asked, “Who wants to enter the Humorous Speech Contest?” and I found myself putting my hand up. I know it’s going to be utterly terrifying. I know I’m going to want to kill myself for putting myself in that situation, on the night of the competition. Yet, I put my hand up.

Why?

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Because it’s like I’m in competition with myself: I have to do better than I did last time. Not to come first. But to deliver the whole speech and not to freeze up when I felt so previously stricken.

Yeah, that’s the crux of it: I want to do better than that.

It’s a personal challenge. I’ll let you know how I go.

Which personal challenge are you the most proud of overcoming?

Yvette Carol 2

Talk to you later.

Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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I think my securities far outweigh my insecurities. I am not nearly as afraid of myself and my imagination as I used to be. ~ Billy Connolly

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My grandmother was a fairly formidable creature. Nan Hefferan was the only one of our English relatives who made the move to New Zealand. “And, she made the move at the age of 79!” as my father is fond of saying.

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Gran lived here for the last nine years of her life. For most of that time, I lived five minutes’ walk away. She was the only grandparent I had the privilege of getting to know.

I’ve always revered grandparents, I guess because I grew up far away from mine.

Where my older sisters had grown to the ages of seven and five in England, my brother and I were born here, and our only relationship with our grandparents had come through letters, and parcels at Christmas.

In person, Gran lived up to my every hope of what a grandmother would be. She was a truly exceptional, wonderful woman, who had achieved a great deal in her life.

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I enjoyed getting to know her.

Born in 1901, she had lived through the last World War. Her memories were revelations of another era, and therefore, truly fascinating.

We had lunch every week, on a Tuesday, just her and I.

Mostly, she would talk. I would listen to all of the family stories I had never heard before. Through this precious human conduit to our family’s heritage, I gained glimpses of a different life. Gran told of a lost world: that of the past, and all the amazing things that had happened there, to members of our own family, our shared ancestors.

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Being a writer, I had to ask questions. I wanted to know more: what else happened? Why? When? All she needed was a gentle prompt.

She had what they call, a “pre-nuclear age” memory, i.e. she could remember facts, figures, dates, and names with precision.

To my creative mind, her details painted pictures.

Gran was also a great cook. On every visit, there would be some humble, great lunch. Meat pie she’d made herself, right down to the pastry, served with gravy, potatoes, peas and carrots. Or her famous cheese and onion pie, so heavenly, her homemade short savoury pastry crust was divine. She would always make the dessert herself, a cake, or a sponge, or a steamed pudding. There would be custard or cream. And tea served in a teapot on a tray with china tea cups with matching saucers.

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She liked to feed me until I couldn’t eat another bite.

After our delicious lunch, we’d take our tea and shortbreads, or chocolates, over to the comfortable chairs in the living room. There, Gran would start to talk, about her life and the stories of her parents.

She would talk all afternoon, and I would listen.

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I could not leave my grandmother’s home without her saying something significant. It was to me, as if she lived so close to the veil, that any moment could be her last and she lived with that truth. No moment was to be wasted.

After giving her that final hug, I’d walk towards her front door, and Gran would say, “Remember, my dear, reach for that star and you will get there.”

Or,

“Remember, my dear, whatever happens in your life, if you look for the silver lining, you will find it.”

I’d walk home with those parting words. I took that sustaining, empowered, heartening feeling away from every visit.

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I’ll be ever grateful to Gran, for having the courage after her husband died, to move to the other side of the world. She wanted to be with the family for the last part of her life. Our lives were enriched.

This week, I’ll be delivering my tenth speech for Toastmasters. The project title I had to tackle this time round was “Research your Topic.”

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I decided to talk about my grandmother’s contribution to the war effort.

Gran inspires me to be a better person. It does bother me, that all the wonderful things she achieved during WWII boil down to a yellow newspaper clipping, which lives in a drawer at my father’s house. So, part of the theme for my speech, is to bring light to the lack of the female voice in history.

Have you ever asked your mother or your grandmother what she did in her life? The least we can do is to ask the questions and wait for the answers. Our daughters and granddaughters may ask us for the stories one day.

There is so much more to say. Talk to you later.

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Keep on Creating!

Yvette K. Carol

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What you do when you don’t have to, determines what you’ll be when you can no longer help it. ~ Rudyard Kipling

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