The Art of Speaking  

One hell of a story

By Wade Paterson

Have you ever experienced an incredibly embarrassing moment?

Good! You probably have one hell of a story.

Shortly after joining Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club in November 2015, I realized the power of injecting humour into my speeches.

As an audience member, you don’t always know what to expect when a speaker takes the stage. If the speaker can make you laugh, you instantly become more relaxed and you’re more receptive to the message being delivered.

As a speaker, you don’t always know how the audience will react to the content you are presenting. If you’re able to trigger laughter from the crowd, you gain confidence.

This epiphany came to me toward the latter half of working through my Competent Communicator manual (the first speaking guide new Toastmasters work on when they join a club).

I had completed six speeches, and five of those speeches were created with the intention of making the audience laugh. Many also featured incredibly embarrassing moments from my life.

Any humour is great, but self-deprecating humour is one of the most effective tools a speaker can leverage. Audiences respect someone who can laugh at themselves, and this type of humour reduces your risk of offending others because you are taking the brunt of the joke.

The audience will often put themselves in your shoes, and, in some cases, even sympathize with your situation.

In other words, an embarrassing story has the power to shift an apprehensive crowd into an audience that is rooting for you to succeed.

How do I know this?

In October 2016, I entered the Kelowna AM Toastmasters Humorous Speech competition. I decided to dust off a story from my high school days, which I’d hidden deep within the cavern of my mind.

The story — which featured a blindfolded kiss and a lot of kids pointing and laughing — was a huge hit. The audience didn’t just laugh: they howled. The more embarrassing the details; the more the audience reacted to the speech.

I won that speech contest, as well as the area humorous speech contest, and then continued to use adaptations of my embarrassing high school story during a handful of speech opportunities that came my way through my senior communications co-ordinator job with RE/MAX of Western Canada.

Best of all, when you begin to see embarrassment as a positive rather than a negative, you are filled with a sense of empowerment.

All of a sudden, the next time you’re in a traumatically embarrassing situation, you can think to yourself: “Hmm… this sucks right now, but it’s going to make for one hell of a story.”

And if that’s the way you approach embarrassment, you quickly realize, there’s really nothing at all to be embarrassed about.

Wade Paterson, senior communications co-ordinator with RE/MAX of Western Canada, is the sergeant at arms at Kelowna AM Toastmasters.


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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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