Ever hear of Toastmasters? It's an international organization (http://www.toastmasters.org/) that let's local club members develop speaking skills by giving them a structure in which to support each other in that regard. That's my definition anyway. Read the website for a formal definition and extra resources.
Membership comes with a 'Competent Communicator' workbook that steps the new speaker through ten projects, each a different speech, that focus on specific speaking skills. The first lesson is called the ice breaker, because the simple focus is just to get in front of people and speak. The topic is about yourself, something you should be very familiar with.
The second speech is about organizing your speech into sections, such as having a distinct Opening, Body, and Conclusion, with the Body consisting of directly related assertions and supporting material. I have 5-7 minutes to deliver this speech. My club lets me go over the time limit a little, but discourages me from doing so. In an official Toastmasters speaking contest, I would automatically be disqualified if I went over 7 minutes. My total speech time was clocked at about 6 minutes and 10 seconds during practice and came in at about 6 minutes and 20 seconds during our club meeting. (It's always a little longer than I expect.)
Here is the entirety of my speech written out for your edification, entertainment, and education. I hope the theme question inspires you, which is the real reason I decided to post this speech. As usual, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment. Thanks!
Speech #2 “The Wake-up Call” – 5 to 7 minutes
A. Opening – 1 minute
Some time ago, I checked into a hotel, got settled in my room, and called the front desk for a wake-up call at 6am. The next morning at 6am the phone rang. I figured it was my wake-up call, but I answered it anyway out of habit. It was my wake-up call alright. After I said, “Hello,” the voice on the other end asked, “What are you doing with your life?”
Actually, someone really did ask me a question that was truly my wake-up call. This question came years ago from a friend I met at a Bible study that I attended, and it continues to challenge my spiritual growth to this day. That question was, as I asked myself, “Why I you believe what I believe?” I would like to challenge you with the very same question in hopes that it invigorates your personal growth. Why do you believe what you believe?
B. Body – 4 to 5 minutes
The great ancient philosopher Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I don’t think I’d go that far, but there’s certainly more to life than simply increasing its speed or complexity.
For me, examining my life meant that I needed to discover the real reasons why I did things. I realized that most of my actions were based upon what I believed to be true. But why did I believe those things?
In that respect, are you examining your own life? Have you even thought of examining your own life?
Upon examination, you may discover, just like I did, that you have long believed, acted on, and depended on things that you only assumed to be true. Are you, like most of us, susceptible to ‘herd-mentality’ or ‘group-think’ and blindly following the traditions or habits of others? Perhaps, it’s more likely than you think.
How much of what you believe is based on previous generations of family , and yet you’ve never asked, “Why do we do that?” or seriously sought out an answer? Are your beliefs based on the beliefs of a culture that you’re associated with, no matter how shallow that association? Do you follow the ebb and flow of popular fads, the customs of your society, or even scientific progress, without even asking why?
How many people here believed in the Tooth Fairy? Did it ever occur to you at that time to ask why you believe in the Tooth Fairy? No, of course not! Your own parents may have just been carrying on a cute tradition from previous years. Yet, didn’t your actions and attitudes change when you no longer believed?
Well, life is no Tooth Fairy. But I’m sure, just like me, there are actions and habits you want to change.
It made sense to me that life was about much more than just working, playing, eating, sleeping, and pooping. More important than recognizing what I believed, was understanding why I believed it.
What beliefs do you want to strengthen, such as firmly understanding just how precious and beautiful you really are? Or, what beliefs do you want to weaken, such as a fear of failure, or even just the inability to be truly content with where you are? If you want to change, and not everyone does, then pay real close attention to the origin of your beliefs.
No matter where you are in life, there’s always room to grow, and that’s a good thing! Your journey through life could become more, maybe a lot more, wonderful, amazing, rewarding, and genuinely soul-satisfying. Perhaps, your life itself could have more life in it! Is the examined life worth that?
Let’s make it a positive statement. Instead of saying, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” let’s say, “the examined life leads to abundant living.” Personally, I believe in Jesus Christ who said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly,” and “Out of their hearts will flow rivers of living water.”
To me, those are beautiful thoughts and beliefs to hold onto tightly that have gone through the scrutiny of self-examination. I know why I believe those things. The question is, “Why do you believe what you believe?” What do you firmly believe and have no shadow of a doubt as to why you believe it? What beliefs do you truly own?
A. Conclusion – 30 seconds
Make my wake-up call your wake-up call, and answer it when it rings. Ask yourself, and seek earnestly and often, to discover why you believe what you believe. The answers might not only surprise you, but delight you as well.