#3 – Get to the Point – “Terry Toaster at the Library”

Other titles for this speech were: “The Library is for Speakers” and “Using the Library to Write Your Speech”.

The goals of this speech

Last night, I completed my third speech project for Toastmasters. It’s called the “Get to the Point” – in it, the speaker is to work on giving his speech a purpose. There are two types of purposes, a general purpose(To inform, persuade, entertain, or inspire) and a specific purpose (a sentence-long statement using powerful words to verbalize your speech’s mission). More information about the “Get to the Point” speech is available from these two sites:

  • Six Minutes – Features a long article about the third speech project with many examples.
  • Speaking Life – has a nice article about ‘getting to the point’. I especially like that he mentioned the audience. Though I’d never use the quote at the end as an opening unless my speech was mercilessly poking fun at the ‘we only use 10% of our brain’ myth.


As I mentioned previously, I’m trying different approaches at speech preparation. This time, all I used was my head. I did not write the speech down anywhere, nor did I write notes, nor any written outline. Instead, I shifted all speech-preparation activity between my ears. In a lot of ways, preparing like this was liberating; I didn’t have to be at a desk with a computer, no need for writing utensils or paper; no tools were necessary. It was pleasant to be able to work on my speech in the shower, while riding the bus/metro or driving, while waiting in line – every moment where I had distraction-free thinking time was potentially speech-making time.

I’ll admit, it was a little frightening. At times I felt like I was flying through the air: an acrobat without a net – that everything depended on me. And in a way it did, but not as much as one would think. The truth is, that since it was all created in my head, and repeated every time I thought about the speech, things seemed to stick. Here’s the process I went through:

1) I thought up the two purposes of my speech. My general purposes were to inform and persuade. My specific purpose was to convince my audience that library services were for them. I was pitching the library as a tool for Toastmasters.

2) I was sitting on my patio and decided to start composing the speech. Relatively quickly, I had a basic introduction – which was streamlined as the rest of my speech was composed. That’s another thing about making it up between the ears, changes are so easy; no need to cross things out or reprint pages, just say it differently!

3) I was taking a shower a few days later and created an outline for the speech. I used the “chronological” form – which made remembering quite easy. One thing necessarily follows another.

4) After I had my outline, I began to fill in spaces; mentally drafting lines I thought would be interesting, but never truly hammering down a whole speech. That would be done while I was giving the thing.

5) The day before I was to give the speech, I began to mull over a conclusion. A few hours before I gave the speech, I found the type of quote I was looking for, and there it was. My speech was ready.

I did practice the speech twice out loud. Once(between steps 4 and 5) , I improvised it based on the mental outline to my beautiful AB, mentally noting problem spots. And once(after step 5) a few hours before I had to give my speech, I rehearsed it once to myself.

Before the speech

This time I hardly felt nervous at all. Since I didn’t really have anything to remember, there was nothing to worry about forgetting. I arrived at the meeting place early, had dinner and read a little bit. Once the meeting started I gave the Invocation/lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and participated in Table Topics(the theme was the fire at Universal Studios and I was asked to speak on Universal Citywalk, a place I generally dislike) these helped loosen up my speaking muscle. When I was called on to speak, I was rearing to go.

The speech itself: Terry Toaster at the Library

The library is the central hub of our information society. Through its spectrum of holdings which cover a broad range of mediums that engage the majority of our senses, the library binds us to the past, while, at the same time, leading into the future. Writer Susan Sontag once gave a speech entitled “Literature is Freedom,” I’d like to amend that by saying “Libraries are Freedom”; but I don’t mean in the sense of no-cost (even though they are), I mean first in the first amendment, freedom of speech sense, and two in the sense that “information wants to be free” – and there it is, on the library stacks, free!

But giving a rhetorical defense of libraries is easy; everyone loves libraries. The better way to go about pitching libraries to you was in a utilitarian manner: how are libraries useful to Toastmasters; how can the library make you a better speaker. For this I’d like to add an imaginary member to the distinguished LA3, named Terry Toaster. Say it’s Tuesday morning, and last night Terry gave a speech. Through the feedback given to him by his evaluator, other members and his own thoughts, he has developed some sticking points to improve on. Now, let’s pluck him up, and drop him into the library.

Terry has read about his sticking points in the Toastmasters manual, but he wants more. So he’s goes over to his “research assistant” (the librarian) and asks for the books on public speaking – around 808 in the Dewey decimal system, the librarian tells him. He finds the place and is AMAZED to find a whole row of books dedicated to public speaking. He takes a few to a table and browses them, soon finding the topics he needs, and making notes on how to improve for the future.

But wait, Terry thinks, I’ve signed up for another speech in two weeks and I don’t even have a topic! Terry should have no fear, and do as I do: go to the children’s sections and explore. The children’s section is the perfect place to select topics because the books are thin and cover many subject areas. He can quickly go through the health section, or the biographies and it’s quick since the books only take 10-15 minutes to get through. So after some searching, Terry selects a topic, Herbal Medicine.

Now he must write a speech except he knows nothing about herbal medicine. Once again, he walks over to the librarian and submits his question. Soon, through advanced searching methods, the librarian leaves Terry with a tableful of books and database articles. Terry begins to research, and within a few hours, he feels informed enough to begin composing his speech. But how to begin?

Everyone knows that an attention-grabbing opening is the way to go. So Terry walks over to the stacks and pulls down Bartlett’s thick book of quotations, soon he has his opening and the rest of his speech follows. For added flair, Terry uses tips from public speaking books and takes additional guidance from a handbook on rhetoric he comes upon.

Now his speech is written, but there are a few points Terry feels he can iron out, if only he could get onto the internet and do a quick search. Ah! No problem, the library offers free internet access. So Terry reserves a computer, walks over to it and does his research, fixing his speech as needed. Yet, looking at his speech, he realizes he will never be able to practice using the messy draft in front of him. No problem! The library computers have word-processing software, which Terry makes use of, and like magic, he stands in the middle of the library with a crisp, clean speech all ready to go.

Now, we know that the library is quiet place where Terry will not be able to practice his out-loud delivery. That is one thing he’ll have to do elsewhere. But there is still one more benefit the library has for Terry’s future.

Say Terry wants to embark on a career as a public speaker, the library is the perfect place to start. Most libraries have meeting rooms, conference rooms, just for people like Terry. Many librarians will be glad to help a member of the community by allowing him to use their space to offer a free library program. There, Terry can hone a longer presentation on herbal medicine and begin to develop an audience – plus the library provides free advertising!

Throughout this talk, I’ve shown you how the library helps Terry to improve his speaking, to compose his speech, and to launch his speaking career. I’d like to conclude with a quote by poet and former head librarian of the Library of Congress, Archibald MacLiesh, “What is more important in a library than anything else – than everything else – is the fact that it exists.” To that I’d like to add, that simply its existence isn’t enough – if you don’t have a library card, get one – if you do, go use the library. As Terry Toaster has shown you, the library is for speakers!

Thank you.

Afterwards, and for the future

Generally, the feedback for the speech was good. My gestures still need to be toned down, though I think I did better on them than last time. Some people commented that I had too much information in the speech, which made it somewhat confusing — also I went overtime by almost a minute (7:58), which is no good. I must remember to use a few pauses. Also, I stumbled on words which indicates that I should practice more out-loud.

As for preparation, I’m going to keep the all-in-the-head style as part of the arsenal, but I think I’m going to write out the speeches close to speaking time. If only to streamline and to make posting it here easier. I had to type up the speech above completely from memory and couldn’t resist making a few adjustments.

Overall, I’m happy with the way this speech went. And am looking forward to improving for the next speech. I already have the topic for the next few times planned; it’s going to be a series. More on it in the future.

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4 Responses to #3 – Get to the Point – “Terry Toaster at the Library”

  1. Ashley says:

    One of my favorite phrases from this post: “making it up between the ears.”

    “Terry Toaster” is also clever.

  2. Hillary says:

    You left out the part where Terry Toaster realizes that it’ll take 3-5 days for books to arrive from the central library since the branch TT is at has nothing on the subject. When TT changes the subject to something the branch has listed as “not checked out” in the catalog, TT discovers it isn’t on the shelf. The librarian takes TT to the Teen section to see if it’s there (or maybe just grunts and points to the teen section) but after checking the Large Type Section, the Russian Section, and the Children’s Section (and stepping over several sleeping and less-than-perfumey patrons), finally agrees that the book must have been stolen. TT decides on some fresh air and a bathroom break, but realizes that might take some time since several people are bathing in the bathroom. TT doesn’t give up easily though and picks a book that is on the shelf. At home, TT opens the book to the page needed: It’s been cut out with a razor blade. TT has learned a lot. About the subject of libraries. With TT’s first-hand knowledge of the subject, the speech is a hit.

  3. trev says:

    I didn’t know you were partaking in Toastmasters! Awesome!

  4. Pingback: #4 - How to Say It - “Barren Words and Metaphors” « life in oleg

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