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– Mistakes are the portal of discovery! James Joyce

I gave a speech at a local Toastmasters club yesterday. My assignment was to give a demonstration talk, and I chose to talk about how much sugar we are consuming and its harm to us. I wanted this to be an awesome talk…I drafted what I thought was a good script about an important topic … practiced it … and assembled a nice array of sugar-containing items from my kitchen to serve as my demo props.

The morning of the speech I changed my mind and re-crafted parts of the script … inserting some new humorous lines and cut down on the technical jargon (that, nonetheless, as a scientist I dearly wanted to teach the group.) When I delivered the talk, all went pretty well … I was comfortable in front of the club and remembered most of my lines. I did note I threw in some extra comments that came to me in “real time.” However, these re-works of my talk and the new comments added time to my talk, and I exceeded the 7 min limit by almost 2 full minutes … a no-no for any good speaker!

During the round robin critique, the club members gave me some praise for the topic and the way I delivered the speech. Then, they also gently explained my demo was not very powerful. I didn’t really add to my talk with the things I showed them. The demo failed to achieve its main purpose…ugh! The talk, they said, could have been much more meaningful to them if I had considered the sugar in each of my props and how much we (i.e., they!) are consuming.

From this “failed” speech I have a better understanding of how and when to use props to enhance my message. I look forward to my next opportunity to fail … and get better!