Those who are not familiar with the St. Mary’s speech team might not be aware of the relationship SMIS has with the Toastmasters organization. Before explaining the significance of the Toastmasters volunteers, I will explain how the speech team functions.
Speakers are sorted into one of 11 speech categories. These include Dramatic Duo, Poetry Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Original Persuasive, Storytelling, Original Informative, Extemporaneous Speaking and Multiple Readings. To cover a wide scope of genres, all the categories have their own criteria such as length and tone that the speaker’s performances must suit. The team consists of 18 members, and once they are chosen, they undergo weekly practices with their designated coaches. Other than this, the speakers have lots of control over their speeches, and are even able to write their own scripts if they wish to. This degree of freedom allows lots of room for the speakers to tweak and improve their speeches, but not following the guidelines closely enough will result in a disqualification.
Approximately two weeks before the speech competitions, the Toastmasters come out to SMIS to judge the students speakers. The Toastmasters organization is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Meetings are held regularly where members will give and criticize speeches amongst themselves with the intention of competing in international professional competitions.
The event at SMIS took place over the span of two hours, in which certified members of the Toastmasters volunteered to coach every speaker on the team. This event is not held at any other school in our region, which gives St.Mary’s a competitive edge in the speech contest. Four or five speakers are sorted into rooms along with five Toastmasters. The speakers performed for them, who provided feedback in return. This spanned from body language, tone of voice, intonation, content, audience engagement, and enunciation.
“It was toasterific.” says Coach Stovall. “It’s often shocking for the speakers, because it disrupts their usual routine by introducing an adult audience. For a lot of performers, it was/is the point at which they realize just how much more practice they need.”
St.Marys came in first place at this year’s speech contest. While this victory is attributable to the immense effort of both speakers and coaches, it would be disingenuous not to specifically acknowledge the effectiveness of the Toastmasters volunteers.
Article by Gio Cannegieter