Thursday, April 19, 2012

Recite It to the Cat

This is an account Mom wrote for a class in 1993, about preparing for a speech. In it, she goes through all the steps she went through to put a speech together for a class and then give it.

One of those steps, Mom wrote, was recite it to the cat. The photo is of Mom in 2001 in her sewing room with Pepe.

When a speech topic is given, I need to turn it over and over in my mind. Before I select a topic, I try to visualize how different topics will work. Sometimes I'm on the road driving to work and suddenly the right combination of ideas start to take shape. The topic appears from several different angles, and think about which of the angles could be worked on and information pursued.

Now I decide what information I need and where to get it. Sometimes this is the hardest part for me. I don't like running around, and driving downtown is dangerous for me. Wondering around a library can be very time-consuming to me, especially when I don't know where anything is and when I do find it, it is usually out of reach. Because of my problems with the library, I try to stick to a lot of topics that I already know, so I can zero in on the books that I want to check on. I gather too much information so I can pick and choose. By combining the things I already know with the bits and pieces which I gathered from books and magazines, I now get myself organized.

I sort all the information either in my mind going to work or if I have actual pieces of paper then I put them into piles. I read and assemble the information. Suddenly I seem to have a beginning. That is very important as the very beginning sets the tone for the entire speech. A good beginning can make someone sit up and take notice, or fall asleep. Just stop and listen to the other speakers. Try and guess the speech content from the beginning. A good beginning could go in several directions, and not until you are further in do you actually see where the speech is going.

I pencil out a rough draft. This is so I can see the direction that it will take. Usually this flows out quite fast. Somehow when you know what you want to say and the point you want to get across, or in other words, the intention of the speech. If all you are looking for is a grade, then your heart is not in it. You will not give a good speech. Many times you have a "mission" or a cause that you particularly are fond of that may lend itself to your speech, this could give the added dimension of excitement and interest in your tone of voice. Remember this when choosing your topic. Also this helps you when it comes to actually reciting the speech. If you are familiar with the topic, it is easier to look at the audience while speaking.

Now that I have myself organized and written out, I recite it aloud. Here is where all the flaws are discovered. Nothing like reading something out loud and finding that it doesn't make any sense. Back to the drawing board and try to make it make sense. This may mean cutting and editing. You may also need to recite it to someone else. When no one else is around, recite it to the cat. Just don't take offense if the cat gets up and walks away. After going over it several times, you may want to time it to see where you need to polish it. Now take some notes from your written copy. Think of these notes as jump starts. This is your organization. You want to keep it in some sort of order. This will help. Now take these notes and try your speech again. Refine your notes. Put them on cards, just a few notes to a card so you can just glance at the card and remember what you are to say.

Never, never, never memorize the speech. It will sound memorized to the audience and just as boring. Pretend that all these people are sitting in your living room and you are telling them about your favorite topic.

I use the note cards and recite the speech aloud again. Try a different animal this time. See if he will listen better, knowing that not all your audience will listen either. Look at the audience as much as possible. Wow, I think I have it down. Each time I rehearse it, it is different. Guess that means it hasn't been memorized. Never seems to come out the same twice. Maybe that is the way it is supposed to be. I sure hope that something comes out tomorrow.

On the day of the speech, I go through a certain ritual, where something that is very comfortable and also I feel good in. For instance, a suit I like and I think it looks good on me. I also try to get my hair to look good. After all, you can't look good unless you feel good. I could never give a speech in a sloppy pair of blue jeans, for instance. When everyone is looking at me, I have to feel good about how I look.

The time comes for me to get up. I take a deep breath and walk to the podium. I need the podium to physically lean on. Suddenly, all my rehearsals go out the window and I speak from memory. Again it doesn't exactly come out the way I had planned. My throat tightens up but I keep speaking glancing on my notes, knowing that I'm not following them. I'm not sure if I'm making sense or not. The speech is over and I return to my place. There is applause, so maybe I got through to someone. Another speech over.

Connie, Oct. 4, 1993

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