Public Speaking Highlights and Lowlights

Everyone has had a speech that didn’t go as planned — whether the projector burnt out, a team member didn’t show up or you nervously fumbled through thoughts.

I thought, there’s no better way to start out "Speech Week" than with a highlight of my own and a lowlight that I witnessed.

Here are a few stories from my life that I stick out.

Scenario: Public speaking class at the University of Minnesota.

Assignment: Deliver a  narrative speech about a personal triumph.

My Plan: My plan was to deliver a speech about hitting a game winning three pointer. However, a classmate went right two people before and she delivered almost the same speech with more emotion. It was a much better story, with more elements at work.

The Adjustment: After she finished her speech, I quickly asked the instructor if I could change my topic and story. He obliged. Thankfully.

The delivery: On a whim, I told a story about running a 10K marathon with a few friends after we’d drank too much the night before.

The climax came right at the of story with a photo finish, having a friend beat me by one second, only to have him vomit within feet of the finish line.

The audience loved it.

No visual aids. No note cards. No practice. No one in the audience knew. I wish I had that speech taped.

With every good speech, there are the not-so-good speeches.


Scenario: Best man’s speech at a wedding.

Assignment: Send a brother off to marriage in front of 150-200 people.

The delivery: The best man was a little too intoxicated to know where the fine lines of humor and class intersect. While trying to be humorous, the best man brought out regrettable moments in his brother’s life, including such fine points as pornography and make-up sex.

Needless to say, I, along with everyone else in the crowd, went silent.

Once he finished, the maid of honor stepped up and gave a (roughly) two minute speech with generic, kind words that garnered a big applause, because the bar was set so low prior to her speech.

If you want to see another lowlight in public speaking/broadcasting history, check out Brian Collins. 

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