My Turn: Advice From Istanbul

Notes from a Toastmasters leader in her land.

By Deniz Senelt

I was first introduced to Toastmasters in 2000, when I was living in New York City. Even though I work as a corporate trainer and coach, which requires me to speak in front of groups for hours at a time, I found that the Toastmasters experience still benefitted me tremendously. It was a great challenge to have to deliver your message in seven minutes as opposed to three hours!

But when I moved back to my native Istanbul, Turkey, no Toastmasters clubs existed. So I started to search out other people who shared the goal of wanting to improve themselves through public speaking. Finally, in March 2007, a group of us chartered the first Toastmasters club in Istanbul – and it keeps growing stronger all the time.

It has been very exciting to be part of this historic club. I was the founding secretary, and now I am the club president – which is still the only Toastmasters club in Istanbul. In addition, in September I became the first member from our club to receive the Competent Communicator award.

Even with all of the training presentations I deliver, Toastmasters meetings continue to educate and benefit me in numerous ways. I’d like to share some of the many lessons I’ve learned: 

• There are three main aspects to consider when planning a speech. The most important point is this: What do you want to achieve with your speech? What message do you want to convey, and how do you want it to be received by your audience? 

• The second point to consider is the amount of time available for you to speak. There is a limit to what you can say in a 3-, 5-, 7- or 10-minute speech – and there is a significant difference between each. So your presentation needs to be planned accordingly. If you don’t do the proper planning to deliver your content within the time limit you’re given, your speech won’t be effective. 

• And the last point is this: Be flexible. Only you know what you will say, so you can change what you say and how you say it on the spot. Adjust and adapt. If you realize you’re going to run out of time in your speech, you can cut some parts from the middle and still make an effective closing. Or if your speech is running short, you can add some more stories or examples. Always be prepared for the unexpected. 

The Three Key Phases
Let’s look at the three key phases involved in giving a speech:

First you need to decide on your Subject. Choose a subject you know well or are interested in – because the more you internalize the subject, the more you can speak comfortably on it. If you have convictions about what you are saying, you can easily persuade your listeners.

The Preparation Phase consists of planning, gathering and organizing the content. This can take a long time or a short time, depending on how comfortable you are with the subject. Have someone help you while you practice, if possible. In addition, you should practice your speech in front of a mirror, or videotape yourself. Also, be sure to time yourself.

The Actualization Phase is the most exciting phase. It’s stage time...time to perform.

Be brief – you do not need to clutter your sentences to look good. The simpler you can be, the better you will be remembered. Keep audience members interested throughout your entire speech. Involve them in it and keep their attention. Remember, people only remember interesting speeches. And be sure to add humor whenever it’s proper and possible. 

Connecting With Your Audience
If you make a mistake, correct it and continue. No need to apologize or to make excuses.

If at some point in your speech you ask questions to the audience, listen to the answers! If you don’t have the time to wait for their comments, then don’t ask at all.

When appropriate during the speech, pause and give your audience a little time to reflect and think. To maximize the impact of your speech, don’t rush through it.

When you practice all of these tips, you will show great improvement!

Now the various stages are awaiting you...

Deniz Senelt, CC, is the president and founding secretary of the Istanbul Toastmasters. An award-winning corporate trainer, coach and consultant, she can be reached at .