"Sure," I said.
"Well, I'll stop by so you can carpool with me," Margaret said. "I'll be there by 6:00."
It pleased me that she felt I was up to the challenge. The idea of speaking to Advanced level Toastmasters wasn't particularly frightening. I'd met several of them when I attended a quarterfinal competition as an observer. They're friendly people.
Given the fact that two of my previous three speeches had been given off the cuff, and were still unwritten, the occasion seemed to call for a reprise of my Ice Breaker speech. So, that weekend I reviewed the text, and considered changing some of the gestures I had previously used. I prepared a stack of visual aids, knowing that on Monday morning, I'd be attending the Charter celebration for the Toastmaster group that met at the restaurant.
Margaret allowed me to carpool with her to that meeting also, and as we chatted, I recounted my experiences with the canned speech material I'd presented two weeks before. During the luncheon, another group officer sat beside me at the table. She apologized for having had to miss the previous meeting.
"I heard part of how that went," she said. "Pretty much the same thing happened to me when I made my first canned speech."
As I recounted more details, I suddenly decided to switch that evening's speech topic. It meant I'd need to do some furious scribbling to be ready by six. In the end, I stopped with one legal page full of scrawling. I wished I hadn't already turned in the manual containing the canned speech. It would have made a wonderful prop.
Shortly after we arrived at the meeting site, one of my pastors entered the room. He'd been interested in hearing me speak, and I'd informed him of this chance on quite short notice.
An officer of the competing group handed me a visitor's information folder. Good. I'd hide my page of notes inside, and use it as a substitute for the canned speech text. My presentation would occur during the second half of that evening's agenda. I settled back to listen to the competitors speak.
I remembered them both from a competition the previous year. After an intermission, it was my turn. The ContestMaster introduced my speech as Canned Speeches, Dangerous Things. I shook her hand and reached the lectern without tripping on thin air. An excellent beginning.
"Who would like to give a canned speech?" I asked, waving the folder in one hand, and began to recount my comedy of errors. This time I didn't bother to keep my place in the haphazard notes. I maintained eye contact, and let the story roll on. Somewhere around the half way point, I realized my audience was laughing for me.
I liked it.
By the time I reached my concluding thoughts the red timing light had been glowing for some while. Caught again by the length of an unpracticed speech, but I wasn't competing that night and therefore disqualified. I wrapped up the presentation, saying: "I committed the unforgivable act of not repeating my main points in my conclusion then, and I don't have time to do it now, either."
Then the applause began, and seemed to go on much longer than the usual polite response when a speaker is ready to leave the stage.
Will I present another canned speech? Yes, because I've stumbled into most of the pitfalls now, and understand how to avoid them.