My Toastmasters Speech: 3 Lessons I Learned in the Navy

by Scott on December 6, 2013

This article is part of The Ice-Breaker Series: a documentary of my journey through Toastmasters in pursuit of becoming a better public speaker.

Today I’m sharing my 6th Toastmasters speech.  If you’re new here, I joined Toastmasters last year to become a better public speaker.  My goal is to help you become a better public speaker (and maybe even encourage you to join Toastmasters) by sharing my experience with you.

I gave this speech the day after Veterans Day.  It’s titled, “3 Lessons I Learned in the Navy.”  I served in the Navy for five years and wanted to share the most important lessons I learned in celebration of Veterans Day.

Here’s my speech:

Scott Mackes – 3 Lessons I Learned in the Navy

Overall, I thought the speech went well.  I was a bit nervous because the objective of this speech was to achieve “vocal variety.”  For whatever reason, this scared the living daylights out of me.  I’ve never focused on the tone or pitch of my voice so I wasn’t quite sure how to accomplish this.  I decided to make some funny voices throughout the speech to meet this objective.

Overall, this was my best speech.  What made this speech better than the rest?  I thought about this a lot.  I prepared about the same amount of time for this speech as I did the other speeches.  I shared personal stories just like in my other speeches.  I was a bit more experienced because I had five speeches under my belt.

But ultimately, it came down to one thing –

I smiled.

After each of my prior speeches, someone in the audience always suggested that I smile more.  I’m not sure why I didn’t smile in my other speeches.  I think I was just nervous which resulted in a more serious expression on my face.  I let my feeling inside (nervousness) affect how I looked on the outside.

For this speech, smiling helped me overcome my nervousness and feel more relaxed.  It also helped me connect better with the audience.  The audience always wants a speaker to do well.   When the speaker is smiling, he or she appears more confident and relaxed.

The Greater Impact

Smiling can have a positive impact on a speech and on life in general.  My demeanor is usually serious and results-driven.  Two of my top-five strengths according to the Clifton StrengthsFinder are Competition and Achiever.  I usually don’t spend much time on anything that doesn’t help me achieve my mission.

Smiling can help me create a more positive environment at work when I talk with my employees, co-workers, and customers.  It can also help me create a positive environment at home when I’m with my family.  Even when I’m not feeling great about a situation, smiling can help me feel better about it.  It’s a way I can consciously take control of my emotional state.  It can also help me spread happiness to those around me.

So, the golden nugget from this speech is to “smile.”  For those competitive, mission-oriented people out there like me – it doesn’t hurt to smile once in a while.  Next time you’re feeling nervous, upset, stressed-out, or overwhelmed… Remember to smile.  It can make a big difference.

What are you thoughts?  How can I make my next speech better?

I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.


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Previous posts in The Ice-Breaker Series:

The Ripple Effect (Speech)

How to Become a Thriving Entrepreneur (Speech)

The Personal Growth Choice (Speech)

The Ultimate Speech Template

My First Speech

4 Simple Words to Help You Create a Powerful Speech

Introducing the Ice-Breaker Series

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Shelley J December 6, 2013 at 11:23 am

HI Scott,

Glad to see you back posting to the blog. reading the feedback and the overall accomplishment of giving a great, positive, impacting speech really seems harder than what I thought.

Keep up the great work!



Scott December 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Hi Shelley, thanks for watching. Have a great weekend.


Malloy December 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

Great speech and great tip on smiling. We train all of our sales reps at Waveborn to remember CPR and SEE when talking with a new sales lead.

CPR – Create a Personal Relationship
SEE – SMILE Eye Contact and Enthusiasm

I definitely believe that smiling and maintaining eye contact with your audience enable you to spread your enthusiasm for the subject directly with the audience.


Scott December 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Hey Mike! CPR — I like it. Have a good weekend.


Brian Stephens December 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Great speech, Scott! Oh boy, if smiling is the key, than I have this speaking thing locked up. I’m a smiling fool in most situations. I’m naturally smiley, optimistic, and positive…at least, that’s where I come from to begin with. Still, I have to remind myself to smile or use enthusiasm at home. The grind of kids and keeping up a house can turn me into a bear some days. Starting with a smile for the day can help set my mood.

As some feedback for the speech, try slowing down and making eye contact with specific audience members. I gain more confidence when I can make eye contact with one person at a time, not the entire time, but during the talk. You were also animated and talked with your hands, which I can relate to as a product of New York…we are hand talkers. I think that helps get your message across well. Great speech overall. Hope the progress continues.


Scott December 9, 2013 at 11:09 am

Hey Brian! Thanks for watching. Hope all is well on your end. Looking forward to your eBook.


Dave Speck December 9, 2013 at 10:54 am

I remember the first time I gave a speech to my Toastmasters group. I was terrified. But it does finally get better – trust me. The nerves never go away completely, but you do manage to control them and leverage them for even better performance.
I agree with the other comments about smiling. It lets the audience know that you appreciate them and that you want to be there. I also agree with Brian’s comment to try to slow down a bit and definitely to make eye contact with one or two of your audience. The other suggestion would be to consciously try not to pace back and forth. It is extremely difficult to control, but if you can limit your steps to just when you are making a new point or a transition, it will be more effective.
But a great speech overall, and one that as an Academy grad and Vet I can appreciate. Keep going. It is worth the effort.


Scott December 9, 2013 at 11:08 am

Hi Dave, thanks so much for watching and I appreciate your feedback. Have a great week.


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