Taliesin at Toastmasters

Last night I gave a speech at Toastmasters.

I had completed the first set of ten speeches – the Competent Communicator Manual- in September.  I then ordered two new manuals from the advanced series: Speaking to Inform, and Storytelling.  I gave a speech in December from the Speaking to Inform manual (on the Tarot) and I signed immediately up for another.  The speech I gave last night was the first speech project from the Storytelling manual.

The Project title was The Folk Tale and the objectives of the project were:

  1. To tell a folk tale that is entertaining and enjoyable for a specific age group.
  2. To use vivid imagery and voice to enhance the tale.

Time: seven to nine minutes

I was excited at the prospect of giving this talk. I have always loved myth and legend and whenever I have seen storytellers talk I have been wowed by their skill. I would have liked have told stories before now but I always felt that the animation of a storyteller was something I didn’t have.

I asked a few friends for suggestions online and in the end I decided on a story that I know well from my membership of OBOD: the story of Taliesin and Ceridwen.

I asked a friend to record me speak:


Toastmasters is about several things for me: challenging myself, enjoying the experience, the camaraderie and the banter, and getting feedback and improving all the time.

I had some lovely positive feedback about my performance last night, and I enjoyed receiving it. For me however, the constructive feedback is the most useful.

One member suggested that I could have tied up the loose ends with the characters. What happened to Ceridwen and Affagdu? She was right, that was never answered.

Gary, who gave my evaluation, suggested that I could use some sort of prop at the end to add to the dramatic tension of finding the baby.

The main feedback I give myself though is to read the instructions! The time of the speech was meant to be 7-9 minutes. Most of the speeches so far, and the last one I did were 5-7minutes. I presumed this was to be the same. I prepared and delivered a speech that took less than 7 minutes. And to do that preparation I rehearsed my talk and I pared the story down until it fitted into that time. Lesson learned.

I am also really glad that I had a friend record the speech. It has been really useful to be able to watch myself back. I used to work in call centres and the first few times I heard my own voice on calls, it was cringe-inducing. However, you get used to it. And this is the same. This is what I look like and this is what I sound like. Get over it.

If you’re planning on delivering a story as part of a Toastmasters project, my advice is this:

  • Read the instructions carefully
  • Choose a story you know well
  • Pare it down to the essentials
  • Rehearse. Rehearse. Rehearse
  • Enjoy the performance
  • Look for all the feedback you can get
  • Book your next speech as soon as you can

Further Reading

Krish Hughes reading the story of Ceridwen, Gwion Bach and Taliesin from the Peniarth Manuscript:

In English and in Welsh


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