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Talk it up at conference

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  • | 11:00 a.m. April 29, 2016
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Toastmasters International, a nonprofit that helps people improve communication and leadership skills, will host a conference in Tampa from May 13 to May 15. The event, at the Tampa Airport Marriot, is scheduled to have multiple competitions and workshops with specific educational purposes.

The first day of the event will feature a table topics contest, which tests each speaker's ability to answer questions “when they have no clue what's coming,” says Brenda Alloco, chairwoman of the event. Alloco tells Coffee Talk the think-on-your-feet style contest can help in an interview setting.

“We call it the elevator speech,” she says. “If you're stuck in an elevator and the CEO of your company says something to you, are you going to talk about sports and the weather, or will you spark a conversation that the individual will be impressed with and remember?”

Day two of the conference, May 14, features a series of workshops that include podcasting, public speaking and networking, among others. The biggest event of the conference, also May 14, is the international speech contest. Contestants will speak for five to seven minutes, and one district winner will be crowned, Alloco says. That winner will compete in August in
Washington, D.C., with a shot to become the World Champion of Public Speaking.

Alloco, getting in the spirit of the conference, offers some general public speaking tips:

“Realize the audience is not your enemy and that they aren't waiting to nitpick you.”

Look at your word choice. Asks Alloco: “Are you able to change something out to paint a picture?”

“The biggest part of it is to make a point to tell a story,” she says. “Don't tell us about anything. Take us there.”

Use vocal variety and stage positioning to tell your story.

The most important tip: “Be genuine,” says Alloco. “It doesn't matter how suave you are or how great your vocabulary is. The audience will know if you try to pull one over on them.”


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