“I really like public speaking, I really do,” says Mark Edwards. “And it’s something that nobody could ever be perfect at.”
Perfect speaker, no, but Edwards says he has found a perfect place to practice speaking—the Bulkley Valley Toastmasters club.
On April 14, just a year after he joined, Edwards won an April 14 speech contest against top speakers from clubs in Terrace and Kitimat.
And he gave his prizewinning speech—a tribute to the late Dr. Seuss—wearing a Cat in the Hat hat.
Edwards says he grew up reading Seuss, and now his 13-year-old daughter has, too.
“When she was six years old, we basically set out to read every Dr. Seuss book there ever was,” he said.
While Edwards admires Dr. Seuss for promoting literacy, peace and a cleaner environment, he also said that a Seuss-style speech worked well for the skill he had to show at the contest: vocal variety.
From the loud Lorax to whispering Whos, Seuss’ books are filled with voices that rise and fall, says Edwards.
That Seuss-style vocal variety is clear even when reading a line of Edwards’ speech off the page:
“Happy birthday to the doc who reminds us that we are so, so, so lucky we are not a left sock, left behind by mistake in the Kaverns of Krock,” he wrote.
While public speaking terrifies most people, Edwards says Toastmasters provides a supportive place to improve.
Members give each other feedback on both prepared and impromptu speeches, he said, and get extra kudos for using a word of the day.
“Daring-do” was the latest word, Edwards said, noting that new member Elma Hamming earned a loud round of table-knocking (a Toastmasters tradition) for using it right at the end of her first “icebreaker” speech.
Asked for his top speaking tip, Edwards said that between the club and co-hosting a CICK FM radio show, he’s on a mission to reduce “time-fillers” such as “ah,” “um,” and “you know.”
“To me, they’re like weeds in a garden,” he said.
“It’s much better to pause, think about what you’re going to say, and say it.”
About a dozen Toastmasters meet on the second and fourth Monday of the month, starting 7 p.m. in Room 401 at Smithers Secondary, and new members are welcome.