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August 29, 2012 6:55 AM   Subscribe

How can I keep editorializing out of my upcoming speech, and make it as straightforward and educational as possible?

I'm giving a Toastmasters speech in a few weeks. The topic: "Who Were the Wobblies?" I'll talk about Eugene Debs and the gang, the 40-hour work week, the Haymarket riots, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster, and etc.
My problem is, I know all too well my tendency to get fired up and prosletyize about subjects I'm passionate about. If left to my own devices, I'll have the club shouting "Strike! Strike! Strike!" à la "Waiting for Lefty" and singing The Internationale as a grand finale. How can I make myself keep an even tone and just present the facts? Give me your best tips for curtailing the crazy.
posted by BostonTerrier to Grab Bag (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Pretend you're talking to people who completely disagree with you, and you need to change their minds. That should help you be educational without getting worked up, because you're going to lose people who disagree with you if you get too crazy.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:58 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

Toastmasters gives you a limited time for speeches, so make your points fit the time with little room for editorializing. Write down every point and the time you're supposed to hit it, then practice with a stopwatch. Make it a game to see how close you can get to a point by the exact time you want to.

Make the speech about hitting the right points at the right time, and not about the subject matter so much.
posted by xingcat at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2012

We all have opinions. Smart folks know the difference between opinion and fact. Stick to facts.
If you must supply interpretation of the facts, then be sure to provide "both" or all points of view.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 7:20 AM on August 29, 2012

When I'm talking about something where I feel the audience may or may not agree with me, I try to adopt a tone of "Reasonable people may disagree on the impact of this but the facts are..." and try to make sure there's an open door to people having their own interpretation of what I am saying but having us at least working from the same facts. So for me it's open source software. I think everyone should use it. Some people disagree, and for good reasons. I don't have to share their views and I'm just giving an "About Open Source" talk so when I am talking about why I think it's important I'll try to make sure I'm just stating facts and if I draw conclusions I make sure they are carefully presented as my own opinions and/or relevant to my own experiences.

So "In small libraries, using software that you have the ability to edit yourselves can have cost-saving effects over the long run. At MY library this has worked out in bla bla bla ways..."

So in your case, trying to explain why and how we have the 40 hour work week and not pushing too hard on the "You ungrateful people would never have had this if it wasn't for people who got organized and took these risks and bla bla bla" would be a good tactic. Similarly, there are the bare facts of the Triangle Shirtwaist disaster that are pretty stark and important enough without the "Fuck the bosses!" angle to it. That is, if you just explain what happened, people will understand the "Wow, the people in power really screwed over the workers leading to this horrible outcome" aspect and you don't have to, yourself, say "This was horrible!" Trust your audience to get the meta-message and stick to trying to inform them about something they may not know a lot about.
posted by jessamyn at 7:20 AM on August 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have someone else, an outside perspective, read my speech before giving. I have them read it once, then I tell them what my goal was with the speech and have them read it again. They then can make suggestions about what is or is not clear. In this case, ask them to point out any editorializing.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:46 AM on August 29, 2012

Nonfiction written for young adults often has to tread this line carefully -- you can't pretend that a certain horrible historical event wasn't horrible, but you also can't claim that Therefore Every Right-Thinking Person Should Do X. So I'm going to recommend a book: Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin, about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. I'm sure you already know the facts that it relates, but I was particularly impressed by how it navigated the history of the events in a way that was balanced and reasonable and respected the humanity of everyone involved.
posted by Jeanne at 8:06 AM on August 29, 2012

The Wobblies were vociferously opposed by almost everyone among their contemporaries: by government, business, more moderate unions movements, and even by Communists. This opposition is trivialized or demonized by sentimental historians who like nothing better than hagiographies of lovable leftist losers like the IWW. Read some primary sources from that opposition to get a better perspective.
posted by MattD at 8:06 PM on August 29, 2012

Thanks, everyone, for your answers.
The I.W.W. is too huge a subject to be contained in five to seven minutes, so I'm making the speech about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster, specifically. That's a much more concise subject to get my arms around....and my delivery will be "just the facts, Ma'am."
posted by BostonTerrier at 2:41 PM on September 1, 2012

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