The role of the speaker is probably the most obvious and straight-forward one.
A speaker delivers a speech according to the instructions and goals described in the different projects of the Educational Program. Usually in a meeting there are between 1 and 3 speakers, depending on the available time.
Speakers in Agora Clubs can also deliver speeches outside of the educational program (or following other educational programs or manuals). The only requirement is that the set of goals that must be known in advance, that the speech must be timed, and that an oral and written evaluation must be received.
Most of the speeches you will be doing in Agora clubs are Project Speeches, meaning that they correspond to a specific project of the Educational Program.
Every project in that program has a very clear pedagogical goal, and tries to teach a specific tool, technique or approach in the world of public speaking or leadership.
The whole Educational Program of Agora Speakers is available for free to members online. Most projects follow a template such as:
Some projects - such as the Body Language one showcased above - contain restrictions about what you can and can’t do, for pedagogical purposes. In this case, notes should not be used, which means that it is not recommended to use them, but if you absolutely can’t do without them, then ok, go ahead and use them. It also says that the lectern must not be used, and in this case “No means No. Really”. The speech must be delivered without you standing , leaning or interacting in any way with a lectern.
You will also see that some projects have more than one part, which means that they must be delivered in more than one meeting (not necessarily consecutive, but try to keep them relatively close together). For example, the Body Language project has a Speech Analysis part and a Speech part (each with its own timings).
When you’re doing a Speech Project, read carefully the description of the project, the outline, and try to follow all the advice given there.
As a speaker, you can also do Specialty or Custom Speeches. These are speeches that do not correspond to any particular project of the educational program, but that you want to practice for some reason. In this case, you should contact your Speech Evaluator well in advance of your speech, and clearly tell him which are the goals of your speech, what do you want to practice/learn, and what do you want to be evaluated on. For example, imagine that you need to deliver a Best Man speech. Then you could write your evaluator and tell him that your goals are:
- Sounding natural and close
- Presenting the bride / groom / couple in a very positive way
- Being funny and entertaining
- Using personal anecdotes or stories about your relationship with thebride/groom.
You should also specify a clear time limit. For example, for a Best Man speech it could be “3-4 minutes, green signal at 3, yellow signal at 3:30, red signal at 4:00”.
Contents of Speeches
As far as Agora Speakers is concerned, you can speak about anything. It’s recommended, though, that you do it in good taste and being careful with the different sensitivities existing in the club.
There’s one significant exception to the above freedom, though, and it is for pedagogical purposes. In most projects of the Basic Educational Path you will see that you’re not allowed to do speeches about public speaking. For example, you can’t do a speech explaining body language for the “Body Language” project (although you might do such a speech if later you want to follow the Educational Speeches advanced path). The reason for this limitation is that all the techniques in the Basic Educational Path should be just tools supporting and enhancing a central, unrelated message. The tools used should not be the message itself.
That’s why for example you’ll find a text very similar to the following one (from the “Using Anecdotes” project) in many basic projects:
“Storytelling should have a supporting and not primary role. If all that the audience can remember from your speech are your stories or anecdotes, then you’ve failed : the main goal is still getting your message across.”
Having said that, please note that clubs can vote to restrict the kind of content they allow, so you should always check with the club guidelines
Also, please note that your particular country may have some specific legislation about the kinds of public speech content they allow, and you should, for your own and your fellow members’ safety, ensure that you comply with these restrictions.
Clubs can also have the role of the “Backup speaker”. Since usually speaking slots are scarce and there are many people waiting to give a speech, if a speaker doesn’t show up.