This year, Toastmasters Italy celebrates an important birthday: the first Italian club (Milan-Easy) chartered 25 years ago. A contest has been launched for the anniversary, asking members to develop and share content related to the theme: Broaden Your Horizons.
At the same time, I am making the jump. Wait, I hear the laughter. Let’s resize this: “jump” means I am starting to write on this website, that I have the moral obligation to share with someone. Clearly, moral obligation towards my rational self, who spent hours struggling with themes, plugins and other stuff I can’t even name.
A coincidence? Maybe, but juicy enough to exploit. Also, the topic makes it easy to find a logical connection between these two apparently unrelated events. In fact, what broadens my horizons and the reason why I have started this blog – are just the same thing. A little, simple thing that connects writing, the process of preparing a speech and the investigation of ideas. A tiny, slightly crooked magic wand.
Questions are the ignition key for writing. How? Really? Why? Everything I see, everything I think generates questions. How do I like a talk to be structured? Why did I lose interest in that workshop? What can I learn from the performance of a champion? Every question throws me deeper down in the details, opens doors, unravels unknown paths.
In real life, we don’t always have a chance to face all these questions. Life requires action: we are programmed to trust our default setting, react to triggers and go with the flow. Then, there’s writing. Posts, speeches, whatever. On paper or on screen, the questions can’t be ignored You must deal with them: find an answer, or dry out your ink trying.
Are you familiar with this feeling? Picture that. You are preparing a speech. You start with the usual questions: what do I think about this topic? What is the message I want to convey? Then, your thought process goes off the rails. Am I sure about my message? What if they object? Is this argument solid enough? How? Really? Why? This happens to me all the time. With the same consequences, all the time. Three of them. (I assume you are not surprised by the number.)
Framing before writing
First, when I write a speech I have to follow two separate processes. At the beginning, I need to frame the topic: I take some time to brainstorm and ask myself as many questions as I can. When I have a fuller picture down on paper, usually in the form of a sort of mind map, I can select the perspective I want to use to approach my topic. This means also chopping down the tentacles that can’t fit in that angle, or the sub-topics I can’t cover in the time I am given to speak. After this preparation work, I start the normal writing process: develop the main message, define the structure, draft the main points with supporting materials.
Keep them for later
Second, I need to keep a storage for all the spare tentacles that I have ditched in the first step. Most of times, I am sorry to be forced to exclude sub-topics or side thoughts from the final structure of my speech. How? Really? Why? – any of them could grow into a full speech by itself. So, it’s a relief to be able to write them down in a separate list, knowing that I can take them out in any moment and further develop them. Reality check: it would probably take three lives to have enough time to work on all those pieces of content. But it is a happy problem, right? Too many ideas are better than too few.
Expect the unexpected
Third and last consequence: eventually, nothing turns out as I had planned. Every time I start to prepare a speech, I know exactly where I want to land. Every time I finish, I am not landing where I thought I would. Am I inconsistent? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just how the magic wand works: when you start to ask questions, everything shows its own complexity – even concept you gave for granted. Sometimes during the process my opinion changes, sometimes it remains the same. In both cases, eventually I understand my own idea better. It evolves from bi-dimensional to all-round.
The task of public speaking ignites my writing process (speeches, and now the posts on this blog). And the writing process broadens my horizons. It opens new perspectives, makes me see what’s behind the topic and behind my own opinions. It helps me to understand that the first idea is not always the right one, and even if it is right – I need to double check it. Of course, using the magic wand. How? Really? Why?
(Image by Simon Matzinger on Unsplash)