Toastmasters Speech no.10: My Shameful Secret

Last monday I completed my tenth speech project at Toastmasters and was presented with my Competent Communicator award. The objectives of the tenth speech are to inspire your audience.


(View 9:28 this video on Vimeo or Youtube)


I’ve been considering writing a speech about dyslexia for a while. The “inspire your audience” project seemed like the most appropriate place to tackle this topic as my issues with dyslexia clearly demonstrate overcoming difficulties. The extra time for this project (8-10minutes rather than the usual 5-7) allowed for more personal stories and a clear description of the condition.

By establishing an overall message and structure first, I could be very clear about what should be included in the speech, so much so that the final speech had only minor differences to the first draft. The structure was:

  1. Introduction
  2. Discovery of Problem
  3. Description of problem
  4. Struggle
  5. Triumph
  6. Conclusion

In parts 1 and 2 I tried to withhold the nature of my “secret” for as long as I could to make the audience wonder what it was. In part 3 I tried to give a clear explanation of what dyslexia is without trying to frame it as a gift, which I’ve seen some books/articles do and I think is a bit trite. In parts 4 and 5 I tried to be as personal as possible. In part 6 I tried to draw everything together with a generally applicable message.

Massive thanks to Andrew Chuks who gave me lots of fantastic feedback and for standing through multiple rehearsals. And special thanks to Mel Smart for her feedback on my initial idea and helping me restructure the conclusion.


My club mentor, Andrew Chuks, delivered an excellent evaluation of my speech. His main recommendation was to do more with the phrase “a level playing field”, suggesting that It could have appeared earlier in the speech to balance the repetition towards the end. An idea I’ll definitely use if I give this speech again.

Here are my feedback slips from the audience:

The main thing that came through here was that some people weren’t keen on the “earwax” joke at the beginning. The purpose of this line was to misdirect the audience with trivial/amusing problems to make the introduction of a serious problem more jarring. But rather than amusing people, it seems to have genuinely disgusted a few, so if I was to do this speech again I would probably leave that out.

Thanks for reading. It feels great to have completed my ten speeches!

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  1. Melanie Smart
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    Andy, that was wonderful! You had some fantastic pauses in there and also, as far as I could see, some very good facial expressions that added weight and emphasis to your points -and I still adore the phrase “kaleidoscope of letters” -lovely :)

  2. Andrew
    Posted September 21, 2010 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Mel, thanks for helping and thanks for commenting. :)

  3. Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Wow, good speech Andy. And congratulations on your CC award. I had no idea about either the dyslexia or your annual battle with ear wax build up.

  4. Andrew
    Posted September 22, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Cheers Alex.

  5. Anya
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Recently discovered your blog, very interesting! From watching the speech remotely, the ear wax theme didn’t come through as disgusting and the eyelash dandruff was funny! I had a similar experience in the table topics once where I told a story that I thought was funny and one person found it disgusting. And I agree, Iwould have never thought you had a dyslexia problem. 37 books in one year and you call yourself a slow reader!

  6. Andrew
    Posted September 26, 2010 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Anya, great to hear from you! Hope things are well in SD. Was actually attempting to read 52 books that year, so I managed to re-frame my failure as a success!

  7. Posted March 30, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled on your blog because was looking for dyslexia and toastmasters. Grammar/Spelling are key problems of mine and it seems that no grammar checker can help (Spell check is always required) . I was diagnosed in my third year of college and its been 10 years since. I have been struggling in my career because of my bad grammer. What have you done to compensate? Has toastmasters helped?


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