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 Toastmasters body language speech topics

60 vocal variety and body language suggestions

By: Susan Dugdale  | Last modified: 05-27-2022

The fifth of the seven Level Two: Learning Your Style projects in Toastmasters International is "Effective Body Language".  Its main goal is to help a speaker become more aware of, and to effectively use, the power of body language.

Obviously some speech topics have more potential than others when it comes to deciding what you’ll talk about to fulfil the project’s purpose. What are they? And how do you choose the right one?

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Label: Your body speaks - 60 vocal variety and body language speech topics

What makes a good body language topic?

Body language is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as the conscious and unconscious movements and postures by which attitudes and feelings are communicated.

Therefore the very best speech topic you could choose is one that you are genuinely and sincerely interested in, even passionately so. The more feeling you have, the easier it will be to work on drawing out, refining, and amplifying your body language to enhance the delivery of your speech.

(Please note: These topics also suit the third project of Level One: Mastering Fundamentals: An Introduction to Vocal Variety and Body Language. Body language and vocal variety work side by side. To be effective, each must complement the other.) 

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 Choose a personal story for the project

Personal stories work well. We can all recall events that are indelibly etched in our minds. We will always remember the sight, the sounds, maybe a smell, the feelings wrapping them around, who was there, the words that were spoken... The before and, the after.

Because what we’re sharing is meaningful to us, the gestures, the body language, we use as we retell the story will be natural: without conscious orchestration. This makes the delivery authentic and effective. Our words and our actions are in harmony.

Once upon a time time... 

The majority of these story ideas belong to our youth.

  1. How I learned to ride a bike
  2. My first day at school
  3. Family celebrations: birthdays, Christmas or its equivalent...
  4. The arrival of a baby sister or brother and what it meant
  5. Sibling rivalry: the good, the bad and the ugly
  6. My favorite childhood foods
  7. Things I learned I could get away with as a child
  8. The object (toy, book, piece of clothing or sports gear...) I most valued and why
  9. My idol or hero as a child or young person
  10. How I first learned about death
  11. My first friendship
  12. My favorite childhood fantasy
  13. The imaginary monsters that waited in the shadows to get me
  14. Who, and what, I wanted to become when I grew up
  15. My favorite hobby or sport as a young person
  16. The place I felt safest as a child
  17. My favorite places to visit as a young person
  18. The rooms, streets... I remember most clearly
  19. When I was a child I always wondered about..., or was puzzled by...?
  20. My earliest memories

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 Story suggestions from our grown up adult lives

Firsts are often frequently and vividly remembered experiences that could be become the basis of a speech.

  1. My first job interview
  2. My first job
  3. My first date
  4. The first car I owned
  5. My first driving lesson
  6. My first Toastmaster’s speech – the story of getting ready to give, and giving, my Ice Breaker
  7. My first international travel
  8. The first time I realized I was completely out of my depth
  9. The first time I felt really proud of myself
  10. The first time I knew I was liked/loved for being exactly who I was
  11. The first time I saw my new-born child
  12. My first real home
  13. The first time I realized I was different in some way from the people around me
  14. The first time I went to hospital
  15. The first time I heard...{name of band playing, name of person speaking, singing, laughing, crying, shouting, or name of instrument: guitar, piano, drums, saxophone... etc.} I knew that...
  16. The first time I was completely lost for words
  17. The first time I questioned the rights and wrongs of a situation
  18. The first time I felt betrayed by someone I had looked up to
  19. The first time I was publicly acknowledged for doing something well
  20. The first time I realized how fortunate or lucky I was to be me

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Lessons from life

Slices of personal truth served with a side of humor and grace on a bed of well seasoned story telling skills! ☺

Use your own experiences to show as well as tell what you have learned.

  1. How I recovered from knowing I was not the most physically beautiful person in the room
  2. What I’ve learned through years of people watching
  3. How the body language for friendliness is universal – eg. a smile goes a long way
  4. The truth behind power posing: how to, why to and when to
  5. How I learned to recognize fear in myself, and challenge it
  6. Body language gestures that do not translate well across cultures and cause misunderstandings
  7. How to tell when your child is lying and what to do about it
  8. How becoming aware of our habitual unconscious gestures and what they convey is empowering
  9. The most powerful words I know: Yes, no, mother, father, love, money...
  10. My most embarrassing experience
  11. How to tell who is the most well-regarded or influential person in a group
  12. The top tell-tale signs of anger that would be helpful for people to recognize before it was too late
  13. What does a feeling look like? Learning to read and communicate with non-verbal people
  14. Does fake it until you make it really work?
  15. How I learned I was not good at pretending to be someone I’m not
  16. How I learned I was going to recover from having my heart broken despite the pain
  17. How our habitual body language, (how we walk, stand, sit, use our faces...), impacts on our mental and physical health
  18. How seeing yourself giving a presentation on video is challenging but really helpful
  19. That the best things in life truly are free
  20. The one that got away: the job, relationship, fish...

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Toastmasters vocal variety and body language projects

*In 2021 Toastmasters altered several Pathway projects. An introduction to vocal variety and body language became the third project of four in Level One: Mastering Fundamentals.

In Level Two: Learning Your Style, the project 'Effective Body Language' deepens the foundation work done in Level One, while vocal variety is revisited in Level Three: Increasing Knowledge.

Prior to the introduction of Pathways working with body language was the fifth project of ten required for the Competent Communicator award. It was called: Your Body Speaks.   

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Further body language and vocal variety resources 

Onsite resources

  1. The vocal aspects of speech delivery - 9 features of effective speech delivery (which includes vocal variety)
  2. Why is eye contact important? Information about eye contact with activities for teaching and practicing it
  3. Characterization techniques for effective storytelling in speeches: exercises to develop compelling body language and voice 
  4. Teach yourself body language: becoming aware of and working with our habitual unconscious body language and gestures to increase the effectiveness of our speech delivery

Offsite resources

  1. An Introduction to Vocal Variety and Body Language: Level One: Mastering Fundamentals, Toastmasters International, pdf
  2. Effective Body Language: Level Two: Learning Your Style, Toastmasters International, pdf

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