Speeches Series

Jan 22, 2022

As a speaker, I share life lessons through storytelling. Today, I was back in my Toastmasters group doing that just that. (I’ve been a member since 2017)
As I give speeches throughout the year, I’ll share them here under the title “Speeches Series”. I’ll also add the feedback I receive from the other members. In Toastmasters, we are asked to give an Introduction for the Toastmaster to read and we are timed on our speeches. In this case, I was presenting from the Presentation Mastery path, Level 3: Connect with Storytelling. My speech time was 5-7 minutes.

Introduction:

Melissa is a speaker and author, pursuing her dream to meet Elton John and sharing life lessons through storytelling.
Recently, Melissa flew to Dallas, TX to attend her 48th and 49th Elton John concerts. Her last Elton John concert was in November 2019 because Elton’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour was postponed for just over two years due to the Covid pandemic.
For over two years, Melissa has been anxiously awaiting the day she can return to her travels in the pursuit of her dream of meeting Elton John.
Plans were made to attend two concerts in Dallas, TX. – Flights and hotel were booked. Concert tickets purchased. Everything for the trip was going just as anticipated and planned – until it didn’t. In this 5-7 minute speech, Melissa will share A Lesson in Perspective.


Speech: A Lesson in Perspective
Note: Yes, this speech is a condensed version of the blog post with the same title. When I speak, I do so from personal experience, fitting the story to the time allotted and to the audience.

Perspective is the ability to understand what is important and what isn’t.   As in, “I know you are disappointed, but keep your perspective.”

Two years is the longest period of time I have gone without seeing Elton John in concert in the last thirty years. 
Why is that important? 
Because my dream – the one I’ve been pursuing my entire adult life – is to meet Elton John in person.  I feel like, to have a chance of doing that, I have to go where Elton is performing a concert.   And, I must sit where he can see me.  I love everything about the entire concert experience. 

That’s really it, you know – the answer to why I’ve seen Elton John 47 times so far – the pursuit of the dream and the energy of the concert experience. 

The pandemic postponed Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour until this year.   I was excited that 2022 meant a return to travel and attending concerts.   But also, knowing that this was the last year that I had to make my dream of meeting Elton John come true.   This dream I’ve been pursuing for 30 years!

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022 – started out like any other concert day.  I was up early; I was the first one in the breakfast area of the hotel and after breakfast, I went for a walk down to the area of the venue.  It’s a bit of a tradition for me, to walk to the venue the morning of concert day. And, it helps to calm some of the excited energy I woke up with that morning! 

I had just returned to the hotel and was in my room when the notification for Ticketmaster went off on my phone.    A quick glance showed that a concert was labeled TBD.  Immediately, I thought it was odd that another Elton concert – at this point, my next concert was not until April – was showing TBD. 
I looked at the notification again trying to understand.  And, suddenly, the realization hit me – that notification was for the concert I was attending that night.   What??!!! 
In all my years of attending concerts, I’ve never had this happen. 

I quickly typed in the link for the American Airlines arena website and right there on the front page was the news – Elton had Covid and both that night and the following night concerts were canceled.   
What – the – H double hockey sticks!!!! 

Both concerts were canceled, and the rescheduled date is TBD.  Ok then. 

In the span of about 15 minutes, I went from shock to acceptance.   I somehow just knew that eventually the concert would get rescheduled and that Elton would eventually recover.  In those moments, I intentionally decided to not be angry or sad. 

I had some perspective based on experience. 

As a person of faith, I KNOW that God’s plans are so much greater than mine.   That doesn’t mean I don’t get disappointed when things don’t go as I planned them.  It DOES mean that I bring myself back to remembering that in all things, God is good and I focus on finding the good instead of dwelling on the disappointment. 

I had previously made plans to meet up with a local friend for lunch and while I was in the lobby waiting for her, people were checking in to the hotel.   One couple flew in from Detroit, found out when they arrived at the hotel that the concert was canceled, and immediately made plans to take a return flight home. 

Later that day, I went out to dinner with my concert friends.  One lived in the area; the other had driven about 16 hours the day before to go to the concerts. 

We had a great time at dinner – an experience I would not have had if the concerts hadn’t been canceled because I don’t eat dinner on concert nights. And, just in case you are wondering what a group of Elton John fans talk about over dinner?  Well, all things Elton John of course!  Our Favorite concerts, favorite songs, etc.    

When I arrived back at the hotel, there was a small gathering of people at the hotel bar.  I walked over and said, “Is the Elton concert commiseration society meeting.?”  To which a few went, “Oh no, you too?”.  I asked for everyone to tell me where they traveled from – Hawaii, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Los Angeles to name a few cities.   
I then asked if it was the first time seeing Elton for them and they ALL said yes!

Meeting these people in the bar was a lesson for me –   
Someone asked me where I was from, and I said, North Carolina. And then I paused because I knew the next question was coming – and I’ve learned to wait.   


“Is this your first concert, too?”  (PAUSE)

No, it’s my 48th – and tomorrow would have been 49th.   I go ahead and answer the next question because I already know what they are going to ask – And that’s over the span of the last 30 years.   And then I wait.  Because this statement is so ordinary for me to say but I know it’s extraordinary for people to hear.

At that moment, I became the “Elton concert expert” and was peppered with questions – I assured them that if there was any way Elton could have performed the concert, he would have.  He hates to disappoint his fans!   

For me, hearing that each one of those people traveled to see Elton for the first time and may not be able to come back gave some perspective to the situation. 
 This affirmed why I intentionally chose to not be angry that the concerts were canceled.  I have had the privilege of seeing Elton 47 times!  I also have the time and the financial means to go back to Dallas in early March for the rescheduled concerts.

My life experiences have taught me this – we can always choose how we react to situations.  Often, all we need is to hear about someone else’s perspective. 

Perspective gives us a choice of how we respond to situations.  

Choose wisely.   

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Feedback
In Toastmasters, there is an evaluator for my speech and each individual member can write a short note of feedback. Sometimes they add their name to the comment and sometimes not. Three improvement points from my evaluator –
1. I went over the allotted time ( My fault: I made a small announcement before my speech and I forgot that my time starts AS SOON as I start speaking). Total speech time with the announcement was just over 10 minutes
2. I had the opportunity to use the word of the day in my speech and I didn’t
3. I had an opportunity to show MORE emotion in my speech at certain parts.

Members feedback:
“Great structure and story. Very witty. Try not to pace back and forth. If your goal is public speaking, I challenge you to get on the stage.” (there is a small stage in the place where we have our meetings )

“Your first speech in a long time – super smooth!” Very well executed. Next speech, dress the part.”

“Stalkery – Pursuit of Dream. Good clear, loud voice. Always strong speaker – Humor – H-e-double hockey sticks. ” (Note: I threw in the word stalkery while giving the speech referring to how I won’t meet Elton by just going to his house. A suggestion was made to use “stalker-esque” next time)

“Too much pacing while talking. Walk-stop-talk. This is a story you know – you can’t read what is your personal story (this refers to my use of notes while speaking). It’s a great story – you have come so far – great job.” ~Eric

Melissa, your speech was terrific and worthy of a professional gig. Your audience engagement is off the chart: your use of notes was seamless and the humor with the story was perfect.” ~Anita

“What is very ordinary for me to hear is extraordinary for someone else. (quoting my speech). Really liked your call to action and the lesson you learned.”

“Great speech Melissa! I love Elton John! I’d love to see him! I really love your perspective on the rescheduled concert.” ~Megan Danielle

“Very exciting message. Thanks for stepping up and delivering. voice clear, eye contact, interesting story, you kept our attention. Perspective. We can always choose how we respond to…”

“Nice pace – good eye contact – good handwork (gestures). Good for you having a passion and a dream.”

“Good job! Loved it! You have a very natural delivery.” ~ Jacky

“Great lesson on perspective. Even had I not known your story or passion the way you resented anyone could relate. Great message about reaction and belief to keep perspective. Great pause and use of words.” ~Megan

“It’s great to see how far you have come in your speaking. Enjoyed the humor. Loved the message. I have faith you will meet Elton, rooting for you! Watch the swaying, you did good going from one side to the next but slow it down so it’s not swaying.” ~ Janet


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