I was annoyed some years back when the film “The Dead Poets Society” won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. I found that the film was little more than a pastiche of literary fragments from some of the greatest writers of all time, held together by a flimsy melodrama. Similarly, I have endured many speeches that were similarly unoriginal:
- The main body of the speech is a published feature story that is repeated with little embellishment. At the end, the speaker feebly tries to tie it together with a phrase like, “Has this ever happened to you?” or “What could we learn from this?”
- We receive commentary on a recent event that is simply a compilation of the previously published insights of other professional commentators.
- The speaker takes a stand on an issue, but fails to attribute his supporting facts, which often are the unaccredited opinions of others with similar opinions.
I admit that I have my own penchant for quotations by others. (I find their words can be better than my own.) But when former Toastmaster World Champs reviewed drafts of my speech, they nail me on the second citation. “You've already quoted someone else,” they say. “We’re more interested in what YOU have to say!”
In the end, that is the main idea: Toastmasters exists so that we can build our own communication skills. That includes thinking through our points, constructing their logic, and then using language and oratorical skills to convey them. Parroting others is not only self-defeating, it is unethical, approaching plagiarism (if not actually committing that crime).
It is a unique thrill to deliver a speech that informs, entertains, moves, or inspires other to action. Give yourself the pride of rightfully claiming the work as your own.