The O.B.C. of Public Speaking – DTM Nina John

Nina JohnAcronyms, Acronyms and more Acronyms. They are all around us. LOL, ROFLOL, TGIF, WTF(Winning the Future – coined by President Obama, but also has a different expansion!!), just to name a few. We create acronyms to simplify something and make it easily memorable. Some of the acronyms are fun, some horrible and some really good. In her education session at the Coromandel Toastmasters Club on 20th July 2013,  DTM Nina John used the acronym O.B.C. very effectively to explain “The nuances of Organizing a Speech”. (DTM Nina John is the Immediate Past District Governor of District 82 and her profile can be found here).

DTM Nina John was the 4th education speaker at CTC and the 3rd DTM in a row. (The education session by the previous speakers can be found here, here and here).

So, what does O.B.C stand for? Opening, Body and Conclusion. (Fairly obvious isn’t it? Or rather, it becomes obvious once it is explained!!). O.B.C is one of the basics of a speech. In fact, the first project after the Ice-breaker in the Competent Communication(CC) manual in Toastmasters is “Organize Your Speech”(CC2) and the objective of the project is to have a well-developed O.B.C. But there is one important aspect that needs to be taken care of, before one starts working on the O.B.C. And that important aspect is a “T”, which stands for “Topic” of the speech.

Topic selection

DTM Nina John recounted an incident a few years back at a corporate Toastmasters club where she and DTM Adithya Maheshwaran were conducting a meeting. During the break, they came out of the airconditioned room to experience the fresh air outside. They immediately got a topic for a speech – Rewards of moving outside the comfort zone – and started to discuss about developing a speech on the topic. The point here is that experienced toastmasters develop the ability to see a speech topic in every daily experience. Toastmasters makes one capable of speaking about anything and nothing. A very literal example of this is a speech titled “Nothing”, delivered by TM CT Thomas based on what he saw during one of his daily walks in a park.

But for a new Toastmaster, it will be a challenge. Some struggle to even talk about their life in the “Ice Breaker”, which is the answer to just a simple and basic interview question,” Tell us about yourself”. Many new Toastmasters, especially very young, stop after their first speech, because they do not know what to talk about in their subsequent speeches.

But selecting a topic is not as difficult as it seems. One just has to think “Outside the Box” and also “Inside the box”. One can make a list of topics based on her/his personal life, professional life, interests, hobbies and what not. The “Ice Breaker” speech is  actually a great starting point, because at least 10 speech topics can be identified within the “Ice Breaker” speech.

Objective of a Speech

Once a topic is identified, the speaker should have a clear objective for the speech which could be one of the following – informative, entertaining, persuasive or inspirational. The way the speech should be organised will depend a lot on the objective of the speech.

You have the topic and objective of the speech. What now? Here comes O.B.C to structure your speech.


It goes without saying that a powerful opening is critical to get the attention of the audience and engage them. There are several ways to open a strong speech. A few of them are

  • Stories – “Once upon a time” – these are magical words. Once someone utters these words in any language, anywhere in the world, people start paying attention because everyone likes to hear a good story.
  • Anecdotes – Unlike a story, an anecdote is just an incident that happened for a shorter duration. But an anecdote can be as powerful as a story.
  • Statement with or without statistics – Use of qualitative or quantitive statements are another great way to open a speech. For example, when someone says “Every day X thousand people die in road crash”, the audience gets hooked and want to know more.
  • Asking a question –  By asking a question, the speaker is able to establish a connection with the audience. It also helps the speaker to understand the audience better and to tailor/modify the speech as per the audience preferences.
  •  Quotes – A quote like “The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops, until you stand up to speak in public”, can grab the attention of the audience immediately.
  • Jokes – While starting a speech with a joke is a good idea, one has to be very careful because jokes can sometime fall flat. Moreover, some of the audience may find a particular joke in bad taste or even offensive. It might be a better idea to refrain from making jokes which are considered taboo topics within the Toastmasters community (Gender, religion, politics).



Once a strong opening is developed, the body of the speech will get into the key content of the speech. The content can be anything, but the body should also have enough examples, numbers, or other supporting arguments in order to make the content credible.


One of the key success factors of a conclusion is to tie it with the opening. By the time the body of a speech is completed, it is quite likely that the audience would have forgotten about your opening and it is important to remind them about the opening, in order to reinforce the key takeaway of the speech. If a speaker starts with a quote, it is a good idea to end with the same quote. It is also usually in the conclusion that some suspense is revealed. The speech conclusion also gives the speaker a very important opportunity to leave the audience satisfied.

Close the speech with a bang.


Good transitions between the Opening, Body and Conclusion are very important to ensure that the speech flows smoothly. It is similar to lubricating oil for an engine and prevents hiccups in the speech.

DTM Nina John finished her speech with a walk-the-talk. She concluded her speech with the following quote

“An effective speaker has Passion for the subject, Compassion for the audience.”

Coromandel Toastmasters Club thanks Double DTM Nina John for the education session and the guidance.

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