OK, I need some moral support!

Tomorrow night I have to give a speech. I have no idea how many people might be in the audience, and how they will react. I’m not going to say anything hugely controversial, but I’m pretty passionate about the topic and I’m nervous about putting myself and my ideals up for public scrutiny. I’m attempting to organize a parents’ advocacy group for my local school district, so I feel that there’s a lot at stake in presenting myself and said ideals clearly and reasonably.

Plus I’m afraid I’ll get hiccups.

Don’t know if it will help, but if you put some of your thoughts here you may get some anonymous feedback that may help you prepare good or bad for your speech. Hell someone may raise a point that lets you present your case better too. Worth a shot. I’m sure some people here would love to help out if you felt it would be worthwhile.

Hmm. OK, I’ll do that. (Names and specifics removed from speech for semi-privacy purposes):

"Good evening, and welcome to what is hopefully the first of many [this organization] meetings. I want to thank everyone for coming tonight, and I want to particularly thank [this person] for securing and reserving this room for us this evening. I’d like to take a couple of minutes to introduce myself and explain what it is exactly that I am doing here tonight.

My name is ******, and I am the mother of a seventh-grader at [this school] in [this district]. My involvement in [this] district started when my daughter was a kindergartener at [this school]. Like most parents who get involved with their schools, I started out as a room mother and then gradually became more involved as my daughter progressed through the school system. I became interested in the way the district runs several years ago, when there was a referendum on the ballot and I read in a newspaper what the goals of the referendum’s passage were. At that time, I found it difficult to obtain clear information about the referendum, but I truly did not know who to ask for clarification. Since then, I’ve kept my eyes and ears open and tried to make sense of the day-to-day operations of the school district, but I did not think it necessary to pursue this in any depth. My daughter was doing well in school, and I saw no cause to question anything.

With recent news of the budget crisis, like many parents and taxpayers, I became highly alarmed. I have always maintained that a child’s education is first and foremost the responsibility of the parents, and now it has become clear to me that things were happening that I should have been aware of.

I have spent the last month and a half trying to compile a more accurate picture of this district and community, and while I know more now than I did then, I am still finding surprises. Every answer I find breeds another question. [This organization] was conceived when I hit yet another dead-end in my search for information. I am aware of other parent advocacy groups currently in place in this district, and several people have questioned why I feel another one is necessary. The answer to that is simple – I do not feel that there is any one group now that is readily accessible to all concerned parents in the district. The other groups all have their considerable merits and vital functions within the district, but there has not been a cohesive district-wide effort to unite all of us in what should be our common goal – that of educating our children to the very best of our ability. I think that in many cases we are duplicating one another’s efforts to get a handle on things and stumbling over one another. The **** organization is NOT intended to take an adversarial position with other groups, but rather to identify common goals and find ways to achieve those goals through collaboration, cooperation and communication.

To these ends, I have a couple of ideas.

First, our most immediate concern is to coordinating the volunteer efforts of parents to support the children and teachers in the schools. Each school, each classroom, may have different needs, and we need to determine how we can best meet those needs.

Second, I would like to see a thorough review of district revenue and expenditure to help us better understand how the district works financially – we need to know what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. Let me stress that I am not looking for someone to blame, but like so many of you, I do not understand this, and I feel that we will not be able to make informed choices until we do.

Third, I would like to see an improvement in overall communication in the district – PTOs, advisory groups, the administration, the school board – ALL of us – can work more efficiently together if we all start on the same page and keep information flowing freely in all directions.

Fourth and finally, I would like to investigate how we can work with local businesses and community leaders to garner both financial and legislative support for our schools.

It is my hope that [this organization] can be a collaborative and comprehensive resource for parents, teachers, students AND the administration in this district. I would like to see an organization that is scrupulous about distributing accurate information, improving communication, and above all, working TOGETHER for our children."
Can I make this better? Is it rambling? Should I stay home and pretend to have the flu?

I think it is a very good speech. Well thought out, well organized, not boring.

You probably need to be prepared for questions. The first question that comes to my mind is “Why is one of the other parent advocacy groups not able to expand to fulfill this task you’ve set yourself?”

Well since I started this I thought I would put my two cents in. First off what you are proposing sounds like a great idea and if worked properly will probably make a big difference where you’re at.

I also wonder why one of the already established groups can’t just grab a bigger scope of operation. Also are you going to have members from these other groups present? Have you already talked to them about what you propose?

What you propose I think sounds good, but I can already see other people thinking you are making a power grab of some sort. I think what you are saying is good and I would just stress if I were you that all people are included and you are willing to have your group work with all other groups for the common goal of educating your kids.

I think the speech is interesting, makes good points, and isn’t too long or rambling. Good Work.

You’re almost ready. Now, go through the speech again, and eliminate about 1/2 of the “I think”, “I feel that”, or anything else that starts with “I”. You will find the rest of the sentence is what the audience needs to know, and how it will affect THEM. People don’t want to know how something affects YOU, they want to know what affects THEM.

This is difficult for women to do.

Now, go get 'em!!!

Cool beans - thank you. The people who are attending tomorrow already have some background as to WHY this is a separate group, but since I’ve asked you to take a look at this without that info, I’ll fill you in.

The other parent groups in the area are not working together, and have thus far not considered doing so - for no other real reason than it hasn’t come up. Each group wants to be represented, but they’re COMPETING for the school board’s attention. For example, no one on the African American Parents’ Council talks to anyone on the Hispanic Parents’ Council, and there are times when their goals are the same or at least similar enough to warrant use of the same resources. The aim of this group is to be a district-wide resource clearinghouse for parents and the school board - in other words, to get all these groups working together toward common goals, while getting more parents involved who aren’t already in these groups.

I have talked to members of the other parent groups, and for the most part they’re in agreement, and willing to work together on common goals. Dissension has come from only one quarter, and it’s only a few members of one group in particular (who do not speak for the entire group.) Those are the people who have questioned whether this is a “power grab” on my part, and they have suggested in no uncertain terms that if I want to be involved, I should just join their group - and if I don’t want to join their efforts, it would be best if I just went away (yes, someone actually said that to me.) If I felt that group was representing us well, I would join their efforts… but I am not alone in my feeling that they are not.

I have (and will continue to) stressed that this group is to belong to the ENTIRE community, and that all are welcome to participate.

Thank you very much for your input so far - keep it coming!

And I’ll keep trying not think about getting hiccups.

PS: Thanks, SouthernSky- that was bothering me to some extent, too. I was afraid maybe I had overdone the “I” thing.

Dealing with those groups isn’t fun. Someone told me once that when speaking in front of a group is the same thing as selling something, and to sell somebody something you have to talk about them! I never forgot it. Oh, I just hate that…
Good luck, and I’ll be rooting for you!

I don’t have any constructive suggestions but I would like to wish you the best of success.

((( LifeOnWry )))

Ok, I have been busily revising (I’m getting some help from the writers’ community I belong to, too.) Thank you all for your advice and your words of encouragement. I’ll try to make you all proud.

I don’t want to take up too much space, so I’m not posting the revision now - but if you want to see it, let me know and I will.

I’m still scared I’ll get hiccups, though.

You’re worried about taking up too much space??? Good grief - someone on another thread is discussing ‘farting’, for heaven’s sake!!!
Tip: When you get up to speak, lock eyes with one or two people and wait three seconds before you begin. It’s a fun little psychological trick, and a sure-fire hiccup eliminator.
Good night…

What Zyada said. You are so well-spoken that you need have little fear.

Your speech is fine :slight_smile:

If I had to ask questions and if I weren’t too scared to open my mouth, I would ask…

  1. Why did you start this organization when you simply could have picked one that was already existing and run for office to change things?

  2. It what ways will you prevent your organization from stumbling over other organizations’ toes?

  3. Do you have any plans of working with the other organizations to reach common goals?