Speaker’s Guide

Jump to Design Your Speech | Questions and Answer Time

Crafting a Homecoming Project “talk” for a group of teenagers isn’t as difficult as you might expect. Remember, when you prepare your speech, you don’t have to think of something to teach these students. You’re not being asked to change their minds about a complicated issue or prove a logical idea.

All you’re being asked to do is tell your story – which makes you an expert on your subject matter!

As you begin to dream about your presentation, remember the following points:

  • Consider your audience. Although your speech shouldn’t sound like a presentation for a room full of business executives, it’s best not to try to talk like a teenager either. Talk to your audience the same way you would talk to a friend. Sincerity is the best way to connect with any audience.
  • Find metaphors in your story. Use your stories as illustrations and metaphors. As you prepare, ask yourself which elements of your story can be used to illustrate larger points.
  • Don’t try to cover too much ground. Speakers sometimes feel obligated to pack as much into their speech as they can. They hope that if they say a lot of things, hopefully one of those things will connect. The best speakers choose a single theme (or maybe two) and stick with it.
  • Allow time for questions. Ideally, the Homecoming Project is a conversation between you and a group of students. After you’ve presented your story, ask the students a few questions that will invite them into the conversation. Then, give students time to ask you questions as well.

And most importantly….

Be true to your own style. Kids are drawn to sincerity more than they are to personality. When you speak, don’t try to be what you think the youth want you to be. Instead, be yourself. If you are a naturally funny person, use your humor to connect with your audience. If you’re not funny, there’s no reason for you to try to be. If you’re an “intense” person, be intense. If you’re goofy, be goofy. There will be kids in your audience who are just like you. Speak to them.

 

Design Your Speech

Once you’ve decided what you’re going to say (what stories you will include, what encouragement you want to offer, etc.), it’s time to decide how you are going to say it.

There are thousands of good ways to organize a speech. The following template works well for The Homecoming Project.

Opening

The opening of the speech is your first impression. It’s a time for the kids to get acquainted with you. Your opening doesn’t need to be filled with information. It’s simply the pleasant small talk before a conversation.

  1. Begin with a story. A story is great way to start your speech not only because everyone loves a good story, but also because our stories connect us with each other. A story makes you seem real and vulnerable. It helps your audience get to know you better than a dry, bullet-pointed list of accomplishments can. Begin your speech by sharing a memory of high school, or how you felt when you decided to come back to your school to speak.
  2. Introduce yourself. Tell students who are you, where you live and work, what do you do for a living, what your family (both of “birth” and of “choice” are like), what you do for fun, etc.
  3. State your purpose. Tell students why you want to speak to them. What inspired you to make the effort to come to their school? Briefly state what you want the audience to come away from your speech knowing, thinking, or feeling. For example, you might say, “Today I want to tell you a bit of my coming out story and let you know that every time you have the ‘I’m gay’ conversation with a new person, it gets a little easier”. Preparing this “main idea statement” will both help students understand what you want to say to them, and help you stay on track as you plan your speech.

Body

The body of your speech is your opportunity to use the metaphors you’ve found in your story and the lessons you’ve learned through your journey to encourage the next generation! If you need help finding the stories you should tell, try answering a few of the following questions:

  • What was coming out like for you? What did your family say? How did your friends react?
  • Looking back, what would you do differently? What were the costs of living in the closet? What were the rewards of coming out while you were in high school?
  • What do you wish someone had said to you when you were coming out?
  • Who were your mentors during your coming out process?
  • What lessons are you still learning?

Your Homecoming Project speech shouldn’t only be in the past tense. Give youth a sense of what your life is like now. Youth sometimes lose sight of the fact that they won’t be teenagers forever. Youth may glamorize the lives they dream LGBT adults must lead. Use your story to paint an honest picture of life after high school.

Conclusion

Many professional communicators live by the following rule:

“Tell them what you plan to tell them (introduction), tell them what you want to tell them (body), and then remind them of what you just told them (conclusion).”

As you start to wrap up your speech, remind students of the main points of your talk. What is the main idea that you want students to understand and remember?

Continue with your conclusion by giving students a call to action. Your speech will make a much deeper impact if it inspires your audience to action. What can you ask students to do as a result of your talk? Consider asking them to:

Give a presentation about an LGBT subject or person at their next GSA meeting.

  • Collaborate with different groups in the school to create an awareness event. Organize a Facebook campaign that encourages everyone to change their statuses to raise awareness about an LGBT issue.
  • Raise money to purchase LGBT themed books for your school library. Volunteer with a local LGBT organization.
  • Invite another LGBT alum and/or professional to speak at the school. Work with a teacher to integrate a section on LGBT Rights/History/Literature into their class curriculum.
  • Have a fundraiser at your school for an LGBT organization like Live Out Loud.
  • Organize a group to film your own Public Service Announcement around LGBT issues. Send it to Live Out Loud for potential placement on our website.
  • Wear a PRIDE bracelet in support of an LGBT friend.
  • Host a movie night with friends with an LGBT-themed movie.
  • Click here to print this list and pass it out to students!
Question and Answer Timex

Be sure to leave time at the end of your speech for students to ask you questions. Keep in mind that simply saying, “Does anyone have any questions?” might not open a floodgate of questions. The group might be shy. They might also simply not know what kinds of questions to ask. During the question and answer time, consider these tips:

Begin the Q&A by asking the students a few questions. By asking students a question, you break the imaginary “wall” that often separates speakers from their audience. You initiate a conversation and ask them to join. This takes the pressure off of the youth to think of relevant questions. It also helps eliminate the silence that sometimes descends when a leader asks, “Does anyone have any questions?” For example, you could ask:

  • What are the biggest challenges you face at [school] as an LGBT student? What’s it like to be “out” here?
  • “I would like for somebody to tell me about a similarity you see between my story and your story. How are our stories different?”

Remember: If you don’t have a good answer for your own questions, students probably won’t either. Ask yourself your own questions and make sure they initiate good conversations!

  • Give students hints about what kind of questions to ask. You can help facilitate a successful Q&A time by helping students know what kinds of things they should ask. For example:
    • “Does anybody have any questions about how to deal with family members that aren’t very accepting?” (or other questions that reference part of your story)
  • Anticipate what students might ask. It’s not hard to guess a few of the questions youth may ask after your Homecoming Project presentation. “How old were you when you had your first boyfriend?” “Do you think you’ll ever get married?” “Is it hard to be out at your job?” If you can anticipate what kind of questions your Homecoming Project might inspire, you can also pre-plan your answers!

Remember: You don’t have to answer every question that is asked. Your audience may ask simplistic or even insulting questions. It’s possible that they’ll ask candid questions about your sex life, politics, health issues, religion, and relationships. Feel free to say, “That’s a good question, but it may bring up issues that I don’t feel comfortable talking about right now.”

  • Restate the Question. It’s a hallmark of a good speaker that when they are asked a question, they restate the question before answering it. For example, if a student asks, “Are you out at your job?” you should start your answer by saying, “The question was, ‘Am I out at work?’”

Remember: If the question doesn’t make sense as it’s asked, you have an opportunity to clarify what the questioner wants to know.

As always, if you need help crafting your Homecoming Project speech, give Live Out Loud a call.

Our staff will be happy to help!
Call us at (212) 651-4231 or email Tom Hernandez