Public speaking is something few people look forward to. Speaking in front of a group of 10-15 people and being evaluated on how you did? Sounds pretty scary, eh? That's what I use to think. But now I can do it with more confidence than I ever thought I would have. This has been a massive confidence booster to say the least.
I joined the public speaking group ToastMasters about 2 months ago (August 2002). (To give you some perspective, I had taken a speech/communications class in college, and I would get nervous, even on saying the first sentence. My leg would shake a little behind the podium, on a scale of 1-10, I was about a 2 or 3. Now, Feb 2003, At ToastMasters my confidence is about a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1-10. A world of difference. Confidence in my voice and body language and just being relaxed up there. It's another grea reference to build upon. Gee, if I can give speeches, and most people hate public speaking, what else can I do that I think is hard. This "snowball" effect, of things getting easier, is an amazing thing to have).
A friend suggested it as a way to improve any lingering shyness I may have had. I had given a few speeches in some college classes, but those were few and far between.
You can attend for free as a guest and see how you like it. There are thousands of groups around the world in approximately 70 countries. I found one group about 15 minutes from where I live and decided to try it out.
I was a little nervous going, not quite knowing what to expect. The first thing I noticed was how friendly and supportive everyone was. The members in my club range from entreprenuers to MBA types to those looking to improve their public speaking for a specific purpose (such as promoting a book). Being able to speak well in front of a group is a very valuable skill to have in the business world. There's no doubt this will help my future career plans.
There is alot more to the group than just giving prepared speeches. You can get up in front of the group and give an impromptu speech, speaking about a topic for 2 minutes that someone has just given you. I did that the night I went as a guest. To put it mildly, my heart rate went up a bit when they asked me to try it but I said "of course, I'll go". I got up there and actually did better than I thought. I decided to become a member the following week.
Besides the impromptu speeches, you can act as jokemaster (going up and telling a joke or two), the wordmaster (who introduces a new word to the club for that meeting and encourages other speakers to use the word). You can also get up in front of the group and evalute the prepared speeches given. You can take on leadership positions in the club as well.
The best thing of all is the encouragement you get and the confidence you build. Two months later, I can give impromptu speeches without any nervousness and I am much more at ease in front of the audience.
Joining this group has given me confidence I didn't think I would ever have.
I don't discount the success I have with this group at all. Most people don't like public speaking, so if you can get up there and face your fear, you're doing alot better than most people are.
Some of the references I now have are:
I can speak in front of a group.
I can do something most people are afraid of.
I can enjoy the process!
People have told me, "wow, you'ved added some energy to our group." "You did a great job." "You're poised in front of the group (it was one of the first times I had heard someone describe me as poised. I really liked that adjective)."
I can evaluate other speakers really well.
I wrote alot of these down and I like to remind myself of what I'm doing right, rather than dwelling too much on what I've done wrong. I have done some things wrong. That's the nature of taking a risk in something. In one of the Table Topics about a month ago, I couldn't come up with an answer. Imagine being in front of a group of 10-15 people for two minutes expected to give a little speech, and I'm going,.."ummm..." and "ahhhhhhh" and "hmmmm, I can't come up with an answer".
Well, what did I do. First I realized that probably half of the group has the same problem every week. Not everyone gets up there and speaks perfectly. Sometimes you've given a hard topic. I didn't make a big deal of it. I kept my head up, I kept the confidence in my voice. It wasn't a big deal. Oh well, better luck next time. No one is perfect 100% of the time in any situation; I don't have to be perfect either.