Conquer Your Fear.
Express Your Ideas.
Public speaking is a nightmare for me. I remember going completely blank when the emcee of my wedding ceremony called me up to give a speech. I cant remember what I said but I saw the sad expressions on the face of my family members and I knew I didnt say it well. That event created a mental block in my mind and has stopped me from ever speaking in public again, even if the public consisted of less than 5 people.
Then, somehow, my wife pushed me to enrol for a Toastmasters class. I had heard of Toastmasters before but never felt compelled to go for it – why should I? I could speak, couldn’t I?
All I can say now, after being an active member for 2 years, is that I should have started earlier.
Toastmasters is a non-profit organization helping people to improve their public speaking skills. Founded in the US by the YMCA in 1924, they can be found in most countries world wide. Payment: a minimal RM10 (USD2.5) per session to cover the cost of food and drinks provided to you. That’s all.
The class is small, usually about 10~25 people, chaired by senior qualified members, coaching others on their speech.
I remember my first visit. I told them that I am only there to observe.
I sat in a class of around 20 people, mainly professionals from different backgrounds. There were bankers, engineers, a doctor and others. I was immediately asked to introduce myself and state the purpose of joining – which I did, And then I sat down and was not called upon. I like it when they respected my decision not to be called on for the first day.
Instead they called others and each one spoke off the cuff about something (only later did I know that they were given the assignment/topic the previous week). Then members would politely critique the speaker, stating the good and bad points.
At the end of the session, I was given a topic, 3 topics actually, for the following week, should I make my way back to the place again. It was a lovely place to be in. The people were friendly and nice.
The following week I was back. I had chosen to talk about my hobby, which was playing chess. I had written some notes on a piece of paper. I was the second last person to be called. My heart was racing and I nearly blanked out. Then I remembered what Dale Carnegie used to say – think of them sitting there naked. Obviously this was interesting as nearly half the class were women and that made me lose my fear instantaneously – I was speaking. I cant remember the first part of what I spoke. I only remembered the second part, which happened when I lost my train of thought. All of s sudden, I stopped in mid sentence, not knowing what I had said. I then moved on to my next point after taking a peek at my little chit sheet.
I was fairly happy when they told me that I spoke very well during the first part of my talk, right before I stopped in mid-air. After that, I seemed to have lost confidence in my speech and they could sense it. I dont know what I said in the first session – it must have been my subconscious mind taking over.
I was told that I could get some books, either though them or at the nearest bookstore on public speaking. I was never pressured to get the books, but I did anyway. But I learned most from the critiques. They even critiqued the way I stood when speaking, what my left hand was doing, the swaying of my body, my eye movement and so forth.
It was a confidence builder. I now speak much better, slower and with more confidence. I used to be a fast talker, at times mumbling out my words. I now know better.
Join your local toastmasters. It’s practically free. You build a network of friends while learning to become a better speaker and a more confident YOU!