The Challenge of Public Speaking: Toastmasters

What is your biggest fear?  It is estimated that glossophobia – the fear of public speaking – affects as many as 75% of population.  I am no exception.  However, I was not about to surrender, so I joined Toastmasters.  The club creates a safe and comfortable environment to help members overcome their anxieties.

There are many reasons why public speaking skills are indispensable to me – I create presentations and hold conference calls on regular basis.  However, the primary reason why I  want to became a great orator is that I am an aspiring leader.  To me leadership and public speaking are inseparable.     

Public speaking has been said to be the number one tool of effective leadership.  By speaking in front of a large group the leader has the greatest opportunity to unite people for a common cause.  It is important that in those moments she is as natural and as charismatic as possible. Of course, passion is a powerful thing that can make or break the message.  To be effective the orator has to convey the human feeling behind the message.  Sharing the same emotion is what brings people together.

To be at ease while delivering the message it is not enough to be completely comfortable with the subject of the speech, have it impeccably organized, and maybe even memorized.  It is also critical to the speaker’s success to practice such things as voice variety, gestures, eye contact, be comfortable utilizing visual aids.  Just about every little thing plays a role in how the speaker is perceived by the audience and how the message is received and absorbed.

Today I gave a speech in my Toastmasters meeting.  I was an active member of the club at the other office for years and had most of the speeches in the Competent Communicator manual completed.  However,  there is no record of some of my speeches.  Thus, I have decided that I will perform those speeches again in front of the new audience. “Perfect practice makes perfect“, right?

The speech I gave today was an Ice Breaker – the first project of the manual designed to help fellow toastmasters get to know the speaker better.  Easy enough, since I still had the original speech in my superbly organized possession.  However, I did have to tweak it a bit – amazing how much a person can change in five years.

In the end, I received great feedback, surely, only because I brought delicious red-sugared cake pops to the meeting to keep up with the Valentine’s Day theme.  Unfortunately, you will not be able to evaluate my speech on such things as voice variety, gestures, eye contact, etc.  However, you can read it on the Toastmasters Projects page of this blog.

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