“So, have you volunteered to do your speech yet?”
There had been a flurry of emails last week about the planning of last night’s Toastmasters session; up until the middle of the week, there hadn’t been any speeches scheduled. And I’d happened to mention to Mike that I’d had an email about it.
Toastmasters is many, many things aside from Public Speaking, but the speaking part is very much at the centre.
I’ve been going along for about three months now. So that’s around six sessions (ours are second and forth Mondays). I’ve taken small roles on; ah-counter (counting ‘ah’s and ‘um’s and other hesitations) and timekeeper, and I’ve done one table topic (an instant one minute speech). I’m still swimming around the shallow end, and even that’s not been entirely plain sailing.
The next step, really, is getting started on doing the prepared speeches.
There are ten to do in the first set; they cover all sorts of themes and tasks, and I think that by the end of it most people would be worthy of the ‘Competent Communicator’ title.
The first one is the Icebreaker. An introduction. A kind of “Hello, group. This is me.”
There’s some comfort in that other components of speaking well come later; there are speeches focused on getting to the point, body language, vocal variety, using visual aids and being inspirational. It’s all about building each of those things in turn.
In the beginning, it really is just about having the courage to stand up and talk. The speech needs to be between four and six minutes. Sounds like the simplest thing in the world, doesn’t it?
It’s odd, I know, to take on a hobby that’s real ‘out of my comfort zone’ stuff. But then imagine having a couple of hours every two weeks to spend in the company of 20 other people all stretching themselves, learning together and really – and this is the magic – just willing each other to succeed.
(There are Toastmasters groups just like ours all over the world – click here to find one close to you).