Public speaking. Just the phrase can strike fear into millions of people around the world. I know that when I was in high school, many people avoided the Communications class like the plague because of all of the required speeches involved.
If only somebody had told me.
Public speaking would become and is a key skill in life. It’s not just important for people who might “speak publicly”, but it’s also important for people who talk to anyone, whether it be meetings, discussions or any opportunity to try and convey information verbally.
I wish I would’ve known back then that I might as well sack up and learn how to talk, how to command a room and do it confidently. If only.
It was 2013 and I was interviewing for a job. It was a job I felt pretty well qualified for and didn’t prepare all that well for the interview. I sat down in the interview with many people that I knew and I froze up during the 2nd question.
300 minutes passed.
Well, probably only 30 seconds passed, but it felt like eternity. I had 6 people staring at me waiting for someone to say something, anything. They wanted me to succeed, but I didn’t say a word.
It was that day that I decided I needed better speaking skills. I wanted to improve my speaking and impromptu speaking.
I read Dale Carnegie’s book Stand and Deliver and various other resources. But I soon realized, I would need to actually practice speaking. But, how can I do that, other than volunteer for random speaking assignments or to lead meetings at work?
Then I found Toastmasters. Toastmasters is an international organization dedicated to improving it’s members speaking and leadership skills.
I found a club near me and joined once I saw how a meeting was run.
At my first meeting, I was called on to speak during Table Topics. This is the section of the meeting where you are given a topic and then need to speak for 1-2 minutes on that topic, right after hearing it. This very idea induces panic into most people and it did me too.
I even remember the topic vaguely even though it was over 3 years ago – that’s how much of an impact that moment had on my life.
I have since completed the Competent Communicator manual (the first 10 speeches) and am on my way to the first advanced qualification, Advanced Communicator Bronze (another 10 speeches). You can become a Distinguished Toastmaster (the highest achievement) by giving 40 speeches and completing the leadership track as well, which includes completing various roles within the club structure.
There are 332,000 members in more than 15,400 clubs in 135 countries worldwide. This is staggering. I believe if more people knew about the benefits that this number would climb quickly.
There are countless ways in which my weekly meetings at Toastmasters have improved my communication skills and my life – too many to name. But, one of the most notable was a successful interview for a similar position a few years later and a new job. At this new job, I’ve volunteered to present and been asked to conduct many different functions because of my calm, confident stage presence.
If you are interested in Toastmasters, you can check out a club near you as a guest (guests are always welcome) by visiting this link.