One of my new year’s resolutions was to be more comfortable speaking in front of an audience. I’ve always prided myself on being outgoing and comfortable speaking in front of people, but I know there’s always something to improve upon. In college and early in my career, I was giving presentations once a week, but for the last two years, I was barely presenting in a professional setting at all. I find public speaking to be like writing – the more you do it, the better you’ll get.
I joined Toastmasters International at the first of the year, ready to sharpen my speaking skills. My first task was to develop an “ice breaker” speech to introduce myself to the 40+ members in the club with 4-6 minutes of prepared content. I thought this is gonna be a piece of cake. Talking about me (something I know quite well) for a few minutes is not a problem.
So, I wrote the speech and practiced it in front of a mirror in my living room to get the timing down. Then, speech day had arrived. Time to deliver.
I went to the Toastmasters meeting feeling nervous and on edge. I could barely focus on the opening of the meeting. I actually whispered to the guy next to me if he had known any other first-timer to throw up or pass out during their speech. To my surprise, he said no, but that didn’t really ease my fears. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was. I’ve given tons of presentations. What’s going on with me? I guess I was a little rusty, but I couldn’t focus on my nerves. I was next.
I approached the front of the room without a thought in my mind and just started talking. I got all the way through without stopping. I couldn’t believe it. I was all done! It went so fast.
I came back to my chair and wrote down a single sentence into my notebook almost as if my hand was on a mission, “I can’t wait to do that again.”
Funny, other club members commented on how calm and comfortable I looked while speaking. I guess that was my high school drama skills coming into play. I was terrified, but quickly learned that fellow Toastmasters are there to help you. They want to see you do good and ultimately get better. They’re on your side. Keeping that in mind is very helpful.
Giving my first speech at Toastmasters, I reminded myself to remember a great piece of advice a mentor once told me:
Above all, challenge yourself. You may well surprise yourself at what strengths you have, what you can accomplish.
— Cecile M. Springer