Public Speaking – my experiences (the good, bad and the ugly)

Last time I focused more people’s irrational fears of public speaking, my salty view on the prestige of talking in front of people as well as the importance of having a game plan when it come to becoming a better speaker.

As promised in the previous blog post about public speaking (link), I will begin to dive into how I came to my plan and mantra of:

1. Being able to communicate clearly while being authentically
2. Connecting with my audience
3. Trying not to impress anyone AKA performing

Recognizing that speaking was one of things I wanted to improve on in my personal and in my career. I have been reading, researching and going to in person groups for years. Since the 90s, speaking in front of people as been part of my job. In some respects, speaking in front of people wasn’t an issue if it wasn’t in a formal setting or part of some special program. For whatever reasons, when the environment and expectations change, I falter. Now, while I was actually doing all of this exploring, I didn’t think about why. I’ve done a myriad of different jobs and been into a variety of different spaces because of all my interests and exploring life. Thinking about the times in which I chose or was called upon to speak, I saw a pattern. I do worse in situations in which I
have to talk about myself, the length of my speech has to be over 1 minute, and it’s a formal setting. In one of my explorations, I took a public speaking class while attending Georgia State University for my Communications degree. Even though, my focus was Film & Video, I recognized the importance of being a better communicator. And ummm, I was getting a B.A in COMMUNICATIONS. Throughout the semester, I spoke up in class and participated in discussions. Sometimes successfully and sometimes old feelings of insecurity would creep back. When it came time for my the big speech that would determine a large portion of my grade, I bombed. And yes, I prepared for it. If you asked me how I felt about the class. I would have said I felt comfortable in front of my instructor and fellow classmates but when it came time to deliver, I didn’t do well at all. If you’ve ever felt embarrassed for someone else and so you avoided eye contact but you didn’t want to experience the pain like you were to catch it, that is what happened to me. I was that person. What happened? Well, it hit 2 out of the three things.
I didn’t have to speak about myself but it was a 10 minute presentation that had some high expectations. The length of time is intimidating to even the most seasoned speakers but knowing
when and where the speech was to take place should have given me an advantage but for people like it is quite the opposite. It gave me too much time to think, worry.

Despite my experiences with public speaking, I soldiered on. I still seek out ways to get in front of people and jibber jabber. (Yes, the saltiness is still there). I do this despite my battle of not letting my negative feelings about public speaking get the best of me. Not too long ago, I visited my 2nd Toastmasters’s meeting. It actually may have been my third but I digress. I found out about the meeting through the Unitarian Universalist church I sometimes attend. Now, I have attended a Toastmaster’s meeting before with a different group of people. I searched high and low for what I thought would be a good one to attend. Whenever I’ve looked into public speaking, Toastmaster’s is always mentioned and it has been lauded as the organization to work on speaking in front of groups especially if you’re a beginner or dealing with stage fright. On both occasions, I did ok.
I actually felt more comfortable and more engaged during my first time at a Toastmaster’s meeting. During my second visit at the UU group, I waited way longer to actually speak. So here is my take on Toastmaster’s, it’s not just about the speaking part, it also about leadership. If you’re looking to improve on public speaking AND leadership in the framework of a typical meeting like atmosphere than I think Toastmaster’s is a good choice. Just find the group you feel comfortable with and be prepared to fork over some dough.

Toastmaster’s wasn’t for me but I do believe that has benefited countless people. There is an abundance of articles, blog posts and other media about Toastmaster’s that can you get you started. Next time I will give more details about my plan on a deeper level and continue to explore the journey that led me to this course of plan.

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