As a member of a business women’s group I’ve been to many conferences and monthly meetings which equates to seeing roughly about 500 public speakers in my life. Perhaps it’s more like 100-150, but still, that’s a lot! For every 20 mediocre speakers there’s one stand-out inspiring speaker who can motivate you to change the way you see things, sometimes it’s how you do business, how you see yourself, or how you relate to others, but regardless of the topic, this person CHANGES you. For the past couple of years I’ve quietly (and secretly) said in my head, I want to do that. I want to be someone who inspires others to do more, be more, or just look at things in a new way.
Last year I ran for a position on the National Board of Directors of my business women’s association which required that I give a 3 minute speech on what sparked my interest in the group and how I planned to help the association should I be elected. I’m not a shy person by any means (I AM an introvert, though), but giving a prepared speech still to this day makes my nerves all jittery. I did not win that election but the experience I gained from stretching so far outside of my comfort zone was incredible. I actually networked with professional adults! Me! Talking to business-y stranger-adults! I got a little more comfortable with the public speaking thing but I knew I had to do more.
Now it’s 2016, b*tches! and one of my goals is to master public speaking. I joined a local Toastmasters group to find my tribe of fellow personal improvement junkies and get to work on really addressing my “needs improvement” areas. I like this group a lot – I tried one out where my old office was and every time you said “uh, um, you know” or a filler like that, they would honk a horn. That completely throws ANYONE off, even pros. This club just counts them and reports your numbers at the end.
So far I’ve only given one prepared speech – the Icebreaker – but I’ve won RIBBONS! A portion of the meeting is dedicated to something called Table Topics which is to help with off-the-cuff speaking skills, I’ve talked about “butt-stuffing”*, twice, and won ribbons for other table topics because, I’ll toot my own horn here and say admittedly, I can be entertaining at times.
The Toastmasters program gives you two workbooks that you can complete for some super official letters after your name within the TM world – which I LOVE. They have the Competent Communication and Competent Leadership, so you get these checklists in each one to accomplish and mark off. That’s so up my alley, if only they had gold stars in there too.
Why does this matter TO YOU??? When you speak publicly on a topic, you magically become perceived as an expert. Of course, you DO have to know your stuff and speak competently on your topic (while adding your own personal voice) but aside from publishing a book, public speaking is an excellent way to become an expert in the eyes of the public. You can start out small and present to local business groups in your area to build up confidence/gain feedback, then build your portfolio of public speaking and it can actually be a PAID gig kind of thing! Neat, huh?
So if you’re a self-improvement junkie like me, or your looking for more ways to reach out with your business knowledge, give Toastmasters a try. You can find a club near you here. I promise it’s a good way to either baby-step your way into public speaking or just jump right into the deep end and give a speech at every meeting. Your participation level is up to you. Even for introverts I find that the TM community is incredibly supportive.
*Butt-stuffing is the stuffing from Thanksgiving that is prepared in the turkey. I’m told there’s an actual term for this, “dressing”, but I’ll always call it butt-stuffing.