I have never been shy of standing in front of a crowd, big or small. I have to admit, I enjoyed being in the spotlight and surely I love to talk. Years of company training sessions, various professional presentations and I thought I knew it all.
When I went to my first Toastmasters meeting, I was truly surprised how structured and organised it was. I was impressed from the beginning to the end and I realized I still have a lot to learn. It was a perfect opportunity for me and I was sure I had to join.
Now I look at my time at Toastmasters and while I am only half way through my CC manual, I know I am a new born speaker.
1. Organize my speech – My problem was overconfidence. Years of speaking experience, especially in the area of my expertise, gave me a false feeling I do not need to organize and prepare too much. The result was a loose structure and, as a result, I always ran out of time. Trying to share too much, going into details in one area and then skipping elements to wrap up, because the clock was ticking.
At Toastmasters we learn from the beginning to get organized, to ensure the speech has an opening, body and closing and we make sure the transitions are smooth.
2. Keep it simple and get to the point – trying to say too much, making digressions and not having a strong message? I’ve been there. Sometime there is just so much I want to share! If I am passionate about the subject, have researched it well and have all the data and information in my head, I just want you to have it too!
With this overload of valuable information, it is difficult to point out what is most important. The best approach is to keep it short and simple with a strong opening, three key elements, summary and a strong closing message!
3. Respect the time – one extra minute, maybe five, oh well, we can just shorten our coffee break. I learned to respect the time. If I am scheduled for a 7 minute speech, I have 7 minutes and 30 second before I will be interrupted. There is no excuse, we have to be on schedule and the ability to fit a speech into a precise time frame is a skill I owe to Toastmasters. It helps to keep me on track, focus on key elements and deliver a message before I see the red light.
4. Body language and voice – speech is not only about what you say, but how you say it. The more powerful the expressions, the more impact you will make on those listening. Using body dynamics to show emotions, playing with voice to strengthen the message. Sometimes it requires going out of our own comfort zone or use some acting skills. In a safe and friendly environment of Toastmasters meetings, we are allowed to experiment with our body language to enhance the speaking experience.
5. Show your emotions – giving a presentation in front of a client, running a training session in the office, I always kept a professional tone and distance. All wrong! A speaker has to play on the emotions of the audience both head and heart. Using emotions in a speech is important and should not be feared. A seasoned speaker has to light a fire in a heart, turn any topic into an interesting story, gain audience trust and take them for a journey. And yes, company speeches and presentations can be inspiring, otherwise why should we make them?
We are approaching the end of the year, a time for celebrations and looking back at the last 12 months. It is a time of Christmas parties and speeches. If you want to find out how to deliver a winning speech at the end of the year, read my next article.
Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of helping members improve their communication, public speaking, and leadership skills.
Through its thousands of member clubs, Toastmasters International offers a program of communication and leadership projects designed to help people learn the arts of speaking, listening, and thinking.
For more information, please visit Toastmasters International official website.