Joining Singing Sands Toastmasters is one of the better things I’ve ever done. Learning to stand on my feet in front of a group and saying what’s on my mind, always has been a challenge.
When I was a lawyer, it took a lot of work to get myself to a place where I could appear before a judge or jury and feel confidence about my skills and my point of view. I always was nervous. Moving on from the practice of law and into a public realm since then has been a challenge…being nervous before and while giving a talk…doing my best to persuade someone of my point of view about a topic. So…when a friend asked me to go with her to a newly-formed Toastmasters Club, two and a half years ago, I thought “What would it hurt?” and I went.
What I have learned has been simple…priceless…and very useful.
For me there are Three Steps to Speaking with Confidence in Public:
- Shortening my plan and creating space between my words
- Using Bullet Points
- Imagining having a beer or coffee with my friend when I’m speaking
1. Shortening My Plan and Creating Space
I remember when I started. I know people thought I would be a “natural” or at least an “experienced” speaker and that I would have no challenges…HA! First, speaking as a lawyer in a courtroom is different. Second, how to present in court is not something that is leaned in law school…at least no one taught me. I learned by the seat of my pants…and I never was comfortable and confident.
When I began in Toastmasters, I wrote everything down…and… I practiced…and practiced. Like most of us, when I did sign up to speak, I’d take my notes with me. I found myself reading them to the audience…with my eyes down…not looking out…not connecting. Like most of us, my first talk was too long. But…the feedback was supportive, so I continued.
To address the length concern, I wrote what I was going to say, read it out loud to my phone. When I would finally get it to five minutes, I’d cut it back at least a third. Then I found I could read it in a talking voice in the time allotted. Finally learned to slow it down even further. We want our audience to absorb what we say. I learned to pause…to allow space between my words. This gives those listening the opportunity to digest what I say…and they want more! This is a BIG One!
2. Bullet Points
With a little confidence, I began to outline what I was going to say. This happened when I took the risk of presenting Making Bread is Not Rocket Science. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use notes while I was literally working with bread and dough. So I reduced my thoughts to bullet points…it worked! I chose a subject I was familiar with…using my bullet points launched me to a new level. My confidence grew!
I used bullet points as I moved on to other speeches. I don’t go over everything word by word anymore. I find when I do that I get attached to the words…I want what I say to be “fresh”…so I just remember the points.
3. Sharing with a Friend
Now…when I am in front of an audience, I tell my story…doing my best to share it as if I were with a friend having a beer or coffee.
Having a beer or coffee with friends is fun for me in a way that speaking in a courtroom never was…it’s as if I found my real voice. I put my toe in the water of blogging (I presented a speech, Blogging Isn’t for Sissies.) This eventually led me to take a chance by trying video-podcasting. My husband asked me a few weeks ago if I prepare for my video-podcasts. “Wouldn’t think of it,” I said. “Launching my video-podcast series Creating from the Heart – the Artistry of Living has been like a dream (I never knew I had) come true. It is such fun…and it’s the best gift that has come from this adventure with Toastmasters and my first path, Presentation Mastery.
In the End
Joining Singing Sands Toastmasters in Michigan City…and keeping it simple was the key to confidence for me.
For those of you who might catch this bug, Singing Sands Toastmasters meets the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month from 6:30-8:00PM sharp. We meet at the Senior Health and Wellness Center in the old St. Anthony’s Hospital…enter through the old Emergency Room Entrance and go to the Meeting Room.