I’ve never been a great public speaker and it has always bothered me. In the limited times I’ve had an opportunity to talk to an audience in the past, I have felt very nervous and only extensive preparation has given me the ability to actually finish the talk. Even in those cases, I have mostly presented to an audience in a professional context and an audience that I am very familiar with. Nevertheless, I remain in awe of public speakers who can deliver powerful speeches with seemingly limited preparation.
In the hopes of improving on my public speaking, I looked around for resources and found Toastmasters International. For those who don’t know, Toastmasters is a non-profit organization that develops member’s public speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback. Toastmasters is organized in the form of numerous local clubs that frequently meet (once or twice a month) and give members the opportunity to present speeches and improve on them. There is a standard curriculum that is followed internationally and has two tracks: the communication track and the leadership track. The Toastmasters website shows more detail on the educational part of the club.
A couple of weeks ago, I joined Toastmasters International and became a member at Ballston Toastmasters club that meets twice a month in on Tuesday afternoons. I attended a couple of initial meetings and decided that the club would be a good fit for me. For new members, the first step is to deliver an icebreaker speech to the club. The Icebreaker speech is meant to introduce you to public speaking and for 4-6 minutes, you can really talk about anything.
I prepared my icebreaker speech and planned to tell the audience a speech about myself, my past and who I am. To tie the different pieces of the story together, I used an analogy of the different steps in my life to the different stages of Triple jump, a video game that I used to play a lot when I was a kid.
Overall, it went well, but I was definitely nervous. After the speech however, I immediately felt a greater level of confidence and I felt that just the act of talking made me more confident for my next speech.
Speech duration: 5 minutes 45 seconds
Crutch words : “you know” and “right”.
Not great but a start is a start.
Following my ice breaker speech, I’ve had the chance to present to a large audience at the Startup Weekend DC for Social Impact. I ended up presenting all sections of my team’s idea and business plan for 5 minutes to about 100+ people. I could immediately feel that my Toastmasters experience made me more confident and I was considerably less nervous. So if you’re thinking to improve your public speaking, I would definitely recommend joining a local Toastmasters chapter!