My journey towards getting the basics in public speaking
If you’ve been reading this blog, you may notice that I make frequent references to Toastmasters. This organization has had (by the far) the greatest positive impact on my life. And today I want to write about different unexpected benefits that Toastmaster had in my career.
25th of May I had the “honor” to deliver the worst presentation that I can remember. I was in Canada talking about the impact of Localisation Quality Assurance. I think my delivery included all the different actions I'm not supposed to do when presenting. I was not able to keep eye contact, I was looking at my slides instead of the audience, I was fidgeting and moving my hand without any purpose, my pitch voice was not natural and I was talking too fast! It was a very bad presentation ….
When it finished I was sweating and my hands still shaking, very nervous ... Back in the hotel, while having a beer, I started to think about what happened there …. And I did not know why that happened to me, before that day I had done many presentations, but that day I was particularly non-inspired ….. and I made a resolution.
but I did not how to start … in the next years I took some seminars and read some books .. and although I learned some nice tips and techniques it was not enough for me .. because was I what learning I was not really practising …. And as the saying ...you learn by doing … and then everything started to change in 2014.
Since I was not happy with random workshops I keep looking for resources to learn how to polish my public speaking skills. I google terms and sentences, and then one day out of the blue, I found an organization named Toastmasters International.
I read that they were having sessions in different cities all around the world to improve public and leadership skills.
It sounded exactly what I was looking for!, the name was weird Toastmaster, but I decided to give it a try … and I contacted a club in Madrid to check if I could attend as a guest … and kindly they invited me.
The session was done in a central hotel in Madrid, and when I arrive “weird” people introduced to me, Sergeant of Arms (?), Grammarian (?), Ah -counter(?) what was all that? Where I was?? It was very weird, but then when the session started everyone introduced their roles.
• "I’m the Ah-counter and my role today is for noting and keeping track of words and sounds used as a ‘crutch’ or ‘pause filler’ by anyone who speaks during the meeting. Words may be inappropriate interjections such as and, well, but, so, like, you know. Sounds may be ah, um, er. You also should note when a speaker repeats a word or phrase such as I, I or This means, this means." (Link to the template)
• I’m the Grammarian and today I will be helping you to improves your vocabulary and grammar
And so on … with more roles and more people standing up and introducing their role …. When the introductions were over, there were a couple of prepared speeches.
People talked 5-7 minutes about different topics .. and then we were giving feedback … but in a positive way! What we like about the speech and some ideas to improve the speech and make it even better …. Make it even better(?!) what a wonderful use of words to give constructive feedback. Little by little I realized that this Toastmasters thingy might fit into my goal of being a better speaker!! … and then after the sessions, there was always an opportunity to network in a pub having some beers and tapas, what else!!
2 weeks later I visited another club, again as a guest, different club, different people, but same meeting format … interesting …. And 1 month later I repeated as guest! I wanted to try this format 2-3 times to see if it was what I was really looking for …. I thought that this might a solution to heal my Canadian-blocking-presentation-drama … but then I started to work for King and I moved to Barcelona … so somehow my hype of Toastmaster was moved to the parking lot... .adapting to a new city, a new job a new lifestyle was the priority at that point for me … my Toastmasters journey was put on hold, but it was not forgotten … I knew this Toastmasters program might help me to be better at different aspects of my job.
And then after the summer of 2015, I decided it was the right time to resume my Toastmasters experience. I google Barcelona Toastmaster clubs and I found a dozen! I was not expecting that .. I contacted a couple and I visited them as guest (as I did in Madrid) … and again the structure and the format it was pretty much the same, same roles, similar format, similar agendas … I met people working to get their “competent communicator award” they explained to me what it was and I kept learning about the Toastmasters.
After attending 2-3 sessions I felt that joining Toastmasters was the right actions to take. And I did! October 2015 I became officially a Toastmasters International Members. I joined Diagonal Mar Toastmasters Club (formerly known as Telefonica TM) and I started my journey to work to get my Competent Communication award. In November 2015 I did my icebreaker, this is the first project of the competent manual communicator.
The Competent Communicator award is an interesting program. The goal of this track is to get the basics of how to talk in public. This manual covers 10 projects. And each project work in one specific area of public speaking.
I'm very happy to say that last week I finished my last project of the Competent Communicator manual (yay!!!) And I could see how little by little in the last months I felt more and more comfortable, less and less anxious and more and more confident … and that self-confidence is what I was not expecting to grow in my Toastmasters experience. Because I joined Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills but I learned in many other interesting areas.
Speaking in Toastmasters provides new challenges every week and many opportunities to practice and feel proud of the different projects I delivered. This had a great impact on me because the more I expanded my skills the more confidence I had in myself
I made good friends in the last year's thanks to Toastmasters. Friends in my club and in other clubs. I do really like the networking aspects of Toastmasters because I can meet regularly with very interesting people! Different background, different hobbies. It’s very inspiring friendship!
Every Toastmaster receives support so each of us can be the best version of ourselves. This is done through positive feedback and it works like magic. This encouragement even helped to be a winner of a contest and compete in the regional and international speaking division. Preparing a speech for a contest helped me in so many ways that I would need another post just to talk about the benefits of participating in a contest 😃 . Meanwhile, if you are curious about the idea of a contest you can check it out this link
I’m grateful for the confidence, friendship, and encouragement that comes with being a member a Toastmasters. Toastmasters is also helping me to
• Become a more effective communicator
• Improve my grammar and vocabulary
• Practice my time management skills
• Improve my listening skills
• Learn to give feedback in a positive way (no but! In feedback)
• Lead by example
• Have the ability to provide an impromptu answer
I could go on and on with what I’ve been learning, but the key word in all of the lessons is PRACTICE. Very few people are born with a natural ability to captivate an audience and give a structured, informative and well-shaped speech room without a few “umms” , ah” and so on.
I’ve gained enormously from the organization and had a lot of fun. I cannot recommend Toastmasters strongly enough for career advancement. Now time to focus on the Advance program where I’ll focus on 2 new tracks out of 15 let’s see how the journey continues … as of today, I can only say one thing from the bottom of my heart to Toastmasters organization.
A big thank you for helping me to "fix my brain" after that horrible presentation I did 25th May of 2012. Thanks to you I found the courage to grab again a microphone and stand out in front a crowded room. Of course, I have a lot of room for improvement in the field of public speaking, but at least I’m not scared or feeling super stressed when I see 200 eyes looking at me
Are you interested to know more about Toastmasters organization? Drop me an email and come as a guest to our next session! I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience!
Meanwhile, have a fab weekend!