Before June this year I had no idea that there was a worldwide network of clubs where you could learn the art and skill of public speaking. A quick google told me about Toastmasters which generates all sorts of ideas about what ‘they are’….. a focused bunch of cooked bread enthusiasts …..a formally dressed group of town criers, protectors of hop drying oast houses who like a hot beverage before work….. the list goes on.
However, I discovered they are a group of friendly individuals who share a passion for mastering the art of speaking in public, something a large proportion of the world fear and one that can be overcome. More so I discovered there are competitions you can enter to pit your speaking skills against others and so….I had a go. Now I, like many others, like winning and so I thought the main aim here is to win and therein lies the lesson I learnt because, I didn’t win, and as a result I think I learnt more…. I’ll explain.
The area different levels of competition and in the one I entered, the humorous speech contest, it goes up to the final where you compete against the best of the South of England. I won the local club and area contest and then went for South East England and got Second. Now the lesson learnt there was, my mind has never gone blank before that day, I stood up and spoke, it all worked. On that day, I said my first line and my mind went blank, nothing! So, standing on a stage, staring at an audience of 70 people I stopped, took a breath and waited, nothing……. panic started to rise. I decided to stay calm and start again, whatever happened inside, it kick started my mind and the second line came to me and off I went. Now if it had all gone smoothly I wouldn’t have had the reassurance that if I trusted my mind and importantly stayed calm, it gave me the next line. What’s the worst that can happen, well for me, the worst happened, and I got over it, some people didn’t notice! Despite that, I got second place, but that wasn’t enough to progress to the next round. You might think that is the end of the story and I went home dejected, however, far from it, read on….
At the next round I got for the first time, as an observer I got to see what I thought truly excellent speakers were like, so professional and skilled in the art of captivating an audience, making them laugh and telling a beautiful story in the process. If I had be competing I think I would have been lost in my world of thinking about my speech and not been able to view their speeches objectively and the lesson would have been lost.
I believe I am not at the winners’ standard, yet. That said, I learnt a huge amount from watching them and I am going to take these lessons and apply them to my next contest entry. Next time I aim to be on the winners’ podium and if I am, a good chunk of that will be because I lost this time and as a result, I learnt more.
So the lesson here is, the worst thing I can imagine in my public speaking journey happened and, I survived and I am better as a result. I wonder how many others might actually benefit from the worst thing they can imagine with respect to public speaking becoming a reality. I know if you had said that to me before, I certainly wouldn’t have believed you but I am grateful and better as a result and you know, the worst that can happen really wasn’t that bad. Isn’t that what our parents and others often tell us!
So if you have been putting off public speaking because you think how bad it might be, then have a go, because even if it happened you will learn from it and probably be better as a result.