The following post is a request of a Linkedin friend of mine who will be teaching a class this week at her church in which she will be introducing some church members to the basics of public speaking through a program sponsored by Toastmasters International. She wanted to have my personal experiences in regarding to growing your confidence through improved public speaking. Here is my story.
I must confess, it wasn’t an easy task. Standing up in front of a crowd full of well educated people with backgrounds going from Bachelor degree to PhD was a true challenge to me. At the call of my name by the MC, out of a sudden I started having stomachache, my whole body was shaking like I was having a nightmare, and worse, I couldn’t remember the speech that I had prepared for week and studied to deliver with excellence. On that very first speech of mine, I screwed up everything.
After such a bad presentation, my confidence level went down. I wasn’t the one anymore who put the hand up to make a public contribution at a conference or seminar or even teamwork. Even for a one-on-one meeting with a manager, I was scared: “what if he laughs at what I say?” I first thought it was just on the speaking area until I find out that even my confidence level in writing skills was affected.
Well, that was me then, and what killed me later saved me. About three years ago, when I enter the Self-Help industry working with Southwestern Consulting and its Success Starts Now Seminars, Dustin Hillis the Co-Founder gives me this recommendation: Go and sign up at all the Toastmaster groups you can and give as many speeches as you can and your live will step up to the next level.With determination and commitment I went on and signed up not on all the groups available but the one closed to my office so I could easily get there: The Bridgestone Babblers of Nashville,TN.
I never really thought public could be a therapy, but here is how I boosted my confidence through it:
- Preparation – A proper prior preparation prevents poor performance and one of the key when speaking in public is to prepare in advance what you are going to present without trying to remember sentence after sentence by heart. Speaking in public pushes you to that extra-mile where you have to able to envision people reactions and take in consideration the public that will listen to your speech. One of the key point in preparation is practice and there again I really witnessed that practice makes the master and when you master then you are confident.
- The public – The one thing that scares and at the same time that makes public speaking interesting and boost your confidence level is the number of people you speak to, the background of those people, and how much you know and feel comfortable around those people. What I noticed was that the more speeches I was giving and the more comfortable I was becoming in approaching people no matter who they are, or what they do.
- Feedbacks – When you address to a public, you will always have a feedback. If your public is rough and you suck, then they might just throw apple or tomatoes at you ^_^ If they are like the people attending Toastmaster groups, then you will probably receive fair feedbacks backed up with commendations and recommendations from your evaluator. Now, this builds up confidence in the sense that you can better appreciate and control your progress. People’s facial expression, people’s listening position, the applause at the end of your speech, those are feedbacks that give information on whether or not you nailed it down and the more positive feedbacks you have, the more confident you become in general.
- Challenge – Speaking in public, for someone like me who was not a natural born public speaker, helps me get more aware that the impossible can be possible. The one thing to do when scared of speaking in public in to speak. That understanding has raised my confidence level when dealing with task to be done at work. I felt like if I can defeat the fear of speaking in public and get people interested in what I have to say, then I can better manage my career, ask for raise and promotion without the scare of being rejected.
Communication isn’t optional and to be a great leader you have to be a great communicator. Yet, with no regards on the material advantage public speaking can bring your way, at least it can give you the confidence that you can be the person you really want to be and have you share it to the world with confidence. If you’d like to jump start your communication skills or embrace a public speaking career, I definitely recommend you to go ahead and join a Toastmasters group in your area. For some professional tips about how to make money as a speaker, get in touch with the two times world champion of public speaking finalist Rory Vaden.