~ HOW TO SPEAK IN PUBLIC ~

Posted: July 14, 2022 in Insecurities, perseverance, personal evolution, public speaking, Speeches, Toastmasters
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In June 2015, I had my first book launch planned for September of that year. My greatest fear was public speaking, so I knew there was no way I could deliver a speech at the launch without serious help. After some searching the internet, I discovered Toastmasters. The non-profit educational speakers’ organization began with Ralph C. Smedley in the United States, and now boasts 352,000 members in 141 countries. With more than 16,400 individual clubs worldwide, there was a club within a ten-minute drive of my house. I rocked along that week, joined up, and was assigned a mentor. What is a mentor? A mentor is a person who provides guidance and support to empower a protégé to reach their goals.

In Toastmasters, they assign a mentor to guide each new member for the first six months. Debbie was my mentor, and she was brilliant, yet not even she could help me with my nerves. Public speaking is the number one fear for most people, and for me, it felt debilitating. The way I managed the fear was by tightly controlling my speeches. I would start work on them two weeks before the due date. I would write out the idea and edit it endlessly until every word was in the exact right place. Then a week before the presentation was due, I would start memorizing the piece. I would work on it line by line, learning and rehearsing until finally, I knew it verbatim.

On the day of the meeting, in a state of high anxiety, I would pace outside rehearsing my lines. Only after giving my speech could I finally relax. The months went by, and I survived. I successfully delivered the keynote at my book launch and even won a speech competition. Somewhere along the way, the challenges of Toastmasters became fun. Far out, I thought, is it true that I have conquered my greatest fear? It was “a feather in my cap,” as my father used to say.
Then came the day an evaluator gave a speech evaluation that stopped me in my tracks and changed my trajectory forever. On that day, I remember being secretly pleased with my speech because I had recalled every word perfectly.

Mike was my evaluator. He was one of our best storytellers. Mike could come up with a speech on his way into the club and deliver an amazing piece a few minutes later. He said, ‘Your speech was fine, great. We’ve said it all before. But…you speak as if you’re talking to yourself in the mirror. You’re not connecting with us, just reciting something you’ve learned by rote. My challenge to you is to stop memorizing your speeches.’
Whoa. I was thunderstruck. My face was burning. This advice came three to four years into my Toastmasters journey, and I had memorized all my speeches until that point. I felt utterly humiliated. Scurrying home that day with my tail between my legs, I cried my eyes out. I swore I would never return to the club again! But Mike had issued me a challenge. Could I give a speech without memorizing it? I didn’t even know. Looking it up in the educational material, I saw that Toastmasters recommend solidifying the central ideas and that you learn any quotes, dates, or numbers but resist memorizing the rest of the content. Oh, geez.

For my next speech, I hatched an idea, wrote four words on a card, and attempted winging it after only two run-throughs. I felt like a hot mess. Without a clear path mapped out before me, I was sure I fumbled about for the words. Nevertheless, I did it. The second speech without memorizing was a bit easier, and the next one was a bit easier again. Then, I began to experience a real change, the back and forth, the give and take, of connecting with the audience. That’s where the magic lies. Mike’s honesty had released me from a self-imposed prison, my little cage. It was a whole new day.


Here’s the thing with public speaking. I have learned that it’s not about projecting an image of perfection onto your audience or trying to look like something you’re not. It’s about sharing your views, your thoughts, your feelings, your perspective – who you are – with others authentically. It’s about being present in the moment with your audience. That’s when you get truly memorable public speaking, and it’s also when the content comes across as the most meaningful.
It’s a process and I am still learning to the best of my ability, one meeting at a time. These days I even get to “pay it forward” by mentoring new members and passing on what I have learned, which really is a great feeling! In the words of John Ford, You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.
Why not have a go and try public speaking. You might surprise yourself!

Talk to you later.
Keep creating!
Yvette Carol
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“A WINNER IS JUST A LOSER WHO TRIED ONE MORE TIME.” ~ GEORGE M. MOORE, JR.


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Comments
  1. davidprosser says:

    You’re a star any way you do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for telling your very interesting and also empowering story of also becoming best in public speech. It’s always worth a trial. Thanks also for the idea with Toastmasters, even i don’t know if they or similar is also here in Germany. Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      Hi Michael, I agree. Every trial and every hardship teaches us important valuable life lessons. And yes, just so you know, Toastmasters is definitely available in Germany.

      Like

  3. Keith says:

    Yvette, great advice and story. One thing a good speaker told me is the audience does not know what you are going to say, so if you forget something, just keep going. Thanks, Keith

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post. Many of us have felt terrified at the thought of speaking in public. The advice Mike gave you was great, and you have proven it worthwhile since then. Good on you. I bet you really like speaking to others now. ??

    Liked by 1 person

    • yvettecarol says:

      It’s interesting, Vivienne. Now I really enjoy public speaking, however, the nerves still go crazy before I speak. As one of my mentors said, you need those nerves to amp up the energy levels. In fact, I intend to do a series of presentations about public speaking to address these different aspects for the benefit of my new protege, so I might blog about it again also and this is an aspect I might cover in the future. But let us just say, that I use the nerves to my advantage these days!

      Like

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